Saturday, May 2, 2009

Anyone who has ever sought directions in Marietta, Georgia, a city north of Atlanta, has been treated to the following: "Well, just go to the Big Chicken and turn right and go three miles, or go to the Big Chicken and look for highway 41. Follow it for six blocks and turn left."
The common denominator is always the Big Chicken, a giant sign that protrudes upward approximately 100 feet. The crown at the top is a caricature likeness of a chicken—eyes rolling and beak opening and closing—seemingly overlooking all the traffic below. Inside is a name brand fried chicken fast-food restaurant created and made popular by a man in a white suit, black string bow tie dressed immaculately. The man with a colonel in front of his name sported a gray goatee beard to match his gray hair.
According to legend, at first the colonel protested the original monstrosity of a big chicken, however he finally relented and allowed it. To the folks of Marietta, it was soon adopted as a landmark, finally becoming the central figure of direction-giving, as mentioned above. As time and pigeons took its toll on the original sign—also very large—people began to seek the prevention of the structure, or a new one going back up. There was quite a battle between the ayes and the nays, causing not a few politicians to become involved. Bottom line was a replacement big chicken was constructed and stands today as a beacon for directions to find anything in that fair city.
At least twenty years ago, several of my adult-like children prodded me into going to Six-Flags Over Georgia, a mammoth recreation facility that covers several acres. To find the location of the complex, simply go to the Big Chicken in Marietta and turn south towards I-75. Follow that to I-285 West, connecting with I-20 West. Several miles later the Six-Flags exit will dominate the road signs directing you to the giant playground.
Upon our arrival, we walked around, ate cotton candy or funnel cakes looking for the rides which we wanted to enjoy. Ever since I was a child, rides that go around in circles, such as Merry-go-Rounds or flying airplanes make me deathly ill—something akin to dizziness brought on by traveling in circles. I stay away from them, choosing to watch from the sidelines. I can tolerate the Ferris Wheel, assuming they don’t get carried away with stopping it on top for very long.
Suffice it to say that I tremble in fear when I look at a Roller Coaster. They just don’t look safe. Then these people who claim to love their daddy spotted a ride called the Big Drop or something close to that. "C’mon Dad," they insisted, "this will be a hoot, and it doesn’t go around in circles."
For some unknown reason, I allowed myself to be talked into this inane ride. It chugged upward slowly, grunting and straining, creaking and growling. I could see the Parachute Drop nearby and I had thoughts of maybe trying it out afterwards. Our cage surrounded us, a steel bar kept us in place as it progressed slowly outward, and then it happened! Faster than the speed of a bullet we dropped straight down—faster than any drop I have ever experienced—toward the ground. I knew I was dead before I hit the ground. My stomach was a few seconds behind me.
Once the machine stopped, and I crawled to safety, I realized I was the real Big Chicken!

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