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First Family's prize rooster knows who's cock of the walk



Houdini_ribbons
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udie Raiford and Jere Wood proudly display their champion rooster, Houdini, who in his first competition swept all the top awards at the Chattahoochee Valley Poultry Association Show. Now he takes a bow in the Raiford Gallery. Hatcher Hurd. (click for larger version)
March 29, 2010
ROSWELL – Houdini, the prize rooster of Mayor Jere Wood and his wife Judie Raiford, may be pullus non grata as far as the Roswell City Council is concerned, but he was the cock of the walk at the sixth annual Chattahoochee Valley Poultry Association's Poultry Show.

Of the 2,170 birds entered from 16 states swept the top ribbons of the show for "Best of Variety" for a Wheaten Americauna Rooster; "Best of Breed" for an Americauna Rooster; and "Champion Americauna Rooster" (Best in Show).

At the March 8 Roswell City Council meeting, Mike Martin, representing the Chattahoochee Valley Poultry Association, came to present the mayor with Houdini's ribbons.

"The first show was held in a LaGrange feed store, but we have come a long way since then," Martin said. "For the last four years our poultry show has been the largest in the southeastern United States, and only fitting that the show is held in Newnan, the Poultry Capital of the World."

Martin called the sweep by one rooster of the three top ribbons unprecedented, and felt it was a feat of such merit that he had to come to City Hall and present the ribbons in person.

"It was a blind judging, and the rooster was known only as entry No. 166," he said.

Evidently Martin did not know the City Council's new animal ordinance has banned chickens, and in its Companion Animals Amendment, the city allows dogs, goats, pygmy goats, Vietnamese potbellied pigs and some fowl, but no chickens, and that includes roosters.

Houdini's story however, is a henhouse to the penthouse story worthy of Horatio Alger. It seems as chick he was considered – well – as an ugly duckling. His breeder thought he would not make it to the top. So he gave Houdini away.

Yes, he might have ended up just another Sunday dinner, or if he was lucky, a small henhouse for his domain. But Houdini was made of sterner feathers than that. Also, he caught a huge break in life. For the breeder gave him to none other than Roswell's famous Chicken Man, Andrew Wordes.

Yes, the same Wordes who was brought low by the new city ordinance banning all chickens from the city. He had raised up Houdini to be a most proud and pulchritudinous pullet. Wordes fed him, groomed him and taught him all that he would need to know to scratch the Big Time.

And while Wordes was forced to surrender his good friend to the care of friends, the bond could not be broken. It was he who shampooed Houdini, carefully coifed his feathers, combed his comb and made that rooster glow with a special diet.

Wordes said he would like to say he say something special that day when Houdini was offered to him, but that just wasn't so.

"He was just an ugly bird. His feathers were multi-colored. He sort of looked like that nerdy guy in high school," Wordes said.

But as he grew, he changed. Wordes would perch him on his shopping cart, and people would stop and stare. Some would even approach, and usually ask if that was a chicken on his cart?

"I would go, 'Shh. He thinks he's a duck.' Then folks would step back, then realize it was kind of a dumb question," Wordes said.

As people began to remark more and more about his bird, Wordes said he could see the potential in him. Still not a year old, the world is Houdini's oyster. It is the national circuit for him now with such a triumph in his first show.

Wordes won't take the credit. He gives it all to Houdini.

"I've been working with birds for years and have two seconds to show for it. And He gets two firsts and a grand champion the first time out of the coop?"

The Wood family is of course delighted with the outcome. Judie, who admits, "I know more about eggs than I do roosters."

Judie kept him in a pen outside her business, the Raiford Gallery, on Canton Street, but the law is the law, no matter how much she disagrees.

"A little civil disobedience is good for the soul," she said.

Wood says they were just keeping Houdini for Wordes until better (read legal) quarters could be found. But now it seems, Houdini bound for the road. Who knows how far he can go now? Hollywood? New York?

"It really is mind-blowing when you think about it. He's just a $2 chick out of a hatchery. Now he's going to be a national champion," Wordes said.

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