Considering that I’m stuck at a desk much more than I want to be at this time of year, I’ve — rather pathetically — taken to doing web searches on turkeys. Not to bring you down to my sadly office-bound level, but I’ve bumped into a few fun turkey facts in my e-wanderings that seemed appropriate for a presidential election year turkey season.
The most interesting is a bit I came across on Wikipedia and a few other sites, so while I can’t vouch for its authenticity, I still found it pretty entertaining.
It’s a letter written by Benjamin Franklin to his daughter in 1784, in which he criticized the choice of the bald eagle as the national bird. While Franklin’s preference for the turkey to serve in that official capacity is well-known, I wonder how many of us have heard the argument in the founding father’s own words:
_ For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy…
For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America … He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
_ I’m sure Bald Eagles everywhere wept bitterly when this letter was made public.
But of course, some turkeys do still have a place in Washington. Each fall, the President of the United States pardons a turkey before Thanksgiving in a White House ceremony. While there’s some debate over whether the tradition began with Harry Truman or Abraham Lincoln, the most recent ceremony was November 20, when President George Bush pardoned two birds named May and Flower from Dubois, Indiana. Two are chosen so that in the event the first bird is unable to fulfill its duties, the alternate can step in. Previous pardoned birds, going back from 2006, were Flyer and Fryer, Marshmallow and Yam, Biscuit and Gravy, and Stars and Stripes.
Just some musings to pass the field time. But beware out there. If a turkey is courageous enough to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards, just think what he might do to you. At the very least, leave your red Coat at home. -K.H. __