Tales from the old-timerIssue Date: June 27, 2014
The Fourth of July
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
daughter of the Old-Timer
For some reason most of my memories of the 4th of July as a child were of cool, rainy days. So we were driven inside our old wooden barn, where we lit our snakes, sparklers, snaps and small fireworks inside, resulting in a dense cloud of stinking smoke, that at least kept the mosquitoes at bay!
And then, most years, a trip to the lighthouse pier or Red Arrow Beach to watch the fireworks, which were held really late past our bedtime, and my parents would dislike the following traffic jam to negotiate before we returned home. Currently living outside a metropolis of nearly 750,000 people, I find the idea of a traffic jam anywhere in Marinette or Menominee highly amusing.
Now that I am an adult I think more often about the true meaning of the holiday, a celebration of the birth of our great country. And that brings me to my reflection about Grackles.
Here in Oklahoma we have Boat-tailed Grackles, a sleek black bird, somewhat smaller than a crow, but with the same kind of above-average smarts for a bird. Grackles are nesting now, and are highly territorial. Each pair aggressively defends its nesting territory, and since they are named because of their loud vocalizations, these territorial disputes are easy to hear. Grackles make loud staccato noises of all sorts - chips, trills, crackles and pops. Everyone hears what they are mad about, and their anger is personally directed at the territory intruder - a sparrow, our horses, or a rabbit, in an unmistakable way. Most of these intruders are no real threat to the well-being of the Grackles or their nest. But, interestingly enough, if a true threat enters their territory - a hawk, tree snake or a prowling cat, the parents set up a particular ruckus that quickly draws every adult Grackle in the area. This flock of Grackles then mobs the truly threatening intruder as a team, easily enabling them to drive off even much larger or more dangerous animals.
I wish we Americans acted like Grackles more often. Instead of wasting our energy fussing about the small things, things that are not real threats, that divide us, it would be good if we were better at recognizing real threats, and then banding together to effectively resolve those problems. Let us set aside differences that are deeply personal, and use our team power to resolve the truly significant problems we all face together.
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