Saturday, June 14, 2008

Buzzard Massacre Redux

This is a retread - so my apologies to readers who have heard this story a couple of times already. Texans do that, you know....

I know that some of my readers probably think I am as full of wind as a corn-eating horse, but this tale is all too woefully true.

Remember a few posts ago I spoke of a road trip to Hamilton and the Indian Gap side trip? Well, we never made it to Indian Gap. Weather was crappy and not conducive to my usual tromping around deserted old buildings. Kman usually takes the byways instead of the Interstates, which is much more suitable to our habit of exploration. We love the Koffee Kup in Hico, Storms drive-inn in Lampasas, and the Dairy Queen in Comanche. We do, however, avoid the Road Kill Cafe.

And that brings me to my story. Road kill. Buzzard buffet on the backroad. Between Glen Rose and Hico, I began to notice ominous flocks of turkey buzzards roosting in the last of winter's bare-limbed trees. Now, some fancy bird watchers - orinthologists - would say the correct term for this graceful, soaring bird is a vulture. To that I would answer, you can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make them biscuits. Turkey buzzard is the correct name for this nasty creature. And they are about as welcome on the highways as a skunk is at a lawn party. You have to keep a keen eye on buzzards because they are not the brightest bird in the sky, and they must have very poor eyesight or extremely macho attitudes. These devils will wait until you are right upon them in your truck before they decide to skedaddle out of the way and leave their vittles momentarily. It's not like that dead armadillo is gonna get up and run away. He'll still be there for the buzzard when he gets a chance to return for the meal. But, a buzzard gets stubborn and tries to play chicken with oncoming traffic.

Kman was flying low when we came upon two buzzards chomping on some undistinguishable genus/phylum lump on the right side of the road. At the last minute, they flew up - one away from the road toward safe pastures, and one straight in front of our high-octane rocket sled SUV.

KER-CHUNK. Shit. I look from between my fingers and see a large fanned wing waving wildly at me from the front grill. As Kman slows down, the teenagers in the two back seats come to life. "Oh my gosh, what was that?" Well, it sure as hell ain't no grasshopper (although in summer, Texas grasshoppers can crack a windshield). Slowly, Kman pulls the truck over to the side of the road. I noticed as we came to a stop, the wing stayed in the same position. Not a good sign. Everyone piles out to check out our own newly acquired road kill which has apparently decided it shall now become a hood ornament. Some folks have jaguars, and we have a buzzard. Wonderful. Feathers are stuck all over the grill, and other unmentionable gunk. Birdshit most likely. Poor old thing never got out of the on-deck circle. Of course, the usual smart-assed remark: "I bet he don't have the guts to do that again!" Kman has to pull the thing out of the maw of the grill. Now, the front end of the Expedition looks like a denizen of the Appalacian hills - snaggle toothed and crazed. Oh the wonder of plastic. Had the buzzard hit a 1968 Caddy, he would have been ground up and fried suitable for burgers with nary a scratch on the Fleetwood.

We left the old boy on the side of the highway. Ashes to ashes and buzzard to buzzard bait. And so the cycle of life goes on. Wonder what buzzard feathers are good for? I bet Martha Stewart never made a thang with 'em.


These birds can live as long as 20 years.
Turkey vultures are true scavengers, eating carrion (dead animals). As scavengers, they fulfill the ecological role of "garbage collectors" of the sky.
It is estimated that 1,000 vultures can recycle about 111,000 pounds of carrion each year.
Unlike other birds, they lack a syrinx (voice box) and can make only hissing and grunting sounds.
Like other large birds of prey, they can soar for hours on thermals without flapping their wings.
Usual hunting flights for vultures are just above the treetops at about 200 feet. During migration they have been seen at altitudes of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. Flight speed is about 20 mph when soaring and twice that when migrating.
Adults weigh an average of 4-6 pounds with females slightly larger in overall size than the males.
Turkey vultures have a six foot wing-span.
Many people know these birds by another name - Buzzards.
Turkey vultures prefer a full-bodied red wine with dead skunk or possum. White wine is best with smaller, less gamy animals like squirrels or chipmunks.

1 comment:

DarkoV said...

Who cares if it's a retread, CP; it's mighty fine reading, indeed. Up here north of you, where everything is smaller, except for egos, our vultures are of the Black Vulture variety. They have, at best, a 5 ft wingspan and are not discerning as far as the proper wine/concrete meat combination. They do, however, match the pea size brain with the buzzards of Texas and tend to snack over their meal a touch too long for their own survival.

I love watching them soar, though. What a graceful flying garbage chomping beast it is.