Midtown: Community

Flight of fancy lifts spirits in Lake Boone Trail neighborhood

For about a month now, I’ve been on a chicken prowl. But this search was not for any ordinary barnyard fowl.

It’s Nancy Hight’s pet, a foot-tall metal sculpture she calls simply, The Chicken. Its personality, though, is anything but simple.

The Chicken tickles Midtown resident Marshall Harvey, who was the first to tell me about the bird perched on the mailbox at the Lake Boone Trail home where Hight lives with her husband, Steve.

Harvey has since kept me abreast of The Chicken’s attire.

“Hey, Lori,” he’d say in passing. “Today the bird has on a raincoat and a bonnet to match. It changes with whatever’s going on.

“I tell you,” he’d say. “You’ve got to see it.”

Harvey’s wife, Mildred, even printed out MapQuest directions to The Chicken. She used to pass it twice a day, taking her granddaughter to and from school. “It’s the cutest thing,” she said.

My curiosity rose and I asked, “Well, who lives there?”

The Harveys didn’t know. Whoever it is, we agreed, sure has a good time and spreads it around.

Some of you may remember Hight and The Chicken. A few years back, The Chicken was stolen. Hight tried to cast it off as a fun memory, but her neighborhood wasn’t ready for The Chicken to fly. It was a community celebrity, a fashion icon styled according to the weather and holidays, for sports and history. They wondered, “Who would do such a thing?” And they tried to fix it – with replacement chickens.

The current statue is the third replacement, another donated one that has stayed put for a while now.

My unannounced visit to uncover The Chicken’s muse found me winding up a curved driveway to the Hights’ house on the hill – and Nancy Hight’s wonderland of eccentric creativity. Chicken sculptures, metal and ceramic pieces and stained glass all suggest her personality and passion for the outdoors, animals and art.

“I kind of evolve,” she said of the outdoor art she collects. What adorns the Lake Boone Trail home she dreamed of living in as a little girl growing up nearby could someday settle at the mountain home the Hights are building.

Hight isn’t sure exactly when The Chicken landed on her mailbox. She’s not really sure why, either.

“I just glued him up there and started dressing him in different outfits,” she said.

What I found at her home was Christmas adornment like no other: The Chicken, in Christmas attire, is flanked by a mini-Christmas tree and The Grinch.

“It’s a silly little thing I enjoy doing, very whimsical,” Hight said. “It’s amazing how much the people enjoy it, too.”

They prove appreciation with notes:

“Whenever I drive by, I always look forward to seeing your well-dressed bird. Thanks for the smiles.” – Unsigned.

“Love the Royals! Our favorite chicken yet! Thanks for the daily giggles!” – The Marsh family.

“Thank you for adding a little whimsy to Lake Boone Trail! I love your chickens!” – Unsigned

Hight is sharing her truest self with all of us, making life’s day-to-day a little better with cheer along weekly trips to chemotherapy or for a 4-year-old who begs to “go the chicken way.”

The Chicken pricks our consciousness, too, dressed as a 9-1-1 firefighter alongside blackened twin towers, and in a rare partisan statement in 2008, posing as Joe The Chicken, for Obama’s sake. “I had to,” Hight quipped.

And, even though the Hights’ is an N.C. State-UNC house divided, The Chicken donned Carolina Blue to wish a quick recovery to Tar Heel basketball coach Roy Williams. “At Super Bowl time,” Hight added, chuckling, “we always say ‘Say No to chicken wings!’ ”

We, the community, make it fun, she said. “People always want to know what that silly chicken is wearing.”

Some make requests such as, “My daughter’s getting married. Can we have a bride chicken?” or, Hight recalls, two Lacy fifth-graders’ request for a graduate chicken.

“I always follow up on a request,” she said. “That’s the fun of it. It’s just a little bit of levity in the day.”

We appreciate the lift!