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November nuggets: Turkeys, beards and exploding traffic signals

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Stories from the Heartland

By John Friedlein

Three things.
1. Wednesday, four wild turkeys jumped onto Joe Hall’s feeder outside his window at North Hardin Health and Rehabilitation in Radcliff, he said. “It’s like they were saying: Happy Thanksgiving.”
Eight of the birds have been hanging around the nursing home grounds for the past few weeks.
Hall, who was paralyzed in an auto accident, photographs wildlife using a camera he operates with a mouth stick. He has shot hundreds of photos of Lurkey the Turkey, who would sometimes peck at Hall’s window and look at him.
Lurkey, however, likely isn’t among the current visitors, Hall said. “Some of them might be her chicks, I don’t know.”
He feeds the birds black oil sunflower seeds.
Wild turkeys, which are relatively plentiful in the Hardin County area, have experienced a population boom over the past four decades — thanks in part to hunters’ conservation efforts.
2. This being National Beard Month (nothing to do with male turkeys), it should be noted that 150 years ago last week, Samuel G. Alschuler took the first photograph of a bewhiskered Abraham Lincoln, according to the New York Times.
Thus began a half-century streak — with one or two exceptions — of presidential facial hair.
Back in the 1860s a beard craze spread to America from Europe with “connotations of radicalism and militarism,” according to the Times’ essay. Lincoln, though, is said to have grown his after an 11-year-old girl told him his thin face would look better with one, and more people would vote for him.
The Hodgenville native was in the minority. The pro-shaving Gillette company pointed out in a news release how 79 percent of U.S. presidents have lacked facial hair.
The last one with whiskers was William Howard Taft, who served until 1913.
The mustached Thomas E. Dewey in the 1940s was the most recent presidential candidate of a major party to sport facial hair. Most everybody knows how he fared.
Gillette also surveyed 500 women, more than half of whom said they preferred a clean-shaven face — in part because they perceive these men to be more honest.
In beards’ defense, the website “all about beards” says the look: “communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things.”
3. One hundred years ago today, the U.S. government issued its first patent for a traffic signal.
Ernest E. Sirrine’s design — rotating sign arms on a post — wasn’t the first, though.
That one was installed more than 140 years ago in London, according to the BBC. During the day, an arm instructed street traffic by assuming either an angled or a horizontal position. During the night, gas powered red and green lights directed the horse drawn carriages.
The signal worked well until one of the lights blew up next to a policeman.
After all these years, highway officials still tweak the design of traffic signals. Workers in Elizabethtown recently installed lights with yellow left-turn arrows, reminding motorists to yield for oncoming traffic.
None have exploded.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or

jfriedlein@thenewsenterprise.com. His Stories from the Heartland column appears Mondays in The News-Enterprise.