ADAMSVILLE, R.I. -- Why did the chicken cross the road? Roosters have their reasons, thousands of them -- but if you happen to be in Adamsville, R.I., there's really only one.
The chicken-and-road riddle runs into its answer at the three-way country intersection of Adamsville Road, Westport Harbor Road, and Main Street. Here self-respecting poultry (and passing tourists) stop to check out the granite monument that celebrates the world-famous state bird: the Rhode Island Red Chicken.
"TO COMMEMORATE THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE RHODE ISLAND RED BREEDING FOWL . . . ' reads the plaque. Above the text is a bas relief of a bird with so much fluffy plumage it looks like it's been outfitted with a wig. The stone was dedicated here in 1925 by the Rhode Island Red Club of America "with contributions of Rhode Island Red breeders throughout the world." We may be the smallest state, it seems to say, but stand back. Our stock struts around the globe. Local businesses have gotten on board and, if you're in the mood for a chicken hunt, you can taste Rhode Island Red wine, a special blend bottled at nearby Sakonnet Vineyards , which uses the rooster for its label logo, or try one of the regional egg specialties at The Barn restaurant in town. While you're at it, pick up some chicken monument postcards ($1.25 each) or the official, all-cotton Rhode Island Red T-shirt ($10.95) at Gray's Store in Adamsville, built in 1788 and claiming to be the oldest operating general store in the country. And, at the end of a full day, check in for the night at The Roost, a bed-and-breakfast cottage owned by the vineyard .
Don't scoff. Rhode Island Red isn't your average citizen chicken. His extraordinary feathers, a rainbow of deep browns and reds, have earned him fan clubs in England and Scotland , and his roots are in Malaysian, Javanese, and Chinese stock. Red was first bred near here in 1854 by John Macomber and Captain William Tripp of Little Compton, who enjoyed experimenting with poultry in their spare time.
There are many books that feature Rhode Island Red including a local title, "Roosters and Hens for the Appreciative Eye" by Suze Craig, of Westport, Mass., and Ros Harvey (Cottage, 2006) a coffee-table-sized work you can check out at Westport's Partners Village Store and Kitchen just over the Massachusetts border.
(The village of Adamsville is part of Little Compton; geographically it sits on both states and three towns, including Tiverton, R.I., and Westport.)
According to Missy DeSalvo Berg, who lives not far from the monument , "the Rhode Island Red chicken is a proud and hardy bird. Rhode Islanders like them because, well, maybe we're a little like that. If you're a tourist, you should be happy these guys are around for one simple reason: local eggs. Visit here and you're really going to love going out to breakfast because you'll be eating the best eggs in the country."
At The Barn, the choice brown eggs laid by hard-working Rhode Island Red hens are king. If you're hungry enough, try the Eggs Sakonnet for $10.95. The chef adds lobster, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce to two poached eggs on top of English muffins.
Lobster for breakfast did you say? This is coastal New England, after all. For all I know, there's a roadside plaque near here honoring the regional red crustaceans .
Peter Mandel, a freelance writer in Providence and an author of children's books, can be reached at pbmandel @cox.net.