Saturday, May 28, 2005

Death of an Icon *burp*

One of America's most recognizable symbols, the bald eagle, was found dead in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, earlier this month. While it is not unusual to discover dead animal carcasses in the wild, this was a different case: This eagle was murdered with a shotgun. The bird is an endangered species; finding one that has been shot dead in the woods is like coming across the body of Uncle Sam covered with switchblade wounds in downtown Washington, D.C. Due to the seriousness of this incident, a $500 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of the bird killer.

Eagle-eyed observers with a nose for news will recognize Clearfield County as the location of Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, home of the Beer Barrel Belly Buster. The thought has occurred to me: Perhaps the eagle's death was not the result of a malicious assault by some gun-toting moron. The eagle, a wild animal, doesn't know that it is officially an endangered species. It might notice that it has a hard time finding a date, but it doesn't understand why. Like a lot of wild animals who have a hard time finding dates (usually college students), the bird might have decided to drop by Denny's for the 15-lb. burger with all the fixings. If that bald eagle ate even one-half of the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, he would have been experiencing some severe stomach pains on the flight home. Maybe the poachers killer the bird as it sat in the tree unaware of its fate. But I think that there is a chance that the eagle begged for someone to shoot it to put it out of its misery. Who wouldn't think about the sweet release of death after consuming a meal like that?

Speaking of bald eagles and those who are most likely to have eaten a fifteen pound meal at some point in their lives, one of my favorite films depicting semi-historical events is Almost Heroes, which starred the late Chris Farley as one half of a rival expedition to Lewis and Clark. There are two sequences in which Farley encounters a bald eagle. At one point in the movies, his partner (played by Matthew Perry of Friends) has contracted an illness. The Sacagawea-type Indian woman who accompanies them informs Farley that in order to cure Perry, she "will need the egg of an eagle, or he will die". (Eagles were not endangered 200 years ago.) Farley walks across a snow-covered mountain range, finds an eagle's nest at the top of a tall tree, and snatches one of three eggs after getting into a fight with the mother eagle. After climbing back to the ground, Farley realizes how hungry he is, looks at the egg, and smiles. Next thing you know, he is helping himself to some eagle egg over easy.

Filled with remorse, Farley repeats the process. After using the mother eagle as a punching bag again, he returns to ground level with a second egg and spots a wild pig, which he promptly shoots dead so he can have some bacon. While the bacon is sizzling, Farley looks at the eagle's egg and decides to fry it up in the bacon grease. After his nice bacon and egg breakfast, the fat frontiersman starts to cry. Only one egg left to save his friend. This time, after punching up the eagle yet again, he manages to return to camp with the egg. He slips, the egg goes flying into the air, and Farley does a slide on his big belly that allows him to catch it before it can shatter on the ground. The Indian woman grabs the egg and squeezes the contents onto the ground. "You broke it," moans Farley. She informs him, "I only needed the shell".

At the end of the movie, Farley and Perry are trying to reach the Pacific Ocean before Lewis and Clark. They are, surprisingly, successful in their quest. While climbing a cliff, Chris Farley encountered another bald eagle protecting her nest. This powerful bird lifted the oversized explorer in her talons, carried him out over the Ocean, and dropped him into the water. First one to reach the Pacific!

If you will please excuse me, I am going to spend the next couple of hours watching Almost Heroes while breakfasting on bacon and eggs. Have a nice day.

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