His real name was Woody Whooper. Don’t look so surprised. You didn’t really believe everything they told us when we were kids, did you? I mean, think about it. Did Columbus really discover America? Do you still believe crawling under your elementary school desk in a “Duck and Cover” exercise would have saved you from that atomic bomb? And even though you spent a whole year being a good little boy or girl, did Santa really bring you that pony for Christmas? I didn’t think so. Then why trust them to know the difference between a woodpecker and a whooping crane.
Actually, I uncovered this simple truth the other day quite by accident when we took the colts on a foraging expedition to the North Pond. There, next to the pond, center stage stood a very old, rotten tree stump… remnant of a once great presence, beaconing to the chicks like a ringing dinner bell to come and get it… which they did. Now, biologists have proven that locked deep within the soul of every young whooper chick is a woodpecker trying desperately to get out. There’s nothing a little whooper enjoys more than jack hammering away at a rotten anything. Not in quest for the bugs within, but for the pure, sensory pleasure of the doing. And so, how do they spell rotten tree stump? “Beakathon.”
First contestant was #1, which I guess is why he’s #1. His initial rather timid, exploratory pecks soon grew into a blinding fusillade of hammer blows, creating a cloudburst of wood chips showering down from above.
His beak blurred as it assaulted the stump with the manic intensity of a child whose mother forgot to give him his Ritalin. It was a sight that would have made any self-respecting woodpecker squeal with envy. “When I grow up, I want to be a whooping crane.”
Then, as if following the First Law of Whopper Physics which states, “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” #3 joined in the fray from the opposite side of the stump. “Two heads are better than one,” he shouted as a second cloud of wood chips ballooned up from the scene.
The whole spectacle held me transfixed and mesmerized… like watching some mini volcanic eruption. Could all the answers of the Universe really be somehow magically contained in this simple act of two woodpecker wannabees reducing a tree stump to dust? After all, the Lord really does speak in strange ways. “Get a grip, Grasshopper,” the voice commanded gently from above.
And that’s when the true reality of it all hit me. This was, like the rest of life, a Contact sport, which meant it was a Concussive sport… which meant Head Trauma! I suddenly felt like a parent at a high school football game watching his son get tackled hard to the ground as helmets cracked and crowd cheered and a few fans stepped off the bleachers for hotdogs, while the other tribe… ah, team marched off the field in triumph. Did I really want #1 and #3 suffering from Early Onset Dementia? I can hear their conversation now; “How many fingers am I holding up?” and “Put me back in, Coach.” I just hate it when reality buys a ticket to the game!
But then, it’s all about “Enrichment.” Zoo Science has proven that if you leave critters in a cage or pen with nothing to do long enough, their cognitive skills suffer, their brains shrink and they undergo “Partial Zombification.” It’s the same with humans, which explains the coke bottle that fell from the sky in the Must See movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy. However, there is also such a thing as over-enrichment (“Hey Bubba. Watch this”!), especially when it is hazardous to one’s health. That’s what whistles are for… so I blew mine, which in whooper terms means I turned on my vocalizer “Contact Call,” whoopereeze for “Everybody out of the pool. We’re going home.”
“But I didn’t get my turn at bat!” #4 lamented.
“Next time,” I replied. “Life is full of next times. And besides, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
As our happy little cohort headed off for home, Colleen and I examined #1 and #3 closer than a traffic cop doing a sobriety test. “Had anything to drink tonight?” Colleen asked #1. Then he stood on one leg while his eyes followed her index finger as it drew a right and left, then up and down. “Now, what was your mother’s maiden name?” she queried. He just looked over at #3… and giggled.
Back in the pen, it was the usual daily homecoming… feeder chow downs followed by strolls down beautiful “Bayou Vista.” As we exited, I noticed #1 leaning against the pen wall steadying himself doing his best imitation of someone just home from a “Toot.” And we weren’t far down the runway when his oh so familiar voice rang out.
“Avig…Avig…Avig…That’s all, folks!”