Caption: Our Bird’s Beginnings. Story by Robyn Norwood, Illustrated by Eric Melgosa
Image: Cecil stands by a mailbox preparing to send a DNA test kit.
Cecil (thinks): All right! Time to find out where I come from…
Caption: Adan Amaya, Pomona College Mail Services, finds Cecil training in preparation for “Through the Gates.”
Image: Listening to music through his headphones, Cecil leans against the Pomona College gate stretching his knee as it goes “CRUNCH.” Adan has a package in his hand.
Cecil (singing): …turns out I’m 100% that…
Adan: Hi Cecil! I’ve got a package for you.
Cecil: Oh, Hey Adan! That’s probably my DNA results. I’m so nervous!
Image: As Adan holds a sheet of paper with Cecil’s DNA test results, Cecil asks…
Cecil: What’s it say, Adan?
Adan: hmm, let’s see… I’m Sorry, Cecil, it says you’re not human. You have way more than 46 chromosomes so they cannot process your DNA.
Image: Cecil dejectedly walks up to the entrance of the Richard C. Seaver Biology Building.
Cecil (thinks): What in the world am I!? Prof. Karnovsky will know what to do. If anyone can figure this out, she can!
Image: Open panel showing Professor of Biology Nina Karnovsky and Cecil in conversation.
Cecil: Prof. Karnovsky, I need your help! The DNA test I took didn’t work! Is there a “23 and poultry” or something!?
Prof. Karnovsky: Well, Cecil, I don’t think that will give you the answers you’re looking for. Who you are is a lot more than your DNA, you know. I think you should go see Sean Stanley, the College archivist, You might find some hidden heirlooms!
Image: Overhead view of Prof. Karnovsky and Cecil looking at photos, documents and a range map of the Greater Sage Grouse.
Prof. Karnovsky: Before you go, come look at these pictures. Here we have Centrocercus urophasianus, the Greater Sage Grouse, also known as a sagehen.
Cecil: …But they’re brown. I’m blue. And my beak is orange. I definitely don’t have those pectorals.
Prof. Karnovsky: Those aren’t pectorals. They’re air-filled sacs used in courtship displays. Those spiky tail feathers are another way the males try to attract a mate. And sorry to say, but they don’t chirp. It’s more of a coo-coo, plus a bubbling or popping sound.
Caption: First thing the following day, Cecil visits the college archivist, Sean Stanley, to find out what he knows about Cecil’s origins.
Image: Sean stands behind a counter as Cecil greets him.
Sean: Ah, Early bird gets the worm. Hi Cecil!
Image: Cecil imagines himself with a mouth full of worms with a nauseated look on his face.
Cecil: That’s disgusting!
Sean: Never mind. I have something I think you’d like to see.
Image: Sean holds out a pennant depicting a slim anthropomorphic bird wearing a two-toned cap followed by the word Pomona.
Cecil: Who’s that supposed to be?
Cecil: Do you think that’s my father?
Image: Cecil imagines the old mascot wearing a black Stahlhelm claiming to be his father.
Sean: No, no. This pennant is estimated to be from the 1930s or ’40s. That would be many hen-erations ago.
Image: Sean holds up a blue and white cap with a small rim on it.
Cecil: OK, smart aleck! But he’s so… thin. Scrawny. He looks nothing like the Greater Sage Grouse. What’s that hat, anyway?
Sean: There was a tradition that first-year Pomona students had to wear a blue beanie with a P on the front. They say that ended with the Great Freshman Beanie Revolt of 1967.
Image: A crowd of students gathers in front of Sumner Hall holding picket signs that say BEANIE REVOLT.
Cecil: The ’60s. I thought the protests were about more important things.
Sean: They generally were. So back to the origins of the Sagehens…
Sean: In the early 1900s, Pomona’s athletic teams were called various nicknames, including Huns, once a reference to warrior nomads but later an unfortunate pejorative term for Germans during World War I and World War II. Though Sage Hens appeared in the L.A. Times as early as 1911, according to one legend a writer for The Student Life in 1913 might have meant to type Huns but typed Hens, and it stuck.
Image: Sean and Cecil, in conversation, both imagine a group of nomadic warriors on horseback wielding bows and arrows, pikes and swords.
Cecil: So I’m a Typo?!
Sean: If you are, you’re a typo with staying power. Since 1918, the Sagehen has been the only symbol of Pomona, Pomona-Claremont and now Pomona-Pitzer athletics. Have you been to see Miriam Merrill, our athletics director? She may have useful perspective.
Cecil: No, but that’s a good idea. I’ll go see her now.
Image: Cecil waves at Miriam Merrill, the director of Pomona-Pitzer Athletics.
Miriam: If it isn’t our 2021 national champion Sagehen!
Cecil: Yes! men’s cross country and men’s water polo!
Miriam: You’re really something, Cecil.
Cecil: Thanks, Miriam … But who am I really?
Miriam: You’re the spirit of the college, Cecil. You are one of a kind!