My friend Charlie Baird volunteers at the National Great Rivers Museum, adjacent to the Alton Lock and Dam. His favorite thing to do is lead tours on a walkway eighty feet above the locks. The walkway is narrow, with walls on both sides, and you can look down and watch barges wend their way into the locks. I’m scared of heights, which doesn’t stop me from climbing mountains, but this walkway terrifies me.
So, this morning, Charlie takes a group of fifth graders and their teachers up to the walkway. He’s great at explaining how lock and dams work, and the kids are having a wonderful time. Then Charlie notices some movement on top of one of the eighty-foot high sodium lamps which guide the barges at night.
Two peregrine falcons are on top of a light and the male is humping the female. Charlie thinks, is this a teaching moment? Hey, kids, look up, see those two falcons mating up there? Isn’t Nature great?
But no, he calls me on his cellphone and describes what happened, and the kiddies are still innocent, and I am spasming from laughing too much.
I have never held a bird and checked for private parts. That kind of research is for graduate students working on their theses. After work, I imagine, they shed those lab coats and go at it like bunnies, male behind the female, just like falcons.
Mating season is rough on female birds. I’ve seen six guy sparrows chase a good-looking sparrow chick, each one showing off their wing displays, because what else can a plain sparrow do? And the woman runs – runs, not flies because a male can outfly and grab her – and she sets land speed records to avoid doing the nasty with any old Tom, Dick and Harry.
No matter how majestic the bird, the humping is hilarious. And the guy bird is going nuts because it’s one-and-done until next year – if he lives that long. Birds don’t chirp along to Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Birds are all about the show. Gene Kelly birds get laid, Steve Buscemi birds don’t; Wiz Khalifa birds get some, but not Lawrence Welk birds. You feel me?
Speaking of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” Meatloaf talked Hall of Fame Baseball great and radio announcer Phil Rizzuto into recording a play-by-play account of a boy getting all the way to third base with his girl and heading for “home.” Rizzuto was worried that kids would be shocked, but in fact, he became famous to a legion of new fans.
In the 70s, I had a girlfriend, Anon. She and I would drink a cheap ass red wine called Spanata out of its glass grape-clustered bottle and uh, do it in the road, the bed, on the kitchen counter, the trunk of her car, or while watching “Mary Tyler Moore” on a Saturday night.
Anon had a caged parakeet in her bedroom. This bird would watch us bump our uglies. It would cock its head and whistle and dance on its little perch. I requested that the bird have a cover put over its cage, but Anon thought it was funny. And afterwards, the bird, which had never had sex in its life, would laugh hysterically and groom itself.
The moral of the story is humping, no matter the species, is hilarious to observers of other species. All males of Earth, preparing for the Big Bang, get this fluttery, yee-ha! look in their eyes, and all females of Earth, preparing to lie about how good it was and shouting, oh baby, oh baby, look damned silly.
Remember this on your next amorous night, when your dog is at the foot of the bed or your cat watches you from the floor and your butt is in the air. They’re laughing at you.