Heard about the letter to the editor of a newspaper in Ohio demanding that the state find another tree to serve at its symbol because buckeyes are bisexual? It's starting to get some attention on the Web.
Well, it's a real letter to The Courier in Findlay.
But it's also our third hoax in as many blogging weekdays — or in this case, more accurately, a piece of social satire.
We just got off the phone with 67-year-old Jim Flechtner of Findlay, who acknowledges having "something of a local reputation" for his satirical notes to the newspaper.
"I quite often write letters on the issues of religion, evolution and homosexuality," he told us.
In this case, Flechtner was riffing off an item he'd seen in the Courier that said "the Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, bears flowers with both male and female organs on the same tree. It is a monoecious species."
"The buckeye is our state tree and most of us gladly wear the nickname, 'buckeyes,' " Flechtner wrote in his note. "But it is shameful and unacceptable that a bisexual tree should represent us! We are flaunting the Holy Bible!
"I urge everyone to contact their state representative and demand legislation removing the buckeye as our state tree and condemning the use of the term 'buckeye' as a nickname for residents of Ohio.
"Does anyone know if carnations are bisexual?"
The red carnation is Ohio's state flower.
The letter was published June 6, and didn't get much local reaction, Flechtner says. One subsequent letter to the editor "took it seriously. The other three were not quite so sure."
Then, today, Deadspin picked up on it — and wondered if Flechtner might be serious. Shortly after its post, the story got picked up by other sites and blogs that didn't wonder. They assumed he was serious. Huffington Post has weighed its words carefully — signalling it thinks Flechtner was being satirical, but leaving open the possibility that he wasn't.
We were the third news outlet to actually call Flechtner to ask about the letter. He seems bemused and pleased that it's now getting some reaction. Retired form the state Department of Job and Family Services ("welfare," Flechtner says with tongue firmly in cheek), he's got some time to spend talking to reporters if they call.
But he's also got some more satire to compose. Flechtner say's he'll be at it again soon. "I enjoy every time I get responses to my letters," he said. "I'll have more."
Oh, and as for those other hoaxes (we did say you should watch for a third):