As the curtain begins closing on this year’s winter monitoring season, we sit in the blind looking out over the marsh, observing the activities of Peanut and Henry. And it reminds me of another time long ago… when the simple act of sitting and watching held equal joy and magic.
“Hey kids. What time is it”?
”It’s Howdy Doody time!” we hollered back excitedly at Buffalo Bob from our seats in the “Peanut Gallery.”
And so began our 1950’s childhood TV favorite, “The Howdy Doodie Show.” We raced into our living rooms Saturday mornings to take our seats, front row-center, in the “Peanut Gallery” where we bathed in the black and white remote-less-connectivity-box-television glow while a red haired, 48 freckle-faced marionette named “Howdy Doodie” and his wonderful world became ours. For the next half an hour, this little fellow moved before us at the end of his eleven strings amongst an assemblage of quirky, enchanting stringed characters; each as familiar as family but a lot more fun.
There was Mayer Phinius T. Buster, and Dilly Dally, and Flub-a Dub, and Heidi Doodie. And the humans; the cowboy garbed host and ringmaster, Buffalo Bob Smith. And Clarabelle the Clown, who spoke volumes to us in mime (played by the guy who would later reincarnate as “Captain Kangaroo”… which proved to us that in America, everyone is entitled to a “Second Act.”) And my favorite, Chief Thundercloud, who would punctuate the absurdity of it all by mugging the camera for a close-up while giving voice to the one piece of dialog that physicist Steven Hawking would later proclaim as the single word which best sums up the universe and all that it contains, “KOWABUNGA”!
And now, all these years later, I’m still sitting and watching… from the “Peanut Gallery.” As Colleen chronicled in her update last week, Mack and 8-14 have left the building, racing north in hopes of picking out a good nesting spot. Their void was quickly filled by Henry and Peanut who almost immediately flew in to take over possession of the pen. Like a Hermit crab moving into a bigger shell, they have upgraded and seem perfectly content to spend their days probing sand and mud with their beaks, vacuuming up any and all tiny offerings within. They often move so close together that one often appears to be the living shadow of the other… so much so that when they finally do move apart, we think we’re suddenly seeing double. At night, they roost in familiar comfort and safety on the oyster bar.
But way out, just beyond the pen and the marsh and the far tree line, the natural symphony of marsh sounds are joined by the backstage racket of that greatest puppeteer of them all, Mother Nature, as she tensions the strings controlling Peanut and Henry and prepares for the drama’s grand finale, Migration. Very soon she will yank them up off the stage and into the sky for the journey north, and after a time set them back down on another stage… White River Marsh or southern Illinois or who knows where. Then this curtain will close, this screen will fade to black, and we will feel very much alone and abandoned.
But not yet. We’ll leave that for tomorrow, or the day after or the day after that. For now, we enjoy the finale… and continue to watch the wonder of it all unfold from our perch… in the “Peanut Gallery.”