I haven’t lived in Ipswich long. (You have to keep saying this for your first 20 years here; then you can switch to “I realize I’m not a native.” After a total of 45 years you’re allowed to avoid the issue, unless a townie challenges you to confess.)
But I want to be a good New Englander and learn about uniquely New Englandish things. So I have set out to learn all the official Massachusetts stuff.
And of course, since this is New England, it’s complicated.
The state bird is the black-capped chickadee. Not just any chickadee. It has to have a black cap. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps this is information they only give you after you’ve lived here 20 years.
But there’s not only a state bird; there’s also a state game bird, which is the wild turkey. Not just any turkey. It has to be wild. Docile, well behaved turkeys, turkeys that do their homework and avoid loud parties and graduate on time, are not recognized by the Commonwealth. A turkey from UMass-Amherst would be a shoo-in for state game bird.
There’s also a state dog — the Boston terrier, which makes sense — and a state fish: the cod — no surprise there either. There’s even a state insect: the ladybug.
There does not, however, seem to be official Ipswich stuff. I would like to be a good, constructive citizen, so I’ve decided to suggest some official Ipswich stuff.
For example, our town bird should be the crow. (The crows in my yard are so big, when they demanded I suggest them for town bird, I was afraid to say no.) For town game bird, we could designate the hawk that ate two of my neighbor’s chickens last year. The official Ipswich dog should be Al Boynton’s dog Sobe, simply because this is the most-photographed dog in the history of Facebook. The official Ipswich fish (try saying that five times fast) could be Clambox haddock. Our Ipswich insect would of course be the greenhead. I suggest altering the official town seal, also, to include a depiction of the official town insect with a dagger plunged through its evil little heart.
The state cat is the tabby; the town cat would be the fisher. No, it’s not actually a cat, but it’s perfect for Ipswich. Massachusetts has a state shell: the New England Neptune. Our official Ipswich shell would be the clam. Natch.
The state marine mammal is the right whale. The Ipswich marine mammal will be any number of individuals spotted on a summer day at Crane Beach.
The state flower is the mayflower, of course. I think the town flower should be the cheap plastic bouquet in the imitation gold vase that I gave the new Town Manager when she first got here.
Massachusetts has an official state fossil: the theropod (T. Rex was one of these guys). Ipswich will need an official town fossil. I hesitate to name just one.
The official state gem is rhodonite. The official town gem, in my opinion, is Dorothy Monnelly. A photographer-artist extraordinaire, and a lovely person.
Official state rock: Roxbury puddingstone. This is what you find under foot in Boston and 11 other cities and towns. Our official Ipswich rock should be the granite boulder that I broke my back digging out of my backyard.
Our official state folk hero is Johnny Appleseed, who went around planting apple trees. For Ipswich, we should have Johnny Clamseed, who goes around seeding clam beds. State heroine: Deborah Samson, who posed as a man and fought in the War of Independence. Ipswich heroine: Kristina Brendel, who posed as a gallery director and fought in the Business Owners’ Wars until there was no money left. I am a witness.
Massachusetts has a state folk dance: the square dance. The official Ipswich town dance would be the “Town Meeting tap dance” — which is whatever the person onstage does when they can’t answer the question from the person at the mic.
State beverage: cranberry juice. Town beverage: Ipswich ale. A no-brainer. State dessert: Boston cream pie. Town dessert: whatever Christopher’s Table is serving tonight.
Our official Massachusetts state cookie is the chocolate chip. Our official Ipswich town cookie should be — aw, you can’t beat chocolate chip.
Doug Brendel lives on Planet Outer Linebrook. You can reach him via Outsidah.com.