Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria’s great already, from chickens to cows

The columnist enjoys the morning barnyard sounds of his neighbor’s chickens on Wilton Drive.
The columnist enjoys the morning barnyard sounds of his neighbor’s chickens on Wilton Drive. Special to The Cambrian

I had the strangest dream the other night. A neighbor knocked on my door wearing a fire engine red cap. The message on the cap: “Make Cambria Great Again!” Rather than let him in, I stepped out on the deck, arguing that Cambria is already pretty great.

Often dreams seem very real. This one was for sure.

“Cambria won’t be great again until we round up all the undocumented immigrants and send them back to Mexico,” he said.

He didn’t answer when I asked him who he was working for — whose payroll was he on — why was he here? You know how dreams can be confusing.

He talked about a new order from the Department of Homeland Security.

“Everyone in Cambria illegally is subject to removal at any time,” he said.

I told him that attitude goes against the grain of the Cambria community, that he was totally out of line, and our community will protect residents and will resist this kind of fascism to the very end.

He went on to explain that the president back in Washington, D.C., has also rescinded Barack Obama’s protections for transgender students; Obama’s order allowed transgender students to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

“We’re checking to make sure transgender students here in Cambria are using facilities related to their identity at birth, not their newly created gender,” he said, handing me a flier that solicited information on identifying transgender students in Cambria. There was an 800 number and an email address to use.

I told this neighbor he represented evil policies and asked him to get off my deck.

“We are a wonderful community — widely known for cultural and environmental greatness – and you’re a rude, bothersome and obnoxious alien here,” I scolded.

He turned and left. Shortly thereafter, I woke up; my pillow was soaked from night sweats. I switched on my computer and started my preloaded coffee maker by pushing the “on” button. I always have my coffee ready to go; it’s my loyal friend very early in the morning.

Why Cambria is already great

I’m the quintessential early bird, rising around 4 a.m. most mornings. I enjoy watching the day begin from my perch on Wilton Drive. Shortly after total blackness gives way to a misty pink, red, or orange predawn glow in Cambria’s eastern sky, an ensemble of the neighbor’s chickens begins its cluck-cluck mantra.

It’s reassuring to live in a small town with barnyard sounds; takes me back to my adolescent years in rural southern Wisconsin, and the bucolic farms where I milked cows, plowed fields, baled hay, spread manure and yes, fed the chickens. All for a buck twenty-five an hour — which, because I was a good worker, was a twenty-five-cent raise from my original hourly wage.

Shortly after the chickens begin the day’s pleasant-sounding presentation, and the neighborhood crows caw their way into the ecology, roosters strut to their own drummers around the neighborhood, as if they just received an invitation to be in this year’s Pinedorado Parade.

I think the chickens are Rhode Island Reds, but they could be Red Shavers from Canada or bearded chickens from Belgium. I doubt that they are Transylvanian naked-neck chickens from Romania, and it’s unlikely they are Russian Orloff chickens from Russia.

(I’ll have to check with the administration back in Washington, D.C., to verify what that breed from Russia looks like. They seem to have a handle on all things Russian.)

On occasion, I notice a slight change in the pitch of those morning clucks that the chickens make; I always wonder if there is some courtship going on across the street. The lady who raises those chickens puts up a sign when sufficient fresh eggs have been laid. They’re delicious and very fresh eggs, with a minimum of cholesterol, I’m told.

Some days, by midafternoon or later, sitting on my tidy northeast-facing deck, I hear the echoes of cows in the distance — and their distinctive low mooing mellows me out. They serve as a time machine, taking me back to the early 1960s when I milked 24 cows twice a day.

The Jerseys gave the most, and the richest milk. I skimmed the cream off the top of the milk can and delivered it to the farmer’s wife; she used it to make lavishly rich butter and incredibly sweet ice cream (using a hand crank). The Guernsey cows also provided great milk, as did the Holsteins I milked

I took a quick break from writing this column and breathed some fresh air on my deck. Across the street a Latino landscaping worker was carefully manicuring a neighbor’s colorful shrubs. I hope he isn’t on a list to be swept up by some Homeland Security minion trying to get his quota of deported people.

We have problems … that are solvable

But getting back to Cambria’s greatness; rarely is everything in any community totally, absolutely great. And a quick glance at the stewardship of the Community Service District shows some glaring issues that need to be resolved.

The CCSD apparently has a problem getting reports to the local water board on time, and I read that it could be fined up to $600,000. Also, the greatness of Cambria isn’t reflected in the costs and the confusing fits and starts of the “Sustainable Water Facility”; nor is greatness shown through jacked-up water and sewer rates.

But these troubles are solvable — solutions are available. Cambria is great, period. As to those individuals in Washington, D.C., with their deportation passion and bigotry toward transgender students, all good folks here and elsewhere in this great nation should be crying foul.

Donald Trump and his team have the license to get away with draconian behavior today, but in time, believe it, their chickens will come home to roost.

Freelance journalist and Cambria resident John FitzRandolph’s column appears biweekly and is special to The Cambrian. Email him at