As every church choir boy knows, things change. In time, the high note is exchanged for the low, the soprano section for the alto, and little Susie Lynn who, all those Sunday mornings past sat in sweet anonymity next to her folks in the front pew, suddenly and unexpectedly captures and holds his full vision to the exclusion of all else…..every particle of her being a magnet, every part of his…ferrite. Earlier, with the bathroom mirror bearing witness, his father’s razor rested inexplicably familiar in his hand. Things change….and always with surprise.
And so it was last week, when #11 discovered her adult voice for the first time. #5, then #4 having found theirs’ some weeks ago, sounded their child’s- tin-trumpet-on-steroids call in response to a wood stork flyby, and #11 joined in as usual.
Only this time, instead of the usual “peep” squirting out almost inaudibly from her beak, the marsh atmosphere was shattered with a sound unlike anything ever heard before… a sound so shockingly primeval and otherworldly that it could only have originated from somewhere down deep in the earth; from the place where the devil lives; where natural gas fracking pollutes the ground water; where the people sit around watching NASCAR; and where the reruns of the 60’s TV show “Pettycoat Junction” are stored.
It was as if while #11 roosted during the previous night, Mother Nature had sent a black ops terrorist gnome down her throat and into her voice box and covertly exchanged her benign peep for a sound resembling that produced when a car runs over the tuba player in a high school marching band while a seriously drunk and winded Scottish bagpiper tunes his pipes on the sidewalk. And it is virtually impossible to be sure which end of the bird the sound is coming from.
The wood stork reacted as if chased by a bottle rocket, screaming “I am soooooo out of here!” His panicked wing beats carried him quickly over the horizon, while #4 yelled “Incoming!” and dropped immediately into duck and cover mode. #5 just stood staring in shocked amazement, unable to utter a sound. A thought balloon containing the words “What the …….?” rose slowly above his head. #7, in her usual detached and aloof manor, casually turned to #11 and queried, “Dearie, would ya mind pointing your canon away from me.”
As for myself, I could only stare through the spotting scope in disbelief before eventually coming to my senses, grabbing my smart phone and googling the number for the local exorcist, fully expecting at any minute to see #11’s head start turning 360’s on her neck while projectile vomiting around the pen.
But no earthly entity, breathing or otherwise, could have been more surprised than #11. She stood in stunned disbelief, with the embarrassed look of a family cat caught swallowing the pet canary. “Drats!” she exclaimed. “What do I do now?”
Not to worry. It is written in the “Book of Whooper” that cranes could not have survived on this planet for tens of millions of years without having mastered the fine art of making chicken salad out of chicken. And so, with the addition of a bass section, a new depth and dimension is added to the sound of the St. Marks Whooper Quintet. Already it is being compared to Lawrence Welk’s Barber Shop Quartet, minus the bubbles. (You know, the one frozen forever in time due to the magic of syndicated reruns.)
Won’t be long before their “Alarm Call” will rest comfortably at Number One on the Hit Parade while their B side “Preflight” climbs the charts like a bullet. Until then, it’s practice, practice, practice.
“Ready? An’ ah one, an’ ah two, an ah…………..”