By Kevin Slimp
At last count, not that there is an official count of such things, there were six vegetarians living in Greater Lennox Valley in 1998. Four of them were Billy and Wilma Perkins and their two children.
The fifth was a junior at the local high school, Sarah Goolsby, who declared her vegetarianism during a stand-off with her mother which started out as an innocent conversation about current events and somehow curved into an intense discussion about the Federal Reserve System. It quickly took a nosedive before ending with young Sarah professing her newfound concern for all living creatures.
Vegetarian number six was Claire Lapella. Claire, like many 40-something single women, realized that her true love lived far away from her home. So in an act of passion, Claire packed most of her belongings and moved to Lennox Valley where she could be forever with her soulmate and lifelong partner. Unfortunately, soulmates often find other soulmates and, eight months into the engagement, Claire found herself alone in a place where she didn’t really know anyone.
Claire soon realized that she had lost a part of herself since moving to Lennox Valley. Back home, she was involved in several causes. But in Lennox Valley, she had barely gotten out enough to know what, if any, causes needed her energy.
That all changed in May, 1998 when Claire picked up a copy of the October 15, 1997 issue of The Lennox Valley Hometown News. She found the weekly paper underneath a phone book that hadn’t been touched in eight months and, for no reason, glanced over the community calendar on page one.
That’s when it happened. As she perused the various potluck dinners, VFW meetings and Auburn Hat Society events, she saw it. Right there, on page one, printed in the blackest ink she had ever seen: “November 15: First Baptist Church Men’s Annual Breakfast & Turkey Shoot.”
She didn’t know which made her most angry: The idea that people actually went out on a Saturday morning and shot turkeys in cold blood, after gorging themselves with pancakes, sausage and who-knows-what in the church fellowship hall, or the sheer audacity to hold such an event, as cold-blooded and grotesque as it sounded, for men only.
For those of you who have never participated in a turkey shoot, it’s probably the right time to explain something about this centuries-old activity. No turkeys are shot. At least, not in the last hundred years. Originally, men gathered with their weapons and shot at live turkeys, but things advance with time and by the 20th century, turkey shoots involved shooting at paper targets with shotguns brought from home.
Unfortunately, Claire didn’t take the time to research the intricacies of turkey shooting. For the first time in a long time she had found her cause. In the shadow of her small dining room, Claire mapped out her plan. First, she would need allies, others who would be as chagrined as she was about this horrid practice. Next, she would need a way to express her concerns to the masses. Raymond Cooper’s daily radio program would be the perfect opportunity to begin her campaign. Finally, an event would be needed. Something to gather the troops. Letters to the editor? Certainly, but that would not be enough. A full-page ad in Hometown News? Again, maybe. But still not enough.
That’s when it came to her. A protest march at First Baptist Church. Even better, a march on a Sunday morning. Yes, Claire Lapella had found her cause.