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The Legend of Burkey

This Thanksgiving, bring the whole family together in a moment of Badger pride. Color in your Burkey placemats, and recall the story of how this avian-mustelid hybrid came to be.

Bucky Badger, as we all know, is in almost all respects a wonderful fellow: an enthusiastic proponent of all he’s learned in seventy-nine years on campus, he’s loyal, kind, socially conscious, well-read empirically rigorous, and thrifty.

In almost all respects a wonderful fellow — but not all. Bucky can, from time to time, let his enthusiasm run away from him, and one such enthusiasm is his zeal for recycling.

Bucky has taken many classes from UW-Madison’s Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and so he knows the importance of re-using and re-purposing what others might see as waste. Our Badger recycles not only to help save the world from environmental exhaustion, but also because the practice converges with his natural sense of thrift (a natural sense one must have to survive for so many decades on a student budget).

But it was recycling one item too many that brought the mutant known as Burkey into the world. It happened like this:

One Thanksgiving week not too many years ago, Bucky Badger was hard at work in his residence-hall room, cramming for midterms in Advanced Bio-Re-Engineering 605: Stem Cells and Their Unnatural Uses.

Bucky needed a vial of stem cells for the lab portion of the exam, but he didn’t want to pay the prices that the University Book Store was asking.

“I never buy new when used is available,” he told himself. “And the $8.95 cost could be more pleasantly spent in other ways on Taco Tuesday.”

Instead of paying for stem cells provided by some Big Pharma corporation, he chose to supply some of his own. These he collected and stored in his refrigerator in an old mayonnaise jar that he’d rinsed out specially for the purpose.

Then he returned to studying.

Later that night, after long hours poring over textbooks, Bucky found himself nodding off. He thought perhaps a light snack would give him the energy he needed to power through till morning.

“A turkey sandwich would be delicious,” he said, “and my roommates will never notice that their Thanksgiving feast is a few slices lighter.”

He took two slices of gluten-free bread, ten or twelve pieces of turkey, a half-wheel of Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, bean sprouts, guacamole, kale chips, French fries, stuffing, a scoop of cranberry sauce, refried beans, olive loaf, and macaroni salad.

“This needs something,” he said to himself: “mayonnaise.”

And he reached into the back of his fridge, scraped the thin remains from the jar, and spread them on the sandwich. Then he put the whole thing into the microwave to take the chill off before eating.

As gamma rays surged through that microwave oven that he’d pulled from the curb the previous August, they awaked the potent life force within Bucky’s stem cells, uniting them with the turkey to produce a creature that Nature, in her infinite distraction, forgot to produce on her own.

With a deafening gobble, Burkey leapt forth from the microwave. It hurtled past Bucky’s head, out through the window, and disappeared in the direction of Picnic Point.

In the following years, reports of Burkey sightings have come from the occasional freshman, surprised while jogging alone on Lakeshore Path or while demonstrating to a date that certain benches near Muir Knoll are completely hidden from view.

UW-Madison’s zoologists tell us that no such creature as Burkey exists. And if you’re in one of their classes and the question comes up on an exam, you must say that you agree, or else you’ll fail.

But now you know better.

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