Of Woodpeckers and Men
by Pat Piper
It was early morning. The sun's first rays were just touching Fairhaven, making each window turn the new light into fire along Herring Bay. As the sun climbed, the flames went out. But the day was just beginning and, already, much had happened outside my window. It was a scene that pulled me away from another glare, this one on my computer screen where, in all candor, not much was happening at all.
That was when the natural picture outside and the blank picture inside were replaced with a loud and horrible noise that came rattling down my chimney with machine-gun like rhythm. Then it stopped. And then it happened again. So I said to myself, "Something ain't right." Out the door I went.
I was expecting to find some guy from Montana dressed in fatigues and a beret on my roof yelling about the Trilateral Commission. Instead, I found a woodpecker. The woodpecker was at work on my metal chimney, hammering away only to stop for a moment and watch as I first hurled a stick and then one of those sea-urchin-like things from the nearby gum tree. They missed. The woodpecker took in the scene and returned to his work.
I tried another tact. "It's metal, you big stupid idiot!" I yelled. See, this is where a freeze-frame would be helpful. You have a bird thinking a chimney is a tree, and a guy thinking he can explain the situation to the bird.
So I went inside and put my blank screen to use by looking up "woodpecker" on the Internet. In the first paragraph I learned woodpeckers bang on metal to attract a mate. In other words, this was a male doing something stupid to get the attention of a female. Sound familiar? You telling me there is no common DNA operating here?
This went on for three weeks. Every morning at 5:45 he started pounding for an hour and a half, and I would go outside and start yelling. Bring in the freeze frame again: Either there are no female woodpeckers at all along Herring Bay or there are many female woodpeckers along Herring Bay but all think the number on my roof is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic and prefer to avoid him altogether. Of course, in retrospect, a guy who insists on yelling at a bird every morning is probably missing a few slices of bread too.
I tried a different tact. At 5:45 when, once again, the melody of nature began another tune, I went outside and said, "You ever think of hanging out near wood? Show how much of a hard worker you are? How dedicated to the job you are?" The bird looked up for just a moment before turning his attention to the chimney, again. "Banging on metal," I offered, "is nothing more than noise." You gotta bring something else to the table - or," I corrected myself, "- tree." The bird looked at me. I knew nothing was happening. This was a one way street and there were two of us going in opposite directions.
Then one morning, there was no sound at 5:45. I was outside as had become the routine, ready to offer suggestions the minute he started the incessant pounding on metal. Nothing. The woodpecker was gone. I had come to enjoy the noise. I had actually expected to see him hammer away and I had a whole new spiel worked up to offer as reasons why pounding on a chimney doesn't make a lot of sense.
That was the moment a guy drove by with his 17 radio speakers all going full blast pounding out an unrecognizable tune. I thought about it for a moment before realizing the decision had already been made. This was something I had to do.
I approached the car. "You ever think of hanging out in the library?" I yelled, "just show how much of a student you are about the ways of the world? You aware you just gotta bring something more to the table than noise?" The guy looked at me and drove on.
This is just a theory, but I've come to the conclusion that dumb woodpeckers are smarter than dumb human beings.
| Issue 27 |
Volume VII Number 27
July 8-14, 1999
New Bay Times
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