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This chicken could peck the winners

Ted the Rooster died while watching The Young and the Restless.That spring afternoon, as usual, the That spring afternoon, as usual, the television was on in his coop.

"It was about a quarter to 5, and I was rubbing Ted Sr.," says Dick Frymire, whose talented roosters, home remedies and maple tree that forecasts the weather have made him a barnyard Renaissance man. "I just had my hand under his beak and as soon as I did that, he just laid his head over my hand."

Ted had suffered a heart attack. The "most famous unfried chicken in the world" was dead.

Ted made his name as a sports seer but got his start in politics. Back in 1984, the rooster kept taking pecks at a campaign poster of Ronald Reagan instead of one of Walter Mondale. Frymire knew an honest-to-goodness oddity when he saw one. This, after all, is the man whose business card reads:

L.H. "Dick" Frymire, D.B.S., Kentucky's Official Folklorist and Treeologist.

Ted was his star. Frymire would make little signs with team names and point spreads. Then he would put corn kernels in front of them. Ted made weekly college and pro picks. The NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky Derby.

Frymire said Ted correctly pecked the winners 85 percent of the time.

Now he was gone. But not before he made a final appearance in the national media.

"He'd done several things for USA Today," says Frymire, 68. "I thought, "Well, I'll just wrap him in the sports pages of USA Today.' I dug the grave out there by Miss Maudie, his first mate, and that's where I buried him.

"I cried over him," Frymire says. "Of course, Ted was 11{ years. You fool with anything that many years, you're going to get attached."

Something else happened in that coop at almost the instant Ted died. A successor was discovered. Ted Jr.

"He crowed three times, flew down off the roost pole and went outside in the running pen and crowed three more times and leaned his head up against the wall and seemed like he was crying," says Frymire. "But those other chickens, they never moved a muscle."

Ted Jr. still has a ways to go to equal his dad. This season, his winning picks on college and NFL football games are running at a more human 75 percent.

Miss Maudie and more

Local folks once thought Frymire was crazy. To the Commonwealth of Kentucky, he is certifiable.

In 1992, the Legislature passed a resolution making him the state folklorist and treeologist.

The fenced-in compound that was once his Gulf Oil dealership is now a "weather service and museum." Ted, Miss Maudie and another Frymire discovery, Fred the Rabbit, are buried there.

Miss Maudie's tombstone carries the dates she was "hatched," "matched" and "snatched."

The museum includes a barn overflowing with antiques, some junk and his inventions, including the "Frymire Fish Attractor."

If you manage to find Irvington _ a town of 1,100 about 50 miles southwest of Louisville _ it's hard to miss the museum.

The sign near the road pictures a rooster reclining against a tree. The bird looks like Foghorn Leghorn's hip cousin. The tree is festooned with gauges.

"Men who are afraid of being ruined by success," reads a plaque on Frymire's office wall, "shouldn't get a job trying to forecast the weather."

Reading the leaves

Before there was Ted, there was the weather tree.

On business in New York back in '65, Frymire struck up a conversation with an elderly man who offered to teach him the secret of reading trees.

That first winter, Frymire made some observations of his "Japanese maple." He told no one, save his friend Snowball, and put the results in his safe. Frymire says that when he opened the results later, doggone if he hadn't hit on 92 percent.

He did tests. Same results. The county paper ran a story, then Louisville TV.

Frymire added the gauges later. He says two of them take the temperature at the heart of the tree. Others take the air and soil temperatures. How Frymire interprets the results is his secret _ and the old man's.

"Treeology."

Brides especially valued his forecasts. Soon Frymire was receiving so many requests, he had to start charging.

"If you do enough things for nothing," he says, "you'll be qualified to do nothing for the rest of your life."

Lemon juice to remember

On Frymire's office wall, among the model trains, cars and the 1925 cover of Feathered Warrior magazine, are photographs of his TV appearances. Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, David Letterman.

"I never heard such loud music in my life," he says of the Letterman show.

In the Cosby photo, Frymire is putting lemon juice on Bill's nose.

Frymire never makes an appearance without lemon juice. He puts it on his fingers to increase his memory.

His great-grandfather's medical degrees also are on display. Frymire can trace two of the dominant themes in his life _ roosters and remedies _ to Dr. J. D. Frymire.

Frymire says his great-grandfather saved a man's leg from amputation in 1870 by treating his wound with moldy bread. He had treated his fighting cocks that way.

"He wrote in his medical journals that he learned more treating his game chickens . . . than he did all the time he went to medical school," Frymire says.

He says 90 percent of the home remedies in his first book came from those medical journals. Later, when he started appearing on radio, listeners would pass on their remedies. Frymire does much of his radio work from his office. But once a month, like an old-time circuit preacher, he drives his '82 Lincoln Town Car to stations from Tennessee to the Florida Panhandle.

He hawks his books and passes on recipes for "energy drinks," headache cures and spider repellents.

D.B.S.

The phone rings in Frymire's office. The caller, a woman from Georgia, wants to know if there's a remedy for the growth on the top of her head.

Frymire doesn't think long:

Make a doctor's appointment. Until then, rub castor oil on your head for five days _ and five days only.

Frymire hangs up. He turns to a visitor with a resigned look on his face. His lawyer has warned him to be careful in dispensing home remedies.

"What are you going to do?" he asks.

People need help. Mostly for minor ailments. They turn to Dick Frymire, D.B.S.

That's Doctor of Barnyard Science.

ON THE RADIO

Dick Frymire appears once a month on the syndicated talk show hosted by Paul Gonzalez, a former Tampa Bay radio personality. Sarasota's WKXY-AM 930 and Lakeland's WWAB-AM 1330 carry the show. Frymire is on at 11 a.m. today.

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