Dimon Kendrick-Holmes

What happens in the country doesn’t stay in the country

Sally Mroz and her rooster, Big Red, in happier times.
Sally Mroz and her rooster, Big Red, in happier times. Contributed photo

Surely by now you’ve heard the story of Elsa, a dog living peacefully in the North Highlands neighborhood of Columbus with two hens and a rooster named Big Red.

Well, until Monday, when Elsa remembered she was a dog and Big Red was a rooster, and Elsa killed Big Red.

The owner of these animals was at work, but her 74-year-old mother was visiting from Alabama and she knew exactly what to do: She duct-taped the dead rooster around Elsa’s neck.

You know, to teach the dog a lesson.

Except that the neighbors called Columbus Police, who summoned Animal Control officers. The woman explained that she was simply doing what people in the country do to train a dog not to kill chickens.

It seemed to be working. The woman’s daughter, Sally Mroz, later told reporter Mike Owen that “that dog hasn’t looked at another chicken since.”

Apparently, the woman’s explanation wasn’t satisfactory, because she was cited for criminal animal cruelty, which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 90 days.

So do good country people really tie dead chickens around dogs’ necks to teach them a lesson? I had no idea.

So I asked Ben Wright, another of our fine veteran reporters.

Ben grew up with five siblings on a farm off Mayo Road in Harris County. As a child in the early 1960s, Ben attended Lucy Laney Elementary School and in the afternoons he’d work in the fields. His family sold cotton, peanuts and watermelons at local markets.

It’s clear that rural living helped shape Ben, who today embodies hard work, dedication, and devotion to family, faith and community.

When Ben first told me about his farm upbringing, my daughter was just starting elementary school and I was reading her the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Naturally, I had to ask him if his father did what Pa Ingalls did when he killed hogs, which was to save the bladder and blow it up like a balloon so the children would have something to play with.

Ben looked at me like I was nuts. Of course not, he said. His mother fried up the bladder with the chitlins and they ate it. They didn’t waste anything.

For entertainment, Ben said, he and his friends would jump 30 feet off the barn roof.

Didn’t they get hurt?

“We jumped onto the grassy side of the barn,” Ben said.

Why did they do it?

“Because we dared each other,” he said. “And if you dared somebody to do something, everybody had to do it. It was good, clean fun.”

I’ll take his word for it.

Anyway, Ben’s family raised chickens, one of the many ways on a farm that a child learns about life and death.

His mother, Ben said, would be out in the yard feeding the chickens with one hand and ringing one of the bird’s necks with the other.

Circle of life.

So I asked Ben if his family ever duct-taped dead chickens around their dogs’ necks.

Of course not, he said. They didn’t have any duct tape.

You could use rope, Ben said, but that’s not how his family did it. Instead, they used less of the chicken.

“We put feathers in the dog’s nose,” Ben said. “He wouldn’t touch another chicken after that.”

Perhaps the woman in North Highlands, who just wanted to train Elsa in the way she should go, should have used Ben’s technique.

But would that have satisfied the neighbors and prevented them from calling the authorities? I’m not so sure.

City people don’t understand country things.

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