Our Birds: The Ram and the Mammoth

I gotta admit, sometimes when I’m out-and-about birding I don’t always follow the rules of the road.


Or to put it honestly, I break laws. Purposefully? Yeah. But there’s reasons behind my behavior. Are they valid reasons? Well, yes. Aren’t all the reasons that we do something that goes against the whatever-grain, done for a valid purpose? But are they always lawful reasons? Well, no … not with the general populace.


But among some – those who do what I do as often as I do – it happens. Who? Birders! Why? Well, obviously it frequently has to do with a bird. Sometimes a good bird, sometimes not. And if you’ve been reading this column long enough, you know that a good bird is one that’s hard to find, rare or sometimes exotic.


This is a story of a good bird, breaking rules and an irate individual who had control issues with a law breaker. Before I tell this tale, I must warn you though that it contains explicit language. But not to worry, I’ve used this little symbol [*] as your cue to interject whatever combination of words that fits your sense of swearing, blasphemy, cursing, and/or besmirching another in what ever manner you might want to insert at the appropriate place as I share this story about being yelled at for just being a birder doing what a birder does when you gotta get out of your vehicle right then and there and look at a bird!

OK, here we go!


Meet the screamer

He was leaning across the front seat, shaking his fist at me and yelling, “What the * do you * think you’re doing? Don’t you * know that you’re * parked in the middle of the * road? Are you * crazy or some kind of * idiot, you *  **  * !”


I got the impression he was mad. Really mad. And I was his outlet. He’d sped past me going south on Happy Valley Road honking the horn, shaking his single-digit fist at me from his turbo-charged Dodge Ram 3500 4X4 extended-cab dual-wheeled 5.7L V8 diesel with two American flags waving from the back side windows.


Now he was back, stopped opposite me and yelling. Me? What was I doing? Well, I was standing in the road in front of the Westy with binocs looking out into a pasture to the west toward a pond, trying to find a bird. A good bird. The law says I can’t do that. Stop, get out and stand in the road, that is.


I’d watched him coming toward me doing at least 50 mph. It was a long, straight stretch of road. I was stopped on my side, he was on his when he first went by leaning on the truck’s horn and shaking his single-digit fist out the window at me as he passed.


A confrontation
I stood there watching him continue down the road. He stopped in a skid, backed into a driveway and spun back out onto the road throwing rocks from wheels and headed back north toward me. Now he was stopped on the opposite side of the road, leaning across the seat, continuing to yell at me. “… * * *, what the * do you * think you’re * doing stopped in the middle of the * road?”
I looked at him. Looked out into the field toward the little pond. Looked at the binoculars in my hand.

Then I looked back at him.


He stopped yelling and I said in a solemn non-hostile voice, “ … looking for mammoths!”


His countenance wasn’t friendly. I lifted my binocs, pointed west and said again, louder, “Mammoths!”

He looked where I was pointing, looked back at me, looked again out in the field for a long moment.


Me? There was a field. A pond. And on the pond there were a few ducks. There really weren’t any mammoths.


Then, all at once he really went ballistic on me, “WHAT THE ** ARE YOU * TALKING ‘BOUT YOU * ** IDIOT!?! THERE AREN’T NO * MAMMOTHS THERE!” pointing to the field.


Finding fault

OK. So I wasn’t supposed to be parked in the middle of the road (even though I was on my side and he wasn’t). But there wasn’t anyone else coming in either direction when I’d first stopped. And he wasn’t even in sight until he came around the corner and roared past me with his fist waving.


I didn’t want to explain to this misanthrope that I was a birder looking at two Eurasian wigeons clustered with seven American wigeons and a single ring-necked duck.


I was parked in the middle of the road – on my side. And I was standing in the middle of the road – on my side.


He turned from the field, looked back at me, yelled some more. Swore some more. And made a lot of noise, smoke and diesel smell as he took off north.


Then he did the same thing again: turned around and headed back south toward me. This time he came past doing at least 70 mph, leaning on his Ram’s horn as he yelled and shook his one-digit fist at me one last time.


The Doppler effect was right on schedule.


He continued on, the horn blaring away, hand out window (he wasn’t waving goodbye) and was probably still swearing.


I thought, “ … he’s scaring the Mammoths!”


Mammoths? Well, they did roam this area once. But not in the past few years. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t supposed to be parked there or standing in the middle of the road. And I don’t think he believed me about mammoths, not the way he was practicing his anger management skills on me.


Maybe he’d had a bad day and I was his only outlet for pent up emotions.


Again, I know you can’t just park in the middle of the road, get out and look at birds! You’re not supposed to do that. But I do.


And if you’re a birder, I’ll bet you have, too, eh? Like the time when I was out in Neah Bay on Backtrack Road and I saw what I thought was a bluejay fly across the road in front of me into a copse of trees.


Stopping quickly, I leapt out of the Westy to chase it just as a dump-truck raising a dust-driven rooster-tail rounded the corner ahead of me doing 40 mph and I …


Reach Denny AFMJ Van Horn at

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