Another installment from Tony Cappasso the author of the e-book America’s Highway: A Journey of Discovery Along US Route 1. In it Tony recounts his journey from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. You can learn more about Tony on his website America’s Highway US Route 1, his Facebook page, or in this video. For his previous installment see A Journey of Discovery Along US Route 1.
New York City has its pigeons; Tucson its roadrunners. San Diego has coyotes. And then there’s Key West, Florida.
Key West has chickens, lots of chickens, thousands of chickens.
My encounter with them was on my second day in the city, at the tail end of my trip from Maine to Florida on US Route 1.
I had driven a clapped out RV nicknamed “the Duck,” 2,373 miles from the kick-off point in Fort Kent, Maine. Key West was literally the end of the road.
Having arrived in the city the day before, I’d been so tired that I’d gone straight to my hotel, checked in, gone to my room and crashed. I slept 12 hours straight.
Refreshed and ready for some sightseeing the next day, I got my bicycle out of the RV and pedaled downtown to the touristy area. The streets and sidewalks grew increasingly crowded until I finally had to dismount and walk. I chained the bike to a street light and, camera in hand, decided to stroll around.
I was walking along when something flitted by at the edge of my vision. For just a moment, it looked like a roadrunner, you know, those desert birds that hunt snakes?
“Are there roadrunners in Key West,” I asked myself.
The next sighting was clear enough. What I had seen was a chicken.
In the next couple of hours, I saw dozens of them, running around in people’s yards, playing dodge’em cars with the traffic or just pecking around for food.
I heard several explanations for the presence of these creatures. One guy told me that the birds were descendants of chickens brought for food by the Spanish in the 1700s. Another theory was that when the city cracked down on cock fighting several years ago, many people, fearing prosecution, had let their chickens go free.
Wherever the truth lies, the birds appear to be thriving. They seem to have few natural predators and have become a bit of a tourist attraction in and of themselves.
Who knows, someday they may achieve the legendary status of Hemingway’s five-toed cats.