Binky the Buzzard still nests on cover 41 years later

by Chris Studor

Binky the Buzzard, the “cover bird” of the Hinckley Record for more than four decades now, has become ingrained as the symbol of Hinckley’s Buzzard Day. Not only has each and every Binky cover cartoon ushered in Hinckley’s largest event of the year, but Binky’s commentaries reflected the social happenings of the time.

His creator, Karl Kastl Jr., drew the first Binky in April 1981 and Binky continues to be the star on the cover this year’s Hinckley Record as well.

A buzzard cartoon drawing from a Toledo paper inspired Kastl Jr., then an artist at Litho (American Greetings), to sit down at his drawing table and create Hinckley’s own buzzard. In the newspaper article that accompanied that first Binky cartoon, Kastl Jr. described his work “as a gift from me to you, young and old citizens of Hinckley, to enjoy this moment of everyday life, comical or otherwise.”

In Binky’s early years, the buzzard appeared as a monthly cartoon in the Hinckley Record before becoming the magazine’s annual March cover.

Recently, Karl Kastl III, his son, Tyler, and other family friends poured over a huge box of Binky cartoon drawings. With input Karl Kastl Jr., the decision was made to reflect on the 41-year history of Binky by placing Karl Jr.’s very first Binky drawing on top of the antique cupola Kastl III restored and mounted on top of Binky Commons, located at the corner of state Route 303 and Ridge Road, earlier this year. This required the technical ability of Tyler Kastl, who flew a drone up to the top of the building to take a picture of the copula and then photo shopped the original Binky sitting on it.

Kastl III discovered the 110 year-old cupola lying on the ground at an old farm and spent several months restoring it last summer. In late October, a crane was used to lift the refurbished cupola to the top of the Binky Commons building, where it now resides. Inside the cupola is a glass globe that shines over downtown Hinckley, and depending on the day, Kastl III can change the color of the globe.

Even the Binky Commons building has a place in Hinckley history. Kastl III and his business partner, Tom Vanover, refurbished the nearly 200 year-old building finding a number of Hinckley antiques in the walls. The building, located at the corner of Rt. 303 and Ridge Rd., now houses Stefanic’s Barber Shop, several businesses and is attached to Hinckley Donut. While the building was being remodeled, Kastl III put up a temporary museum for people to view the found items, which he later placed in his home where the walls display all kinds of historical items.

“I love history and I think it’s important that we preserve Hinckley’s history. That includes the history of Binky the Buzzard,” said Kastl III. “I want to pay honor to my father’s work and preserve Binky’s identity as part of Buzzard Day history. “If we don’t keep pieces of history out front, we will soon lose an important part of the township’s identity.”

The very first Hinckley Record with Binky on the cover shows Binky perched nervously, quivering on his nest. In artist Karl Kastl Jr.’s own words in that issue, he explains that Binky, “Preoccupied with worry, whether or not his little wings will defy gravity, he fails to realize that there really isn’t that much to worry about because down below are a few of his friends (fire, police, etc.) to guarantee his safety on the spot.”

Other former covers also mark a place in time. For example, the cover of the 2006 issue has Binky remarking over the mild winter, commenting “I don’t know what to call this winter, global warming or a gift from Mother Nature for my 25th Birthday.” By comparison, another cover shows a shivering Binky reciting a small poem: “Oh! How I love my Hinckley as gentle breezes blow at 50 mph with a wind chill of 10 below. I took a breath of spring air and my beak is frozen shut. Yes, the weather is just great, you might say it’s sublime. I could never leave my Hinckley cause I’m frozen to this sign.”

Weather isn’t the only topic of Binky’s covers, however. Politics is also addressed. The March 1998 cover includes the face of then President Bill Clinton overlooking a table at the annual pancake breakfast. Clinton is saying: “Don’t forget. You never saw me inhale all those sausages and pancakes.”

Binky has also addressed sports, and at the time of the major league baseball strike, Binky was depicted high in his nest with a crowd of people below, all looking through binoculars and searching for the arrival of the buzzards at Buzzard’s Roost. In the cartoon, Binky comments; “If they don’t settle the baseball strike soon, this could become the new spectator sport.”

Karl Kastl III considers his father’s work a treasure and a gift to the community. For that reason, he and Tyler Kastl are committed to maintaining this part of Hinckley’s history – not only to honor Kastl Jr.’s work, but to help the community savor a unique part of township history.

The sentiment is strong and perhaps it’s best to conclude with the cartoon featured on the 2017 cover of the Hinckley Record with Binky reciting this poem: “It’s 60 years ago in the spring of 1957. They finally noticed our return while looking up toward heaven. They all watch us fly and glide about in happy jubilation, then someone said, ‘let’s make this day a springtime celebration.’ They all agreed with that idea with everyone saying, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ So now you know, how it all started, the Hinckley Buzzard Day.”

Older copies of the Hinckley Record feature
drawings of Binky the Buzzard as
crafted by Karl Kastl Jr.
Karl Kastl III and his son, Tyler, sort through a box of drawings of
Binky the Buzzard, created by Karl Kastl Jr. Binky started out as
a monthly cartoon in the newspaper and morphed into the annual
March cover of The Hinckley Record as a way of ushering in the
township’s annual Buzzard Day. Photos by C. Studor.