My mom, Arlene Fredrickson Neuhaus, (great granddaughter of Augusta Ballou Davidson, twin to Anne’s Augustus) had a strange sense of humor as did her brother-in-law, Barney. It was in 1971 that Barney challenged her to begin the Nebraska Turd Bird venture. His horse furnished the raw material.
While we have seen other turd birds, Arlene’s were special because they were made using as many Nebraska grown products as possible. The wooden base was cut in the shape of Nebraska. Of course, the body was a horse turd, legs were a chicken or turkey wishbone, toes and beak were wheat seeds, head was a cockle burr, dyed chicken feathers were the wings, tail and topknot.
Arlene showed her first bird to a Winnetoon native. He bought it and her unintended business was born. At first she enjoyed the challenge. But after a while working with horse manure became overwhelming. Arlene upped the price to stifle orders…still they poured in.
After quitting the business three times, in desperation she turned the birds over to her son, Bill Jr. He was just able to keep ahead of the demand. During this time over 2000 Winnetoon Turd Birds flew all over the USA, to South America and Czechoslovakia.
With the popularity of Nebraska’s football team, Bill developed a variation…the “Go Big Red Bird” complete with hat, football and goalpost.
Bill, too, got tired of the flock. He quit nesting and flew the coop to Nevada. The business reverted to “Granny T Bird”.
Arlene went back to assembling the birds. After she died in 1980, her daughter, Gayle, reluctantly took over. As the years passed, Gayle’s son, Jeff and daughters, Gina and Tarese became the bird makers. Then, the birds were passed down to the fourth generation, Tarese’s sons, Jonathon and Abraham. But these boys also flew the coop leaving their mother, Tarese, as the current “Turd Bird” maker.