- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The story of the Wylie Avenue rooster ended happily on the afternoon of Nov. 20. Frank Cantone and his two daughters returned to the scene in the Hill District after all the media folks had left.

The rooster had been oddly absent in the morning, but he was right there on Henry Gaston’s property at 4 p.m. It’s where inspectors have seen him - citing Mr. Gaston multiple times for violating a city ordinance prohibiting roosters. It’s where neighbors fed him, where he could be spotted almost any given day. But he had always evaded capture.

The Cantones were there to relieve Mr. Gaston of his legal burden and to save the rooster from possible harm. They run a chicken rescue operation in St. Louis and read about Mr. Gaston’s appearances in District Judge Oscar Petite’s courtroom in my stories published in July and September. At the Nov. 2 hearing, Mr. Gaston had run out of time. He was to have been fined. But a phone message to the court from Mr. Cantone saved the day. Judge Petite called him back and told him that if he could catch the bird, Mr. Gaston could avoid a fine.

The Nov. 20 story of the capture lacked details. When Mr. Cantone texted “We got him” at 4:30 p.m. I called him, got the essence and called the newsroom, informing the editor that Felicity, the 10-year-old, had made the catch after a four-block chase. That’s what I had understood Mr. Cantone to say. But here’s how it really went down:

“He was on the property, and Lindsey (who is 12) and I went to get him and he got away,” Mr. Cantone said.

The rooster headed across Roberts Street, then north, with the Cantones in pursuit. On the other side of Webster Avenue, Lindsey and her dad ran ahead of Felicity, who saw the rooster dart under a bush.

“I heard Felicity yelling, ‘Daddy, Daddy, he’s right here!’ If she hadn’t seen where he went, we’d have lost him,” Mr. Cantone said.

“He was under the bush, worn out. That’s one of the keys to catching a chicken is to wear them out. When I reached in to get him he moved and I scooped him up.”

The Cantones first arrived at the property Saturday evening along with TV crews and reporters. Mr. Cantone thinks the rattling of the cage spooked the bird high into a tree, and by Sunday morning, when everyone returned, it was either smart enough to lie low or someone was harboring it. The Cantones decided to try again later, alone.

Sometimes, when I talk to journalism students, they ask how I find stories. Sometimes, they fall into your lap.

Last July, I was interested in a particular case in Judge Petite’s court, and while waiting for it, I was focusing on my Sudoku app. I heard a woman mention “that rooster” on the property across the street from her. I put my phone away and listened, and when the hearing was over, I got that rush every reporter feels when she has a delightful, oddball story that will have everyone talking.

In September, Mr. Gaston was back in court. He was supposed to have caught the rooster. He said he couldn’t. He said he doesn’t even own the bird, that it just hangs out there. He said even Animal Control couldn’t catch it.

Apparently it takes people who know something about roosters to catch one.

The St. Louis Chicken Rescue now has nine chickens. Its second rooster will remain Rudy, the name Mr. Gaston’s neighbors gave him. So far, Rudy isn’t showing much interest in the hens. He has eaten a bit of an apple, but he doesn’t like chicken feed, Mr. Cantone said.

“He’s so used to human food from all the people who fed him,” he said.

Rudy is a Chantecler, Mr. Cantone thinks, and about 2 years old.

“He is a precious bird, so well behaved. He loves my girls. He’s very protective of them,” he said.

While the Cantones were here, they visited the Strip District. Mr. Cantone found a cool cigar shop; the girls found a cool candy store. The Hampton Inn in Green Tree agreed to let them stay overnight with the rooster.

“We had so much fun,” Mr. Cantone said. “What a beautiful city. The girls want to move there. They didn’t want to leave. There’s such a positive vibe.

“We’ll definitely come back. I can see us bringing Rudy back on a leash and letting him walk in the old neighborhood and say hi to the neighbors.”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2fJdY5q

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com


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