Thoughts on the Turkey

Dear Islanders;

Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend, Grand Island! How was the turkey and pie?

Every year I hear again the myth that maybe our most brilliant founding father, Benjamin Franklin, wanted our national bird to be a turkey. That’s not quite accurate. But he respected the bird. And so do I. Well, in fact, I fear it too . . . 
 
It started with a letter

The myth that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird goes back to a letter he wrote to his daughter. In the letter Franklin is not advocating for the turkey so much as disparaging the bald eagle. He critiques a drawing produced for the national symbol by saying the eagle on it looks like a turkey. He then goes on to say that they would have been better off choosing the turkey. But first he digs into the poor bald eagle pretty mercilessly. 
 
He says that the bald eagle is of “bad moral character” because the bird “does not get his living honestly.” Franklin even calls the bald eagle a thief saying, “when [another] 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.” 

 
To be honest, bald eagles do engage in this type of behavior. Bald eagles often harass other birds until they can pry a fish out of the other birds’ talons. There are even stories of bald eagles taking a fish from a human fisherman who has one on the line. But I think Ben is too hard on the birds. What he calls theft might be described as clever acts of daring. And bald eagles are regal looking creatures and powerful fliers, that rely on thermal currents to reach great heights and speeds. (Wow, my lingering boy scout knowledge can come in handy!)  They are very impressive creatures.

But what about the turkey? 
 
In the letter, Franklin further says, “. . . the turkey is a much more respectable bird and “though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack . . . British guards who should presume to invade his farm.” 

 
If you take all this as advocacy for the turkey becoming the national bird, go ahead. In 1962, the cover of New Yorker magazine replaced the eagle with a turkey for a cartoon illustration of a goofy looking alternative national seal on its November cover. This further perpetuated the old myth. But I take all of this to be more “diss” of the bald eagle than a ringing endorsement of the turkey. It’s like Franklin is saying, “Hey, I even like a turkey better than eagles.” 
 
Is it better to be respected or feared? 
 
I won’t go as far as to advocate for the turkey replacing the bald eagle, but I will go a step further than even Franklin. Turkeys are amazing birds. Yes, we eat them at thanksgiving, as the pilgrims and the Native Americans likely did. I know, there are problems with that old story as well.  But the turkey did come from the Americas (not Turkey). And early European settlers loved hunting them for their delicious meat. They compared the bird to a peacock mixed with a chicken. But many newcomers looking for dinner got more than they bargained for when they were forced to engage in hand-to-talon combat with a mighty turkey, puffed up like a prom dress, with its wattle swaying violently! 
 
Running once recently, (in what will hopefully in 2017 be the start of new Park space), behind the high school (again, Scenic Woods is back on track!), I got bogged down in some mud and took a shortcut though some unfamiliar territory. And then I felt some dark presence. Not a benevolent form, but some dangerous beast was upon me. I looked over my shoulder and to my terror I saw it! A giant turkey was bearing down to seek vengeance for decades of Thanksgivings! It was so big, like an enormous, feather-covered demon emerging from the brush! Let’s just say, I never ventured down those haunted paths again in the wee hours.
 
Update: Giving thanks
 
The West River project continues to move along. There were hiccups last week, but cooler heads prevailed and our Town continues to work with the State for what I sincerely hope will be the swift execution of this important work.


At this moment, I would be remiss if I were not to thank all the good people in attendance at recent Town meetings. Instead of name calling and abuse, our town is talking about facts and progress. We are a great town. We will have disputes and disagreements. But we need to find more ways to get to ‘win-win’ and away from ‘winner takes all’. 
 
It’s not about option 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7, 8 or whatever is the idea of the moment. It’s always really been about finding the best compilation of all the many ideas presented over these years of analysis to get to ONE plan, the best plan for the Town as a whole. And because I have witnessed first-hand what great lengths the State goes to to analyze the feedback from our residents—positive and negative—I will continue to support the process. 
 
I’m thankful to the State employees who have worked so hard on this project. I’m thankful to my always pleasant assistant, Cyndy Montana, who knows maybe more than anyone how much effort has been invested in this and the other matters our town is working on. I’m also thankful to my dear friend Deputy Supervisor Sharpe, whose judgment and kindness has been invaluable. I’m thankful to my fellow council members, including Chris and Mike for their willingness to serve, the wonderful Bev Kinney (who for I continue to pray has a swift recovery to full health) and the stern but decent and good Ray Billica, who I have come to respect even when we disagree. But most importantly, I am thankful to the people of Grand Island for giving all of us an opportunity to serve you.

Now that I’m in the spirit, I must say that I’m thankful for my two wonderful boys, my beautiful wife, my Mom, and my brothers and sister and their families.  I truly am surrounded by love and support.  I am also incredibly thankful for my health.  Despite my penchant for pizza, sugary drinks and chocolate bars, the fact that I rarely sleep, and my hit or miss exercise regime— I am still kicking!  I am a very lucky man. 

May God bless you and those who you hold dear this wonderful Thanksgiving week.

But beware of turkeys!!

With warmest regards,

Nate