Thursday, November 16, 2006

Childe Buzzard to the Dark Tower Came

Barb and I go for a walk with our three dogs every morning before sunrise. As we leave our driveway in the gray light and head toward the end of our street, our view is dominated by an enormous cell-phone tower.

I hated the thing when it was erected a few years ago, because it destroyed my illusion of rural seclusion. It's at least three hundred feet high. I mean, it must be. It's huge. It could be the base of a space elevator. It's as stark and metallic as Gort the Robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Only a lot bigger. It wounds my blue sky and casts a shadow over my green yard.

Yet it serves a purpose, and I know it has to be somewhere. We postmodern humans, we gots to have us our cell phones.

Soon after the tower's appearance, however, I was reminded that other residents of the world will find their own uses for man's devices.

You see, our cell-phone tower is now the permanent nighttime home of over a hundred black-headed buzzards. Big, ugly buzzards. The kind you see playing tug-of-war with whole deer carcasses.

Every morning when Barb and I begin our walk, there they are . . . just waking up, clacking their talons on the reverberant steel and stretching their great dark wings as they prepare to leap away and soar in search of the dead.

Once, I counted a hundred and twenty of them before I decided I didn't want to know how many there were. Sometimes the tower is black-feathered from top to bottom. Other days, there aren't so many. But I can't recall a morning when there were none. And those who are there always watch us as we walk by.

This must be a metaphor for something.

Barb and I always glance at each other and say the same thing:

"Look alive," we say.

Thirty minutes later, when we return, the buzzards are leaving for their daily rounds.

They're beautiful when they fly.


Caroline Spector said...

Brad, you got any idea of the range of those suckers?

I swear I saw one of them in the middle of Shoal Creek Blvd the other day eating a squirrel.

Caroline Spector said...

a dead squirrel, that is . . .

Madeleine Robins said...

"Look alive."

And how do you do that? A little soft shoe? It's a nice image. Bradley and Barb and the dogs, dancing away the buzzards.

Rory Harper said...

We've lately been getting them hanging out during the day on the balconies on the fifth and sixth floors of the building where I office.

They're fearless, and will watch you back from less than three feet away through the glass. Huge beasts, and quite handsome, except for the gruesomely ugly heads.

Presumably, they like our place because it's the tallest building in sight, and has a splendid view.

From here, if you've got buzzard-vision, you can see dead things for miles and miles (I'd like to point out the half-witty Who reference I just made, for those of you who might have missed it...).

Steven Gould said...

And for the obligatory Star Trek reference: "Something's dead, Jim."

(I love the smell of rotting meat in the morning!)

Maureen McHugh said...

Brad, that is the coolest thing ever. I looked at the photo and thought it was a kind of artsy shot of a cell phone tower, started reading and went back and really looked and thought 'whoa.' And it does redeem the tower.

(Whistling Dan Hicks' "The Buzzard Was His Friend")

Bradley Denton said...

Caroline: I'm no buzzard expert, despite the fact that they're my neighbors . . . but I suspect they can easily cover the twenty-odd miles between here and Shoal Creek Blvd. They fly high and (I assume) far. The one you saw noshing on the squirrel the other day may well have been on our tower that night, comparing Dead Things I Have Eaten notes with the others.
Madeleine: It's not so much a "soft shoe" as it is a "nervous shuffle."
Rory: A "half-witty Who reference" necessarily prompts the question "Who references a half-wit?" (I can hear the chorus now: "Anyone quoting Denton!")
Steve: Knew you did.
Maureen: Yup, every black spot in that photo is a buzzard. And that wasn't even an especially crowded morning on the Dark Tower.

Morgan J Locke said...

Buzzard condos. I love it.