Being thankful for veterans, jokes, The Iliad, and 20 minutes

by Mr. Sheehy

It seems fitting to me that Veteran’s day and Thanksgiving are so close together, as they share essentially the same theme. Recently a group of our students created cards for Veterans’ Day and delivered them in person, and I am captivated by this snapshot, taken at one of their stops. You can read about their event at our school newspaper, The Pine Needle.


Every year I tell the same parrot/turkey joke to my students. I tend to make the lead up too long, but that is likely because I have told the joke so many times I can’t resist adding things to it. Here it is in one classic form:

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried very hard to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music, and doing anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, John was fed up and he screamed at the parrot.

The parrot yelled back. John hollered even louder and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer.

For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said, “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”


I’m still reading The Iliad, which I’ve been absorbed in for a while, but with a bit fewer than 200 pages left, I haven’t lost steam and I’m wondering if I’ll finish it over the break. It’s quite engaging; more than I thought it would be, though I can’t say where my prejudice against it came from. I find it interesting how overrated Hektor is, an insight I spotted in Richard Lattimore’s introduction to the text. Just about every time he steps up to battle a champion from the Achians, he ends up having to shy away or he somehow gets let off (like due to darkness, for example). He is Hektor the huge, and Hektor of the great war cry, so perhaps his size and war cry are what frighten those Greeks so much. I hope I’m not a Hektor in my classroom, though–lots of bluster but not much of ultimate consequence to show for it. I’d rather be a Telamonian Aias–great-hearted Aias–that warrior who seems always to be in the thick of battle (he somehow avoids the kinds of injuries that sidelined Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Diomedes), inspires the ranks of warriors, and manages to put Hektor on the ropes twice.


Remember that line from Robert Frost’s “Out Out–” where he wishes they’d let the boy off work a bit early?

Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.

In our district we’re allowed to leave at the same time as students on the day before  a vacation. It’s not even a half hour, but it’s still exciting to be able to run out. Usually I don’t do it, since I don’t want to leave myself in a bind when I return, but Thanksgiving break is different: we have a professional development day immediately following it. This enables me to run out the door at the first possible moment this afternoon. I’m as excited about the break as the kids, even though I’m not burned out at all. I could be halfway through grading an essay and I’ll drop my pencil and walk out the door,  because I can.

Thanks for reading. Happy Thanksgiving.