The Day Of The Buzzards
This month, on March 15 the buzzards will make their annual return to Hinckley signaling the beginning of spring. But do the buzzards actually return every year on the same date? Do they actually migrate south for the winter, and how did this story begin? Well, the story behind the famous buzzards of Hinckley is based on some history as well as some folklore. Two hundred years ago most of northeastern Ohio was a forested wilderness, inhabited by many wild animals including some that would like to make a meal of livestock as well as humans. The forests of northeastern Ohio were teeming with game as well as wolf packs, bears and mountain lions. Following the end of the War of 1812, the threat from hostile Indian tribes was ended in much of Ohio and more settlers arrived in northeastern Ohio. Many had been granted land by Connecticut for their service in the War for Independence since this part of Ohio was originally the Connecticut Western Reserve.
On December 24, 1818, the settlers of Hinckley organized the “Great Hinckley Hunt” to clear the area of predators so their livestock could better survive the winter. The hunt was a well-organized slaughter and many animals, including many deer and non-predatory animals, were killed. Following the hunt, the men took the wolf pelts to Richfield to collect a bounty on wolves. They used the money to purchase several casks of whiskey and no doubt had a Merry Christmas.
According to local legend, a few days after Christmas the region was hit by a heavy snowstorm that dumped over six inches of snow that covered the dead animals from the Great Hunt. Those dead animals laid there under that snow which helped preserve them through the winter. Then when March arrived and the sun was higher in the sky, the snow melted revealing all the dead animals from the hunt the past December. Well, dead animals attract buzzards and no doubt the buzzards had a feast. Therefore, every year since 1819 the buzzards have been returning to Hinckley for the spring. So this year celebrates the bicentennial of the return of the buzzards.
Since 1957, the town of Hinckley has been celebrating the Sunday following March 15 as Buzzard Sunday. This year it also coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. Next year it will actually be on March 15, the day the buzzards return.
But there are also some facts that need to be considered. The famous Hinckley buzzards are turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), members of the family of birds Cathartidae that includes most vultures. They are the most common of North American vultures and ranges from southern Canada to the tip of South America. They are named the turkey vulture because their bald red head resembles the head of a turkey. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats from subtropical forests to deserts and grasslands.
Most turkey vultures in northern Ohio do migrate south for the winter. However, recently more have been staying here through the winter. Apparently, there is enough road kill and other dead animals to keep them well fed during the winter.
I have a personal connection to Hinckley. I am descended from John Wiard who settled in Hinckley with his adult son, also named John in the 1810s and may have participated in the Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818. He was granted land in the Connecticut Western Reserve for his service in the War for Independence. He was born in 1759. He died in 1860 at age 100 and is buried in a cemetery in Hinckley. In the 1820s or 1830s, a more substantial house was built over the original log cabin on Weymouth Road (S. R. 606) west of Ridge Road in Hinckley. That house stayed in the family until the 1980s when it was sold after a great aunt and uncle died. They operated a dairy farm on that land when I was a kid in the 1950s. This is the farmhouse where my paternal grandmother was raised and where my great grandmother lived until her death when I was in high school.
That old farmhouse is still standing and has new owners who are turning the old dairy farm into an orchard and winery.
Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.