Why did the chicken cross the country? Because it was family vacation, of course.
Pleasanton Head baseball Coach Lance Standley and his family have traveled the country during the summer months for the last 14 years. These past five years, they’ve done so with their pet chicken, Toby. Standley had a pet chicken growing up and five years ago, while in Woodville, a lady gifted the Standleys the chicken now known as Toby.
They were getting ready to go on a family trip through Las Vegas, through California and up to Washington state. In the piney woods of East Texas, leaving a chicken alone for that long of a time could mean the critters in the woods mistaking the beloved pet for dinner.
“And so we said, ‘let’s take the chicken,’” Standley said. “Then, before you know it, the chicken spends that much time with you, he gets closer and closer, [he] understands the camping trips. So, five years later, it’s gone on all the trips with us.”
Last year, the Standley family of Lance, Sherryl and their daughters, Ella, Tatum and Farrah, couldn’t make a typically long trip since they were in the middle of a move after Standley took the job at Pleasanton High School. This year, they made up for it with a 43- day, 6,900-mile trip that saw the Standleys, minus Ella, Toby and the family’s two dogs, trek the east coast of the United States, all the way up to Maine. It was the family’s thirdlongest trip they’ve ever taken.
The trip included stops in Washington D.C., where Toby posed on Capitol Hill and in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Along the way, passerbys had to do a double take. There was a domesticated chicken on Capitol Hill!
“I thought it would be good to get [a photo] in front of the Capitol Building. No politics involved in that,” Standley joked. “It’s just a fun thing to do and lighten the mood. … I was walking up to the police and said, ‘Texas appreciates y’all. Thank y’all.’ They let me walk up there to the Capitol Building and take a picture with the chicken up there, facing the Capitol Building. And we took one in the mall area where Martin Luther King, Jr., and all the presidents speak, even Forrest Gump.”
While in York, Pennsylvania, someone thought the chicken looked out of place while the family made a stop. The family had to stay an extra eight hours to try and find the family chicken. Turns out, there was already a Facebook group called Find Toby trying to reunite the chicken with its owners.
“One of the ladies walked out and said she heard about it,” Standley recalled. “So, I registered; it took me an hour to get approved. And I posted that picture … of the chicken and my girls with the cornfield in the background. … I met a bunch of friends and everybody’s asking about the chicken.”
Though this was the first year that the Standleys made their annual excursion without their oldest daughter, Ella, it was still therapeutic for the family to continue the tradition after COVID-19 shut down Standley’s first year at the helm of Pleasanton baseball.
“I’ve always said there’s always positives,” Standley said. “COVID-19, we could talk about the negatives all day. But you know, I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to go out with my family and take precautions and we do. We’re wearing masks every day.”
Standley said the family made a decision to travel through the countryside and sparsely populated areas around New York City and other COVID-19 hot spots so they could get a grasp of the severity of the pandemic before deciding whether or not to drive through said hot spots.
What the Standleys saw instead was the full spectrum of the response to the novel coronavirus. One city may mandate masks, another might not. One beach might be open to locals only, another might be open to all beachgoers. Seeing that helped Standley develop a better understanding of the virus.
“Me and my wife and my kids were talking about that, that we’ve been all over and seen 22 states and watched every town,” Standley said. “Every city, every state has different regulations, how they treat us, where they go, what level [of threat], the numbers. It has been one of the most amazing knowledge things that we could ever imagine, seeing what people do with COVID 19. I feel like I know this disease about as good as anybody.
“I don’t know what it’s going to do to someone, that’s what makes me nervous. I think it’s like the flu, but it’s unpredictable. So I’m definitely someone who wants to stay away from it. But I’ll go to one town and one or two people have a mask on. I’ll go to another one, they’ll have masks on, jogging. I’ll go to another town and a couple people have it. … It has just been a whole bunch of different reactions to this and how people handle it. It’s been really, really eye-opening, watching and listening to what that state does and how it chose to handle it.”