Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ben Franklin's Dilemma














On Friday, I went to the dump in Maine's capital city, Augusta. The citizens of Augusta also refer to what I call "the dump," as The Land Fill. Some of them are a little touchy about this, too. It seems to be a class issue. Actual garbage is deposited there in a giant heap. To me, that makes it a dump, not some gussied up, sanitized, less objectionable facility. All day, a man drives a huge bulldozer with crushing tracks to pack the stuff down. In the winter, the garbage pile sits in the middle of a pristine snow field. There isn't any stench and it's quite colorful. I live fifty miles from there, so I don't pay taxes to the city of Augusta. So, I'm not authorized to leave anything. I went there to see birds. Birds? BIRDS???? Yes. Gossip in the birding community had it that one could see as many as a dozen Bald eagles at a time at the dump. I saw eight. It was an even split between juveniles and fully balded adults. Eagles are resourceful about food. They hunt, fish, scavenge carrion and pick the dump. I noticed that an eagle's talons are sized just right to perfectly clutch a beer can. I wonder if this is evolutionary, too. I didn't see them drink beer, just snatch the cans and go. Also at the dump were European Starlings, Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls in abundance. There may well have been other species of gulls, but I'm not good a gull identification. Every once in a while, the bulldozer operator would let off a fire cracker to send the birds flying away from any vehicles dropping off trash. When the birds take flight, they also 'drop off.' There were 10 wild turkeys, too. The turkeys were feeding on garbage. I will never feel the same about 'free range' fowl ever again. Give me a good poultry factory produced bird that's been shot full of hormones and antibiotics. I'll know just what I'm dealing with; not some wanderer that's been filling up on rotten cheese and Pampers. Ben Franklin proposed that the Wild Turkey be our national mascot. Not the Bald Eagle. The turkey, though prevalent and an important food source for the pilgrims, just wasn't elegant nor fierce enough for our founding fathers' tastes. I can tell you that had the founding fathers seen them side by side dining at the dump, it would have been a harder choice to make, a dilemma for Ben Franklin, as it were. And no matter if the place is called the dump or The Transfer Station, it's one of the great equalizers, a factor that Ben and the founding fathers would have appreciated.

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