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New Castle mayor pardons Free Bird

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New Castle’s turkey is famous. The attention doesn’t seem to have gone to its head, though.
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A local turkey stalls traffic between West Lawn Cemetery and Eastern Indiana Federal Credit Union on Ind. 3 in New Castle.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Courier-Times realizes a turkey cannot speak, type, create it’s own Facebook page, etc. Comments referenced from the “Turkey of New Castle” Facebook page are for amusement only. 

Turkey jokes are no laughing matter in New Castle. Not since a wild bird showed up by the cemetery, anyway.

New Castle Mayor Greg York is passing a pardon on turkeys in New Castle this season.

“We’re hoping that no one feels the need to shot turkeys in the city limits,” York said. “We are passing a pardon.”

Mayor York said Wednesday that what most people think of as one bird is actually a flock of four that roost overnight by his cemetery vault company, Wimmer Manufacturing, on County Road 100 South.

“They’re harder to relocate than people think,” York said. “No one is to be hunting those turkeys this hunting season.”

For weeks, traffic has slowed to a crawl while drivers got out to shoo the city’s newest unofficial mascot – the Trojan Turkey, anyone? — out of the road. 

New Castle resident John Alumbaugh posted a video on his Facebook page Tuesday of a young gobbler running alongside and then chasing the vehicle he was in.

The video had more than 19,000 views Wednesday afternoon.

And who can know a turkey’s real name? Well, the folks on the Henry County Scanners Facebook page picked “Free Bird” and it seems to have stuck.

New Castle police officers have even used the name in their official reports when they’ve been called out to the intersection of S. Memorial Drive and Cherry Road to escort Free Bird out of the rush-hour traffic.

The New Castle Turkey even has its own official page, www.facebook.com/TurkeyOfNewCastle.

According to that page, New Castle’s turkey evidently prefers the name Eric.

“My name is Eric. I have been told I am being called Free Bird. I do not like this name,” the bird posted online. “My aunt was named Free Bird and she was unpleasant.”

Some people have posted concerns on both the New Castle Turkey and Henry County Scanner pages that Indiana’s spring hunting season for turkeys is just around the corner.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the spring hunting season is April 25 through May 13 and spring turkey hunting is allowed statewide.

New Castle Assistant Police Chief Justin Wardlow pointed out that hunting is forbidden in South Mound Cemetery, as well as the West Lawn addition and on all city property.

New Castle City Codes prohibit anyone from discharging, firing or shooting “a slingshot, firearm, air rifle, pellet gun or any other device whereby a pellet or other projectile is propelled by the explosive power of either gun powder or air, within the limits of the city.”

There is nothing in New Castle’s ordinances explicitly preventing anyone from using a bow and arrow or crossbow in city limits and there are no rules against hunting on private property.

Turkey goes viral

After The Courier-Times ran an Easter feature on the turkey, news channels from Indianapolis came to town to have a gander at the gobbler.

The story has even been shared by a radio station in Omaha, Nebraska.

The New Castle Turkey page went live Sunday, and the turkey has been posting regularly ever since.

According to the page, the turkey keeps up with social media thanks to the Wi-Fi from Café Royal.

The New Castle Turkey Facebook page has shared pictures taken by passersby and even shared Alumbaugh’s video with the comment “JOHN, STAY OFF MY ROAD. ERIC”

Eric the Turkey said his caps lock gets stuck a lot because he’s pecking out the status updates on an iPhone.

The Facebook page had 645 likes Wednesday morning. The New Castle Turkey has been pretty responsive to comments so far.

The New Castle feathered celebrity responded to an email interview request from The Courier-Times.

“I am surprised that so many people are fascinated by me,” Eric said. “I am angry that so many drivers get in my way. I need them to get off of the road. They are going to kill themselves driving that fast!”

There was a rumor Tuesday night that the unimaginable had happened.

Brody Jessee feared that he had killed Eric.

“Well come to find out, it wasn’t the turkey,” Jessee said.

Jessee isn’t sure what he might have struck near the intersection but is glad it wasn’t New Castle’s famous turkey.

“I hope he’s still out there on his adventure, causing a ruckus on (State) Road 3,” Jessee said.

The turkey, call him Eric or Free Bird, was still strutting around South Mound Cemetery and the Eastern Indiana Federal Credit Union in the early morning sun Wednesday.

“I keep hearing about a spring hunting season,” Eric the Turkey said via email. “I hope someone finds spring soon because I miss it.”