Thursday, December 27, 2007

Meet and Eat.

My Chamber of Commerce hosts four breakfasts each year. I enjoy these events tremendously as they give me a chance for relaxed conversation with people I’ve never met and in greater depth than is usually possible at the monthly Arrive @ 5 events. The December breakfast took place last week at the Delaney House, a local restaurant and meeting center with a very pleasant ambience. The guest speaker was Jud Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Mr. Hale is only the second editor Yankee Magazine has had since its inception in the 1930’s and the 12th editor of the Almanac since 1792!! I was quite impressed to learn this. Mr. Hale gave a delightful talk full of stories and impressions about New England life, and he mentioned that New Hampshire is the only state he knows that has a road-kill auction. I spoke with him afterwards and told him how much I enjoyed his talk, and I also told him that road-kill used to be quite an important part of my life in my days as a museum curator.

People were always bringing dead birds to me that they had found on the road or elsewhere, and if the specimens were usable, I prepared them as study skins or skeletons – or if they were fresh and in very good condition I “pickled” them for use in dissections (sometimes in my own research on the evolution of limb musculature).

One time, in my early days as a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I needed to revive a defunct colony of dermestid beetles. These are flesh-eating insects that do a wonderful job of cleaning skeletons, and many museums use them as unpaid laborers for just that purpose. A thriving colony at the optimal temperature and humidity can clean a songbird skeleton overnight. The Arizona colony had been wiped out by spiders and I was hoping to get it going again, so I drove out toward Phoenix and stopped when I found a coyote carcass. Crouched over roadkill with a jar and forceps, I attracted the attention of a state trooper who stopped to question my intentions. My story seemed to satisfy him and he left me to continue picking dermestid larvae from the dead canid.

Well, I didn’t bore Mr. Hale with this story, but I did tell him that I had carried the experiences of my past life into my new career as a voice artist – to some extent – and when I needed material to create a “commercial” as part of a homework assignment for Charles Michel, I drew upon my days mucking about with road kill. You can hear that commercial for Buzz’s Pemmican here. Mr. Hale reported to me later that he enjoyed listening to it.

I may have mentioned that since joining the Chamber of Commerce and the Ad Club of Western Mass, my luck has turned. I've gone from being one of those people who "never wins anything" to one who carries many door prizes home. This time I got a gift certificate to the Delaney House, courtesy of H. L. Dempsey Co., and am looking forward to taking my family there for brunch - possibly next month when I am no longer tired of eating!

Jud Hale of Yankee Magazine
Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce
photo by Cat McGaffigan

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