Some of you know I am learning about the Seminole Indians’ encounters with the U.S. military in the years leading to the Civil War. I address them while studying spatial politics in Florida from the antebellum period through the arrival of turn of the century black Bahamians and the rise of the University of Miami football in the 1980s for my next book project..
I learn as I teach. Indeed, I just completed a two-part lecture of the Seminoles. Among the issues I address is how they were an especially difficult group, so much so the U.S. government realized it would be a good thing to make Florida a state in 1845 partly to better contain the Seminoles, who included former Creek Indians and runaway enslaved people.
Today I received an email from Will Eddins, a student in my American Civilization to 1865 class, concerning the Osceola turkey, who as it turns out, is a great warrior – just like the Seminoles. In fact, it gets its name from a Seminole chief.
I learned, among other things, how the turkey is only found in the state of Florida. The male turkeys, like most other poultry, according to Will, have sharp spurs on their legs used for defense and sparring during the mating season. Will, an avid outsdoorsman, saw the ironies in how the Osceola turkey is known for having the largest and sharpest spurs of six subspecies of the turkey.
Like the Seminoles, they can give hunters a run for their money as they like to hide in and around the swamps.
Today, they are one of the least populous of the subspecies, Will tells me. There are 5-7 million turkeys in North America, but the number of Osceola turkeys is just 80,000-100,000 birds, or just 1.5% of the total population.
Will brought back memories of Lake Osceola on UM’s campus. Recent walks near the lake found geese (or were they ducks), not turkeys, being especially aggressive around their babies. They were the same way when I attended UM in the 1980s.
To think I was going to open an upcoming paper at the upcoming National Society for Sport History (NASSH) meeting in Winnipeg with mention of this lake.
I’ll now mention this turkey and Will, too, and all because of the latter reminds me again of why we do what we do as teachers. We teach so we can keep on learning.