'Roscoe' enjoys a permanent roost in Old Town Takoma
Oct. 30, 2002
Meredith Hooker
Staff Writer

Susan Whitney/The Gazette

Normon Greene's statue, "Roscoe," graces the intersection of Takoma Park's Carroll and Laurel avenues. The piece commemorates the life of the rooster that walked freely among Takoma Park residents for years.

In cities around the world, you'll find statues in their town squares that pay homage to their most prominent residents.

Takoma Park is no different. It has its own bronze statue of a deceased city resident, deemed famous by some and infamous by others.

A life-sized statue of Roscoe the Rooster, crafted by local artist Normon Greene, stands mid-strut on a pedestal in front of the Takoma clock tower in the center of downtown Takoma Park, proudly puffing out his chest and sporting a cocky expression on his small, feathered face.

"[Greene] studied photographs of Roscoe to capture Roscoe's character and personality, and he also studied photographs of other roosters," said Larry Rubin, former Ward 1 Councilman who considered Roscoe one of his constituents. "In the end, Norm captured [Roscoe's] inner chick."

Greene, the founder of the Takoma Park Artists Guild, is known throughout Takoma Park and the surrounding area for his various works. But, said, Alice Sims, co-chair of TAG, Roscoe is one of his most visible pieces in the city.

The free-roaming fowl had a 10-year reign in the city, staking his territory on the lawn in front of and behind the apartment houses near Mark's Kitchen on Carroll Avenue.

An early bird, Roscoe cock-a-doodle-dooed at dawn while roving the main drag, loudly reminding some residents that it was time to get ready for work and others that they'd only gone to sleep a few short hours before.

Roosters don't come with a snooze button, and you can't program them to go off at 10 a.m. And this, Rubin said, is why the fowl was both friend and foe to the people of Takoma Park.

Rubin said he often passed Roscoe when he made his morning trek to the Takoma Metro station.

"He'd be on the front lawn and sometimes he'd crow," Rubin said. "He made me take myself less seriously. It struck me that he had as much of a right to be there as I did."

Joan Horn said she and her husband Frank Lundin felt the same way. You can't help but smile when you see a rooster walking down the city streets, she said.

"We used to go walking and we used to hear the rooster in the mornings," she said. "He made our day bright and cheerful."

No one knows how the vagabond rooster found his way inside city limits but, being the liberal community that it is, Takoma Park allowed Roscoe to make his roost and rule it, too, regardless of what others had to say about him and the early morning ruckus he caused.

Roscoe was "a character in his own right," Horn said. She said the free-spirited, feisty fowl survived dogs, cats, children and other predators during his time in Takoma Park.

"He was no chicken," Rubin said. "And at one point there was a bounty on his beak."

Rubin said Montgomery County Animal Control claimed Roscoe was violating a county ordinance, but it was never clarified whether or not the bird should be busted.

According to Montgomery County Code, Animal Control officials may remove an animal to protect the health or safety of another animal, person or the general public. It is unknown whether Roscoe was considered a hazard.

Animal Control and some Takoma Park employees tried to capture Roscoe on several occasions, but the fugitive fowl "took them all on" in typical Takoma Park fashion, evading officials with the help of some non-feathered friends, Rubin said.

"The neighbors would always protect him when the bounty hunters would come to the doors," Rubin said. "They would say they didn't see him. I'm not saying there was a conspiracy; the neighbors just winged it."

In particular, elderly Takoma Park resident Alan Daugharthy was a good friend of Roscoe's, Rubin said. He said the two pals would often sit together on Daugharthy's front porch and relax in the sunshine. When Daugharthy died, Rubin said he thought the rooster became depressed over the loss of his friend.

"I would see him on the sidewalk in front of the front yard [of the apartments], and several times I told him to get off the sidewalk and not go into the street," Rubin said. "I shooed him back."

No one knows what was going on in the bird's brain. But residents say Roscoe continued to wander near the road.

"One day he decided to cross the road," Rubin said. "Why? I don't know."

That day was Feb. 15, 1999. Roscoe tried to cross Carroll Avenue, a notoriously busy thoroughfare, in the morning and was the victim of a hit-and-run. Quite possibly, he did not look both ways. A waitress from Mark's Kitchen found his body, Rubin said. He was not found in a crosswalk.

And the city mourned, holding a memorial service dubbed both "Requiem for a Rooster" and "Funeral for a Fowl." Roscoe was wrapped and buried near the site of his death, Rubin said.

A committee, spearheaded by Horn and Lundin, raised $5,000 to create a statue and plaque in the rooster's honor.

"They truly loved Roscoe," Rubin said about the couple.

Greene created the statue and now his handiwork, as well as Roscoe's spirit, is permanently enshrined in the center of the town.

"It was a very lovely job," Horn said. "We had enjoyed Roscoe and we wanted to keep his spirit here."

Horn said she believes the statue of Roscoe embodies the free spirit of Takoma Park and that he is becoming the city's icon.

"He adopted us," Rubin said of the rooster. "That spirit of individuality is very much a part of Takoma Park's character. He also reminded people of the circle of nature, which is also a part of Takoma Park's spirit."

Greene's work is currently is on display until Nov. 8 in the James Hubert Blake High School Gallery, 300 Norwood Road. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.