Play make-believe with me for a moment, OK?
Let’s say you die and then you are reincarnated as a bird. What bird would you be?
Would you choose an eagle? Regal and majestic, the symbol of our nation might be a popular choice.
What about a crow or a raven? I think a crow would be cool. If they do not get their way, crows always complain, and I have seen them give hell to a turkey gobbler. The fray follows a crow, it seems, and could such a raucous life be boring?
WHAT BIRD WOULD YOU BE?
Once you got used to eating carrion, it might be interesting to be a ranger of the road, flying with the pack while letting the sultry sentry provide your security.
There are many species of ducks and some beautiful ones to be sure. But they get shot at a lot, and I would not care for that. Doves get shot at, too. So, bird of peace notwithstanding, no dovey for me.
What about a great blue heron? Now that would be the life. I could be talked into spending my second life living on the river eating frogs and fish. How about you?
Maybe you would be a songbird, a redbird or a robin. It’s hard to argue against wanting to be any of those sweet-singing songsters.
It would be sweet irony if Ray Eye were to come back as a wild turkey and Joel Vance were to reappear as a quail. They certainly have harassed their share of birds over the years.
There are other choices and I am sure you have your favorite.
For me, it would be the mockingbird.
I work in downtown St. Louis with city buildings all around. We are lucky because we have a parking lot lined with trees and shrubs, and the wildlife that has survived this concrete mega-muck hangs around, holding onto what little habitat remains.
Over the past 30 years, we have had several generations of mockingbirds make their homes here.
One became tame enough we could feed him choice seeds atop a parking post right out our back door while we stood at his side. One time he came bolting in for his breakfast and skidded on the icy asphalt, almost falling down.
Despite the deep indignity he grabbed his grub and lived on through another winter.
The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), “many tongued mimic,” can sing the songs of 200 other birds.
While our mockingbird imitates other birds, he also makes other sounds.
City sirens constantly wail. Emergency and traffic ‘copters often skirt across our sky, and an incessant city clamor provides him a vocabulary selection that would have made Daniel Webster proud.
The mockingbird is a loner, spending time only with his mate. He does not flock and he will not tolerate others of his kind infringing upon his hallowed haunt. He is a bully in a way, often chasing doves, sparrows, grackles, starlings and the like away from his world.
Large hungry hawks, he fears not.
ON DREARY DAYS
There are early deadline mornings for us here at the magazine and during the dark, cold, blustery days dreary, it is uplifting to see him sitting in his tree or on his power line, surveying and protecting his kingdom.
With elegant black chevrons upon his gray sleeves, the mockingbird exudes a sense of simple elegance and an understanding of a brotherhood that transcends species and defies anthropomorphic logic.
He is my little buddy. And while I know that, like his ancestors, his lifespan will be short, his progeny will live on long after I am gone.
Noted writer and author Larry Dablemont once said, “It is not necessary for the individual to survive but that the species live on.”
Excuse me a moment, would you? It is cold and icy here. I need to step outside and throw a few choice kernels on the ground.
ECSTASY AND IMITATION
“With expanded wings and tail glistening with white, and the bouyant gayety of his action arresting the eye, as his song does most irresistibly the ear, he sweeps around with enthusiastic ecstasy, and mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away.
“And he often deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds that are not perhaps within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates.” — Alexander Wilson