For the Birds Radio Program: Response from the Pumphouse Bard

Original Air Date: Oct. 22, 1987 (estimated date)

A Barred Owl’s cranky yet Shakespearean response to Laura’s Ode to the Pumphouse. (This script is not on the index of programs so I’m not sure if/when it was aired.)

Audio missing


(Recording of a Blue Jay)

Last week on “For the Birds” I waxed poetic about the Lakewood Pumphouse, up the shore a ways. We radio-birdwatchers seldom get mail, but the day after the “Ode to the Lakewood Pumping Station” aired, a special delivery package was delivered to the KUMD aerie, containing a cassette tape responding to that program.

(Recording of a Barred Owl) Dear Radio-Birdwatcher:

I know you humans send messages by letter or phone, but I don’t know how to write and have no intention of learning, and I’m not about to get my talons caught in a phone dial, so I’m sending you this cassette instead.

What fools these humans be! As the Pumphouse Bard, I would like to point out that not only can’t some humans tell a hawk from a handsaw, but apparently some of you also can’t tell a poem from a polemic. Brevity is the soul of wit, yet your poem was neither witty nor brief. And, as I listened, I swore ‘twas strange, ‘twas passing strange that you left out the most important migrants of all–we owls. I have, perhaps, some shallow spirit of judgement, choked with ambition of the meaner sort, but I do think it’s reasonable to expect you to provide at least a candy deal of courtesy to us migrants of the darkness. Night’s candles steer our course as we hang upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear. Attention must be paid! I am as melancholy as a gib cat, or a lugged bear. But I know a trick worth two of that. The time and my intents are savage-wild. I will speak plainly. If you don’t play the following verse on the air, we owls are going to get Baker’s Blue Jay Barn to stop underwriting your program. A plague upon such backing! If it be sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive. But now, friends, Minnesotans, countrymen, lend me your ears, as I read:

Ode to the Pumping Station–revised edition

An Owl on the wing
Is the finest thing
In all of God’s creation.
And the proudest of all
Migrate every fall
O’er the Lakewood Pumping Station.

But season your admiration for a while. I’d like to bring up another matter that has been a crow in my side since your program’s inception. You have no business calling it “For the Birds” when not once have you ever directed a single program to us birds. Noooo–and not only is every program clearly intended for a human audience, you also treat us birds like objects–to be studied, counted, probed, laughed at, and even pitied. Hath not an owl eyes? Hath not an owl claws, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not snap? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

But the quality of mercy is not strained. To show you that there are no hard feelings, I’ve written a limerick just for you:

There once was a birder named Laura
Who focused on fauna, not flora.
She searched hill and dale
For an elusive black rail,
But all she could find was a sora.

And now, exit, pursued by a bear!

(Recording of a Barred Owl)

That was the Pumphouse Bard, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”