A modest mascot proposal

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Last week’s column about renaming buildings and moving monuments got a few letters and some Facebook commentary – with the rumor swirling (as only Facebook rumors can swirl) that a friend and former colleague might just write a rebuttal.
Well,  have at it. A nice “scholarly” exchange is always welcomed.
Just as long as the disagreement doesn’t evolve into what it has evolved into in New Orleans, where the guy whose company was hired to move the city’s Civil War monuments quit the job after getting death threats and waking up to find his $200,000 Lamborghini burned down to the hub caps – clear indication that there is good money to be made in the monument moving business.
On the other side of the ledger, another bit of renaming has gotten into the news, and it is on that side where I comfortably (and safely) want to come down today. Mascots.
Recently, thanks to my friend Robert, I was alerted to the fact that the board of trustees of his Alma Mater, Amherst College, had voted to jettison Lord Jeffery Amherst, the long-time mascot of the institution. Why?
Because as a British officer in the French and  Indian War, “Lord Jeff,” as he was known around campus, advocated solving the Indian “problem” by giving the Native Americans blankets that were taken from soldiers who had died from small pox.
Uncomfortable with this, the board did what descendents of Puritans do when faced with an ethical dilemma, they put it to a vote. And when significant majorities of students, faculty, and alumni said “cut him loose,” they did.
Now I have never been to Amherst or seen the “Lord Jeffs” play.  All I know about the town is that it was where Emily Dickinson wrote some of the finest poetry in the English language.
Put simply, I do not have a dog in that fight, though I gotta admit, Amherst’s justification for junking “Lord Jeff” strikes me as better than some of the reasons given for renaming the Washington Redskins or the Florida State Seminoles or the Atlanta Braves.
However, looking at the renaming mania sweeping the land, I concluded that it might be time for someone to suggest a way to avoid future mascot naming problems. My solution, go with plants.
This idea came to me a while back, when my eldest daughter presented me with a t-shirt from Delta State University, and there on the front was its mascot – the “Fighting Okra.”
Now I am partial to okra.  I like it fried.  I even like it boiled, though some have suggested that boiled it looks a lot like horse snot. I have also thought that “Okra” would be a good name for a southern belle.
I can just hear a proud Papa saying, “Let me introduce you to my daughter, Okra.”
Wrap a southern accent around that and you have a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
When my cousin Benny’s second wife was pregnant I proposed that if it was a girl they should name it “Okra.”
Over a beer Benny quickly warmed to the idea, and thus was hatched the great “Okra Naming Plot,” which involved him slapping the name on the birth certificate while the mother was drugged and unresisting.
I was not there but according to Benny, he made two fatal errors.
First he told his wife his plan before he actually filled out the certificate.
Second, he added a middle name – “I am naming our daughter Okra Gumbo,” he whispered to the semi-conscious lady.
Hearing that, Mama rose from her stupor, quashed the idea, and shortly Leanna Victoria was presented to the waiting world.
But back to mascots.
Animals are usually safe, though I hear that some animal rights advocates have objected to making mascots out of fighting chickens.  However, a quick Google search for people protesting plant mascots comes up Nada.
On the other hand, coming up Almost-Nada are plant mascots in general – Ohio State Buckeyes and the Delta State Fighting Okra being two of the few.  The field is open, crowded, and ready to be harvested.
FSU could quell its critics by becoming the “Tickseeds” (state wildflower), Atlanta by becoming the “Peachtrees” (like everything else around the town), and Washington could become the “Lobbyists,” (an invasive species of noxious weed that thrives there).
So when the Amherst College board of trustees goes looking for something to replace “Lord Jeff,” maybe they should call in a horticulturalist to assist them.
With millions of plant species worldwide, surely they could select a few of the least objectionable, then from that list let the students, faculty and alumni pick.
I think I will run that by friend Robert.
With it, he might become Amherst “Alumni of the Year.”
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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