Echoing CBC’s spin, this is an encore presentation. (It’s a repeat.) It came to hand courtesy of a friend who’d kept it awhile since it was a column from the Edmonton Journal sometime in the 1970s written by Frank Hutton. So, here’s Frank:
“I spent three days on a bird-watching tour – which I do every year when the time is exactly right. That was the morning I did a totally unexpected pratfall in the backyard on the way to my car. I’ll be a long time forgetting how delighted I was about that, knowing how it heralded the birdwatching season. And sure enough there was an interesting variety as well as vast quantities.
“The most common, of course, is the Flat Headed Intersection Polisher.
“They can be seen in flocks around busy intersections and they’re most easily identified by their method of taking flight. Initially they place a gentle pressure on their right (sometimes referred to as their gas pedal) foot.
“If immediate movement is not forthcoming they react by jamming their right foot into the floorboards, resulting in a swaying sort of motion as they sashay forward, leaving a fine varnish-like coating of ice behind.
“It should be noted that nothing enrages the Intersection Polisher more than being passed during its take-off by a Nimble Footed Ice Walker. The Ice Walker, of course, by employing a more moderate foot pressure, for some reason seems to attain its cruising speed much sooner with less slipping, sliding and weaving.
“Busy intersections are also the favorite habitation of the Ambi-Footed Feather Brain.
“ Though not nearly so numerous as some other types, the Feather Brain is identifiable when stationary at traffic lights. It keeps its brake light brightly lit by depressing one foot firmly while, with the other foot lightly depressed, it keeps one rear wheel spinning gently on the ice. This bird as you can appreciate, has a tendency to build a cosy nest, with its spinning wheel and often stands immobile for long periods — often through several rotations of the lights.
“Between controlled intersections is the favorite haunt of the Wool Gathering Jay which some authorities merely refer to as the Jaywalker. This bird, similar in many respects to a Turkey, can be spotted waddling briskly onto busy thoroughfares seemingly unconscious of the fact that cars cannot stop as readily on ice as they do on dry asphalt.
“These birds are also often seen actually unconscious in the same haunts.
“Particularly unnerving at this particular time of year, I feel, is the Pointed Headed Tail-Gater. His method of travel is based on his firm conviction that “if you can stop, I can stop. His judgment for the most part, can’t be faulted since nobody can stop.
“But the occasional wayward-dribbled, city-scattered sand under the wheels of the car ahead can prove his undoing.
“Much more dramatic — immeasurably more difficult to watch — is the Jet-Tailed Roadrunner. It travels much swifter than other road birds because of its innate self-assurance, and ability to ignore driving conditions, and with total disdain for lesser creatures. As I mentioned, it is extremely difficult to study in flight because of its abnormally high speeds. This particular bird, however, has a tendency to undergo great changes to its physical appearance when it comes to rest, which it often does abruptly.
“In fact, bird watchers studying it on those occasions have described it variously as resembling the Crumpled Beak Dent bird, the Bohemian Scratched Wing, and the Woodpecking Fence Fighter.”
Since this was penned in the ‘70s new species have emerged. We now have the four-footed off shoot perhaps, of Frank’s Nimble-Footed Ice Walker. This particular bird is unflappable since it’s convinced its four feet makes it invincible on ice as if it’s glued to the road, and, an offshoot being its ability to climb tall mountains in six feet of snow echoing Grandpa’s tales of walking to school in the good old days.
It’s the rest of us birds who need to be nimble to move aside to let this one hit the ice and show us how it’s done — well, except for when they hit smooth ice, rough ice, white and black ice, none of which care how many feet you have twisting and turning and grasping for footholds.
A tip of the hat to Frank Hutton, and my friend for keeping the clipping. And another tip of the hat to Yukon drivers, as eclectic a bunch as you’ll find anywhere.