My Flying Friends
Editor’s note: For the past five years, Crash Barry has pursued the neo-homesteading lifestyle in eastern Oxford County. This is the seventh of a dozen essays about his attempts to live closer to nature.
Of all the critters, wild and otherwise, that roam my neighborhood, I identify with the male ruffed grouse the most. Also known as the “chicken of the woods” because of his poultry-like strut and swagger, this solitary fella will spend his entire four- or five-year existence lurking in the seven-acre patch of swamp and spruce below the Celtic fire pit at the bottom of the hill.
He’s quiet most of the time, except in spring, when he “drums” to let all the lady grouse in the ’hood know he’s ready for love. And to tell the other males in the area to back off. Drumming, however, is a misleading word for the sound he makes — a loud wupwup-wupwup-wup-wup-wup-wuppp — with an intense flapping of his wings. His five-second love song is far from melodic. It sounds like someone unsuccessfully trying to start an old “single-lung” engine. I enjoy the tune, though, because his diligence is admirable. Plus, the ditty is an audible reminder of how Sweetgrass and I aren’t the only ones trying to live off the fertile land of Dreamstead.
During the height of mating season, this guy drums mostly in the morning, then takes the afternoon off for snacking, napping and, hopefully, getting laid. He usually returns to work in the early evening to perform several more solos before sunset.
In mid-April, I strategically placed a lawn chair near his drumming platform (a rock about the size of a large pig) and was rewarded with several private concerts. From what I hear, he probably has a couple more platforms deeper in the swamp that I haven’t discovered.
I’d like to find ’em, though, in order to add to my collection of his feces. I’m gathering and stockpiling his shit, two or three pellets at a time. Ultimately, his guano will become the basis of a special wild compost tea that will make a certain magical marijuana plant even more magical.
The New Age movement’s appropriation of the dragonfly as a feel-good symbol of love and the beauty of nature’s symmetry is ironic, given how violent and ugly their behavior can be. I also worship and adore the swarms of these airborne killers as they scour the land, methodically searching and destroying the biting insect enemy we have in common (the mosquito) with a 95-percent success rate — about three times as deadly as your average bug-eater.
The dragonfly’s technology, shape and aerodynamics have been studied and stolen for the design of drones by the military-industrial complex, and have influenced several generations of intel-gathering and missile-guiding robots. The exploitation of the dragonfly’s prowess is another example of greedy corporatists copyright-infringing on Mother Nature’s perfect design, and then using Her genius for evil.
The male dragonfly, in addition to being a ruthless murderer, is a serial rapist with no equal. The males’ violent assault on the female of the species is apparently the way these insects naturally procreate, but it’s disturbing when viewed through the lens of humanity. In the late afternoon it’s easy to spot the male dragonfly, his tail bent down in a 90-degree angle, an erectile advertisement that he is prowling and won’t take no for an answer.
A couple weeks ago, I spotted a dragonfly flying erratically, zig-zagging in a drunken vertical manner that seemed out-of-sorts for such a sleek-winged assassin. This dragonfly soon landed on the trunk of an apple tree. I quickly approached and saw the problem. A giant wasp had hijacked, and was now — right in front of my eyes — killing the dragonfly. This was a unique success for the wasp, I’m sure. Must have gotten lucky. Dragonfly was probably chillin’ on a leaf, sunning itself, translucent wings outstretched in a post-meal grogginess, and the passing wasp seized the opportunity. Victorious, he was now about to feast.
Furious, I picked up a stick and, without hesitation, slew the stinging beast.
Oh, how I long to fly and ride the wind like the regal turkey vulture! So high aloft, drifting atop the thermals and currents, rarely batting their fringed, feathered wings, just gliding in long, lazy loops. Effortlessly descending, then climbing again. Soaring. Searching, with their powerful noses, for food. Seeking the scent of death and decay. Of decomposition. For the vulture feeds on carrion and helps keep Maine carcass-free.
A couple years ago, I signed over my body to the University of New England Medical School, in Biddeford, to be used as a cadaver for students. But now, considering my deep and renewed kinship with nature, I’m having second thoughts. Do I really want to be pickled and preserved just for the edification of a med student who most likely will have dramatically different views of what’s good for the American health care system? For all I know, my bod could further the career of some pill-pushing slave of Big Pharma and Big Insurance. I’d hate for that to happen.
So now I’m thinking about donating my scarred, THC-and-bourbon infused carcass to the turkey vultures. That’s a little more complicated, of course, considering the archaic and cumbersome rules that apply to the disposal of the dead. I suppose that in urbania and suburbia, where scores depart daily, there’s a need for such regulation. But here in the western foothills, with the limited population and low annual death toll, folks should be able to responsibly dispose of their deceased without any interference from government, church or funeral-man.
Now, I realize having my mortal remains tossed into the swamp is not a good idea. First of all, actually eating a piece of meat my size (six-foot-two, about 230 pounds) would be a daunting task for most critters, except maybe a coyote pack — and then the tearing and sharing might result in inter-pack squabbles that wouldn’t be conducive to my plan of returning peacefully to the land.
So to make the meal easier for my potential eaters, I’ve asked my buddy Dave Gutter (the co-producer and star of my upcoming film, Sex, Drugs and Blueberries) to give me a hand. Gutter, the rock ’n’ rolling son-of-a-butcher (he’s the scion of the infamous Dave Gutter the Meat Cutter), used to be a meat-man himself, having purchased a butcher shop with some of his proceeds from a Rustic Overtones record deal back around the turn of the century.
Anyways, Gutter has agreed, upon my expiration, to disembowel, then quarter or eighth me into pieces small enough to muckle and haul into the swamp and/or woods. Since this is a lot to ask of a pal, in exchange for doing the deed, we’ve agreed that he can help himself to the contents of my secret drug-stash safe within 24 hours of my demise.
While my preference is to be consumed by the vultures, I know it’s unrealistic to expect that I could somehow designate a certain species to dine on me. Alas, that’s not the way Mother Nature works. So I have to accept the likelihood that weasels and coyotes, as well as other birds in addition to my beloved vultures, will also partake of me upon my demise.
And I’m OK with that. After all, my tired old corpse ain’t nuthin’ but a shell. A temporary vessel, fueled by universal life-force energy, and when dead, ready for recycling. If my flesh-and-bones could provide critters and their families with some sustenance, then it’d be my honor to feed them.