I learned something about Ben Franklin the other day listening to the Dave Congalton show on KVEC. I usually learn a lot from Dave and his guests, because if it’s interesting and worth knowing, Dave will air it if he gets the chance.
This was the day he had the Bald Eagle on the program from Zoo to You. You wouldn’t think that a radio show would be the best venue for a Bald Eagle, but Dave and his guests made the experience moving and visual in the mind’s eye – as did the eagle. The majestic beast gripped the 3-ply leather glove of it’s handler with slicing talons, and flapped it’s wings, sending those in Dave’s small studio to the floor to escape the whips of the bird’s powerful filling Dave’s small studio. It brought tears to my eyes to hear them admiring the muscular, colorful, and ruling mascot of the United States of America. Dave seemed to feel honored as the recipient of the moment. How many desks can claim the distinction of the markings of the National Bird himself!
I also learned something from the folks from Zoo to You. They reminded us that there was at least one man, Benjamin Franklin, who wanted the National Bird to be the wild turkey. I knew that. But I didn’t know why. They said the reason was that you cannot put a turkey in a cage. He will not give up fighting to get out of the cage until he ends up either successful or dead. What a powerful symbolic inspiration for the formation of a new nation seeking to remove the chains of an oppressive king. Virtually no one agreed with Franklin, so the national bird became the Bald Eagle in all its power, beauty, and majesty.
So we are stuck with the Eagle, thankfully, after some scary years back in the 60’s and 70’s where we almost lost him forever. And he is stuck with us. Franklin said the eagle was a coward, because even small birds chase him away, and he doesn’t earn an honorable living. But as usual, beauty and muscles won the day, while the turkey only received one vote. Ironically, the turkey may have won after all, as we seldom think of the eagle, but we always think of the turkey at Thanksgiving. The turkey gives his life for the sake of others, albeit unknowingly and we can assume unwillingly, and draws us together around the table to count our blessings. What more could a national symbol do for us?
You’ll see in this newsletter the announcement of our Turkey Drive on Friday, November 22nd. This year we will distribute a record number of turkeys – especially if our donors and the public in general respond to our call to help us provide a turkey for every families table who would not otherwise have one.