Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ypsilanti Turkey Memorial

There was a local wild turkey that became a bit of a celebrity. This turkey, for reasons that shall forever be unknown, decided to hang around a busy intersection and hassle drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. This went on for quite some time. Animal control personnel attempted to remove the turkey but failed. Perhaps they didn't try hard enough. The turkey got so comfortable with people and cars that it actually started walking in traffic, causing slowdowns and delays. Lots of people thought this was cute. They uploaded videos, started Facebook groups, and twitter accounts. Well the reason that we attempt to keep animals and children away from traffic is that they are often too stupid to recognize the danger that massive swiftly moving hunks of metal pose to living creatures. The turkey was no different. It was recently hit by a car and later euthanized.

People had a memorial ceremony for the turkey.

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, MI - A crowd of mourners gathered at the corner of Whittaker and Textile roads Thursday, July 13, in Ypsilanti to honor Whittaker the Ypsilanti turkey.
The popular and fearless turkey was hit by a passing car on July 3 and was put down the following day by the Humane Society of Huron Valley. About 50 of Whittaker's fans paid tribute to the beloved bird at the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center, where they share their memories of Whittaker before moving down the road to his favorite intersection, where he had been a fixture for months.
People gathered around an already established memorial for the turkey at the busy intersection where he earned his fame. As passersby honked and cheered, a small hole was dug in the ground and the ashes of Whittaker were placed there."Something as simple as a wild turkey brought us together," said Melissa Palmquist. "It doesn't have to be something monumental that brings us together, but we do need something." Around $500 in donations were made to the Humane Society of Huron Valley, according to Wendy Welch. LINK
I love animals. I especially love pets. But the road where the turkey was hit is full of other dead animals on a weekly basis. Skunks, raccoons, squirrels, badgers, foxes, birds, a few cats and dogs, and many other creatures are routinely found dead on that road. It's a semi-rural development that is not quite 100% built up. There is still a lot of wildlife in the area. I don't recall memorials to all the other animals that have died in that area. Why have one for the turkey? You can make an argument, as some religions do, that God or love or nature or the Earth spirit lives in us all, so by honoring and remembering a turkey we honor ourselves and honor that spirit which flows through all existence. Death comes to all living things. We need to make our peace with the unknowable. As stated in Boardwalk Empire, "You don't know what it's like until it happens to you. And once it does you can't tell anyone." That's the generous and charitable interpretation of why people took time out of their day to mourn a particularly dim turkey. I get that.

You could also make an argument (1) that humans did the turkey no favors by allowing it to get comfortable playing in traffic (2) that anthropomorphizing animals is a really bad, even stupid idea and (3) people who build shrines to dead roadkill apparently have too much free time on their hands or no appreciation of the hardships being suffered by some of their fellow humans. And humans count for more than turkeys.

I can't call it. What do you think?

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