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Every town has its quirky flavor; ours tastes like chicken

POSTED: March 13, 2011 1:00 a.m.

At some point in Oakwood a little more than a week ago, a live turkey seduced a statue resembling its own kind. The epic courtship lasted for days and prompted a host of phone calls to the newsroom, a strong round of office laughs and the question new residents like me may find themselves asking with extreme regularity: "Is this a weird Hall County-Gainesville thing?"

See, the turkey was not the only one confused in this particular instance. Few of us knew the poultry obsession crossed species here.

Chicken homage, by comparison, is well understood. A good many folks, whether they eat the meat or not, depend on chicken for pay in these parts. There are "eggs and issues" breakfasts, chicken festivals, chicken cook-offs, chicken parades and loads of chicken trucks.

Add to that a range of chicken inventions that originate right here in Gainesville, including one I stopped reading after the title: poultry stunner.

This is not to say local color stops with turkey c'mons and chicken-palooza. One Braselton barbecue restaurant calls attention to the glaring omission of its chief menu item by saluting the almighty pig in its slogan, "Hogs smells better barbecued." (For the record, so does chicken.)

In fact, a discussion about the interesting aromas circulating in Hall County provided some levity during a recent news meeting. As it happened county commissioners also broached the subject earlier this year, one reporter told us.

Our dialogue led to a fun but far-fetched brainstorm session on how we could produce a ground-breaking scratch-and-sniff section for newcomers desiring to explore Hall by scent. Chewing gum to the south, maybe even a hint of landfill. Processed something or other in the county seat. Steady whiffs of chicken everywhere.

Such a map could come in handy for out-of-county folks now running the county in the wake of a leadership purge, which kind of smelled funny, too.

"Is this a weird Hall County-Gainesville thing," I asked, "something they always do after elections?"

Lots of time I'm asking police and lawyers the question since I deal with them most at work.

For instance, and this might be an odd Georgia thing, did you know judges in death penalty cases are picked in a way that's similar to a lottery game? All the key players in a case pile into a courthouse office and a "manual random ball selection machine (is) used to select the presiding judge in the case."

Jurisdictional lines on maps are so confusing officers sometimes ask 911 dispatchers to double-check who should go to what call. There's a huge jail here where a lot of people from Fulton County live. And a rash of "grass fires" recently had me wondering if Hall County residents had their own kind spring rituals.

All of this is to say that Gainesville and Hall County are no different than any county and city with its peculiarities.

Athens, for instance, brags about its possession of the most useless weapon on the planet: the double-barreled cannon. The city is also quite proud of harboring the Tree That Owns Itself. Braselton has Kim Basinger history. Metter is known for Guido Gardens and "Seeds from the Sower." And Savannah, this week alone, has its St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Unexplainable quirks and eccentricities are what make places unique.

It's a lesson I expect to be pitching in on at a future newsroom meeting.

A couple of new hires are expected to relocate in the days ahead. And there's no doubt they will wonder the same things we all did — and still do.

"Sometimes at these meetings, the things we talk about, I think to myself, where am I?" a reporter peer said recently, tears of laughter dotting her eyes.

Our answer: Home.

Whether or not that's sweet, savory, or something else, is but a whiff away.

Erin Rossiter is a reporter for The Times whose columns appear on Sunday's Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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