Flagmen on highway construction projects don't stand around as long as "birders," and they probably earn $18 an hour. Pay is poor for birders, and the results match the reward. A good day for a birder is one that ends with a minimum of pigeon droppings on your new Eddie Bauer jacket.

My wife is a birder.I told her I might one day share her enthusiasm -- if the Audubon Society ever endorses an activity like "speed birding." Under my incomplete rules, speed birding would involve a lot of running, flailing of arms and crashing into bushes. The entrant who creates the most flapping and squawking while flushing the most birds gets the blue ribbon.

It's my guess that I would garner a lot of honors in the sport of speed birding. This guess is based on the fact I can smell a fried chicken three miles away.

As a child, there was no standing around when the chicken was served. In those days, a family of four shared one fried chicken. A family of 14 also shared one fried chicken. Those were the rules of the game. In the post-Depression era, there was no such thing as an ungnawed chicken neck.

These days, cooks buy chicken parts. Everybody gets a fat thigh or half a chicken breast as their portion in the feasts. There are often "seconds" on the platter. And nobody eats drumsticks.

Check that. I eat drumsticks. And because nobody else does I can often purchase a dozen of them for about $2.50. When that happens I am liable to bake some:

SPEED-BIRDER LEGS

12 drumsticks

1 and one-half cups fresh bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

I make bread crumbs by tossing two slices of whole wheat bread into a food processor. Hit the button, then pour the crumbs onto a sheet of wax paper and add the Parmesan, parsley, onion powder, paprika, poultry seasoning, salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Heat the olive oil and stir in the mustard until you have a smooth paste.

Brush each drumstick with the olive oil mixture, roll in the seasoned bread crumbs and place on a greased oven pan.

When you have a dozen on the pan, shove it into a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes.

If you insist upon chicken breasts for dinner, cook them like my friend Joanne Booth cooks them.

LAS CRUCES CHICKEN

6 tablespoons jalape