Roadrunner seasons: Fall

This is the second installment about Roadrunners in the desert west.  The season this time is fall

Roadrunner atop the donkeys’ cement block shed, hollering his war cry.  Quick sketch by Emily A. Lee

In our early years in unincorporated county south of Albuquerque one roadrunner frequently enjoyed a sunbath atop the shed in the corner of the weedy paddock.  Lizards, horned toads, garter snakes and grasshoppers abounded below in the days before our growing long eared herd finished chewing off the weeds.  The view was clear and the flat roof offered shade, thanks to a vigorous young Siberian elm.

One day the bird sought the roof after his morning round of hunting, packed full of grasshoppers and Iams for Less Active Dogs, the latter from our patio.  Skilled stalker, he’d been indulging in a favorite activity, shadowing neighborhood dogs.  Pace for pace he pursued them, freezing inches from a waving tail if the owner paused, gliding when he ambled, matching motions as perfectly as a distorted shadow.  Dogs unfailingly conducted business with no suspicion of what brought up the rear.

The bird’s performance could very well be the reason why cops and detectives “tail” someone.  Except they’d have to follow superlatively invisible to match the skill of Roadrunner.

Now Roadrunner fluffed raggedy feathers, bared a dark patch on his back and dozed.

Jasper, the donkey, had recently joined our family.  Black on top, white on belly and nose, hot in desert sun, he paused for a snack at his hay tub in front of the shed .  I left yard chores to scratch his neck and ears as he munched.  And then…

Above us the bird opened white-gold eyes to pinpoint the source of crunching.  A cautious step brought him to the edge of the roof, where abruptly he let out a sharp, rattling “ZZZZTTTT” — much like a power screwdriver.

Jasper in 1995, about the time of this event 

Jasper levitated, ears whirling.  Whamming backwards, I hit the shed.  Four hooves landed, aimed precisely 180 degrees away from the hay tub as donkey streaked across the field, volleys of heehaws expressing his state of mind.  Moments later the bird raced from the roof, hot on the trail of lizards.   No glee for him — this was all in a day’s work.

There was I pressed against the sun-warmed concrete block shed with the echoes, alone.

Weeks passed, bringing the area a late fall cold spell.  One windy day the roadrunner took another nap in the sun, this time on the good warm ground.  He fluffed pointy feathers and veiled his bright, white eyes.

Jasper noisily shook his ears as he edged along fences, nibbling weeds.  By now these were his fences.  He knew the way around inch by inch, including the dried remains of every bindweed that wove its way through the wires in summer.  Hooves silent in the loose soil, he munched ever closer to the dozing bird until he stood just behind, his shadow angled away in the honey glow of the sun’s late afternoon rays.  Up went his head.  With a mincing step forward the donkey set a hoof gently down on the roadrunner’s back.

Tailfeathers from … guess!

Feathers flying in all directions, the startled bird took his turn shooting across the field.


After that a truce took effect:  that particular roadrunner did his ground sunbathing elsewhere and he never hollered from the shed roof again, either.


And here with the musical thought for this post is the remarkable Silvio Rodriguez of Cuba.  The music of his long career as a folk singer and guitar master never fails to inspire creative visions.  This song could be designed for Roadrunners — as it is called I Dream of Snakes.  Sueño con Serpientes.

Sueño is a metaphor about ridding oneself of nasty things only to find them coming back bigger than ever.










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