Rooster Day, 2017

It’s Rooster Day in Demopolis, Alabama, the second annual festival commemorating the famous Rooster Sale of 1919. The auction of over 200 roosters and one hen, donated by Helen Keller, was to be the local contribution toward a bridge across the Tombigbee River, outside “the City of the People.” It would be the last link in an overland highway from Savannah, Georgia, to San Diego. The sale garnered pledges of more than $200,000, though accounts say many were never honored. I encourage you to search the subject, and be sure to search “Tombigbee flood Rooster Bridge towboat.”
When I was a young whelp in the early 80s, I hitched on with The Jackson Daily News in Jackson, Mississippi. As I was a native of east Alabama, on the Georgia line, I would travel home several times a year to visit family. This journey took me through west Alabama on U.S. Highway 80, then a narrow two-lane road from the Mississippi line to Selma, a distance of about 100 miles. This was before the rapacious scalping of southern woodlands for the export of wood chips, and for some distance forests would grow close along both sides of the right of way. It was like something out of Hansel and Gretel. Right in the middle of this stretch of “the widows’ highway” was the original Rooster Bridge outside Demopolis. It was a rickety iron structure high above the water that carried only one lane of traffic. There actually was a stoplight at each end. If it was green, it was safe to proceed; it it was red, you waited for oncoming traffic to clear. I managed to survive many a crossing at all hours of the day and night, and it was always a macabre highlight of the long drive.
That entire stretch of road is divided four-lane now, and the old Rooster Bridge is gone, replaced by a wide modern span just upstream, also named “Rooster Bridge.” A historical marker that stood at the old bridge has been moved to the new, and it details the unusual history of the rooster sale and the ambitious plan to “span the ‘Bigbee with cocks.” Really. It says that, cast in bronze on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 80. You can look it up.

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