I don’t know what you need by way of documentation so I’m enclosing a grease-stained voter registration form, a broken Tater Round, and Big Buster’s paper hat, as well as this narrative. I also don’t know where to begin to describe exactly how everything went to hell in a hand-basket (I’d like to say chicken basket but that might make everything sound too frivolous, which I can assure you it was not).

At first, things outside Junebug’s Chicken Coop were calm, almost too calm, because for 45 minutes I couldn’t get anyone to register to vote. Three guys from the sanitation department came by early enough, and parked their truck quite a ways up the street so I could still smell the fried chicken. But one of the gentlemen got really quite hostile about the whole voting thing. He said he wasn’t registered, and when I suggested that it would take just a minute or two (the suggested follow-up), he started swearing and kicking at the brick wall below the glass windows, hard really. Well, it occurred to me after they went in the Coop, that he might be a felon, because you know they can’t vote, so I may have reminded him of personal failures, or the injustice of our society, or something, all of which I regretted bringing to mind, but voting is not only a right but a responsibility, except for felons. Well, and illegal immigrants, who came by later, but they were so polite and clearly just wanted chicken, so I probably don’t need to mention them at all. Then it occurred to me that if he had served his sentence and was no longer on parole or probation, then his rights would return to him without him even asking. Which I thought I might mention to him on his way out, just in case.

So just as business started picking up, a very nice gentleman came along. I guess he didn’t like the size of the crowd that had already gathered inside the Coop, because he engaged me in conversation on fried chicken. Said this wasn’t even the best fried chicken he had ever had, that was in Kansas City on a road trip, the trip that may have been the death knell of his marriage (he may not have said death knell, but that is assuredly what it was from what I could gather, something about his cousin on leave and his wife being patriotic) anyway, he said this wasn’t even the best chicken in the city; in fact, if he were to be honest, he’d have to say he made chicken better. To which I said that I was sure he did. I think politeness and encouragement can help persuade the reluctant voter, and I hadn’t decided if he was registered at as his current address. Well, the gentleman left, but not for long as you will soon see.

Two youngish and sturdily built women came along a few minutes later, and both of them wanted to register at their new and current address. They were very pleasant, and my first registrations. Still flush with victory, or success, or maybe just the heat because I have to say I was starting to sweat through my coral short-sleeved sweater top, but that might have been because of the camisole. Without the cami it was almost provocative. Maybe I’m hopeful in saying provocative. Maybe I should stick with inappropriate, but I would love it to be provocative. Anyway, the women couple took their forms inside to complete as they waited in line for their boxed lunches, which may have been a mistake, because those clipboards, in a pinch, could be weapons of a sort. Then I saw the charming gentleman who liked Kansas City chicken.

He carried a grill, a pot full of oil, and some chicken parts. I know this because he set up his portable chicken kitchen right next to me on the sidewalk. In the short time he had been away, he had dredged the chicken in flour and herbs and spices. He lit up the coals and in no time had chicken frying outside the Coop. Should I have stepped in? I’m not sure it was within my purview to mediate the rights of chicken fryers, I just wanted to make sure everyone had the freedom to vote. Two young men who should have been in school or gainful employment of some kind came along. And well, I asked if they were registered to vote because that is the only thing I’m there for. And one said yeah, but the other added that he had already voted. I didn’t respond to that bald-faced lie, knowing as he did not, that early voting hadn’t started yet. That’s not for me to judge, but another older gentleman on his way out gave a double-take. He put his chicken in his truck and then asked “Did he really say he had already voted?” I had to tell the truth, and could not have foreseen what would happen.

“Hey, young fella,” the older gentleman called out. “Don’t lie to the nice lady. You come back here and apologize.”

I couldn’t hear exactly what the young man said, but he did hitch up his pants, which I was glad about because he had that kind of waddle that let’s you know everything is in a downward slide. So holding his waistband in one clenched fist he stood on the street corner and hooted something on back at the man. Well, that tore it, I could tell because the older man went right over the young guy, and I kid you not, grabbed him by his ear and began to wrestle him back to me. I could see that he really was young, with one of those wispy mustaches that a cat could lick off. Like maybe he wasn’t even old enough to vote, but didn’t want to let on. Well, he was struggling against the indignity of it, and the older man was struggling to catch his breath, and I was embarrassed by the commotion.

One of the customers inside must have let Big Buster (I believe he is the head chicken fryer at Junebug’s) know that there was some competition sitting right outside on the sidewalk, because he came pushing through the door all red-faced and justifying his name. It was a confluence of great forces, Big Buster, the struggling wannabe delinquent and his new mentor, and fragrant, slightly spicy Kansas City chicken. I really don’t think any of us should have been arrested, not even the women wielding the clipboards who turned out to be impressively strong. However, I have to say I got three more registrations, one from an officer who had recently moved, and the other two from people in the police van, who by election time will still retain their non-felon status, no matter what the eventual legal outcome of this brouhaha. And that’s what’s important here, right?

Please let me know if you need further explanation. I hope to see you at the canvassing on Saturday.


Tammy Smallings, volunteer