You can't clip their wings

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watch a trumpeter swan release then watch a group of high school seniors cross the stage.

You can't help but notice some similarities between the two.

They both seem calm at first -- a trumpeter swan that's pulled from a Department of Natural Resources kennel won't fight when restrained by its human helper-captors. You wonder what the large white birds are thinking when pairs of tiny hands reach out to feel their thick water-resistant feathers during Wings and Wetland weekend.

Likewise, high school seniors stay in an orderly two-by-two as they enter the gym to "Pomp and Circumstance." You don't see any honking, flapping for thrashing from them until the ceremony is over.

But, you can tell: Both the swan and the senior are just waiting for that moment when you let go. The swan doesn't slow down enough to sink into the water for the first 20 feet of their escape.

And good luck finding the graduate this summer with the double-shifts to stash away college money or the one that misses suppers for that one, last summer night out with friends.

The feathered teenagers get a little bit of a nudge to stick around. The Dickinson County swans had their wings are clipped so the Iowa Great Lakes become imprinted as their home. Even when they take flight later this season, they're likely to stay within 5-10 miles of their release point.

As the lakes ice over, they'll fly to warmer climates. With a little luck they'll return to the same area to start a family.

A lot of us hope the seniors do the same thing. You expect then to seek out to the warm sun and the water.

But you hope the home town made enough of an imprint for them to return.

Best of luck seniors. Catch a jet stream, but never forget the nest back home.

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Looking ahead to another weekend, Memorial Day is coming up and each year is a reminder that we are losing more and more of a courageous generation that fought for our freedom.

Businesses are open, entertainment is booked, but here's hoping locals and their guests take a moment Monday morning to attend a Memorial Day program put on by our many veterans organizations.

In that spirit, I'll let Ernie Cupp, director of Dickinson County Veteran Affairs have the last word.

"Memorial Day is set aside to honor the men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom," he said. "No matter what religion you practice or political party you are a member of, you owe a debt of gratitude to these fallen heroes. The freedoms we enjoy stem from their sacrifice. We who survive these heroes must always remember the price they paid ... and that freedom, indeed is not free."