For the Birds Radio Program: A Letter from Mr. Schulz
Laura recast this program from 2-23-96. The month and year are correct, but date not.
A few years ago, I got a letter from Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip. I had written him a couple of weeks earlier asking how he came up with the idea for Woodstock, Snoopy’s avian buddy. He answered, ‘’Comic strip inspiration happens so gradually that it’s virtually impossible to explain. One thing leads to another and something finally happens. Drawing is also very important and it took me 20 years to learn to draw Woodstock so that he was a good character.”
I had also asked Mr. Schulz what kind of bird Woodstock is. I recall Snoopy “thumbing” through a field guide and speculating that he might be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, though I can’t find that strip and don’t have a clue where it might be indexed. I’ve often noticed that Woodstock’s flight pattern is exactly like that of a Cedar Waxwing after eating one too many fermented berries, his plumage is rather like a Yellow Warbler’ s, and his crest like a Great Curassow or a Resplendent Quetzal. I might have guessed that he was a unique hybrid of these species except that his friends look just like him. So my conclusion is that they belong to a rare and unique species thus far undescribed in the ornithological literature. Ornithologists classify birds primarily by analyzing mitochondrial DNA and other cellular samples from blood and other tissue, and through close examination of the skeleton, but I assume Woodstock doesn’t want to donate tissue samples, and his skeleton is obviously still in use.
There have been rare cases where a newly-discovered species was named based on drawings or photographs. Schulz is the only person who has actually seen Woodstock and drawn him from life, so he is the logical one to assign him common and scientific names, but he apparently doesn’t intend to. He simply wrote that Woodstock “and Snoopy have never been able to figure out what kind of bird he is.” Schulz added that many people forget that Woodstock “was originally a girl bird—for she was Snoopy’s secretary.”
That jarred my memory. Yes, Woodstock was originally hired to type Snoopy’s book, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. The first time I noticed that Woodstock had suddenly changed to a “he,” I remember feeling disappointed that Snoopy couldn’t manage a platonic friendship with a female. I wonder whether Woodstock really is still a female pretending to be male in a desperate attempt to hold onto a so-called friend who cannot accept her as she really is, or whether she underwent a sex-change operation one dark and stormy night simply to please him. Either way, Snoopy turns out to be awfully shallow and sexist for such an affable public figure. This is a story worthy of a major tabloid talk show. Where’s Mike Wallace when you really need him?