Hot Air: Woodpeckers & Grandparents

I ate breakfast in the car this morning at the Cutright marina on Lake Monroe. I watched a trio of red-headed woodpeckers forage for their meals. Two adults and one juvenile. At first I heard one or more of them as they…, well, pecked at trees, unseen nearby. Their (or its) pecking was slow, sort of lento, musically. Whereas other woodpeckers have a more rápido (again, musically) peck.

Adult Image: Jeff Stacey; Juvenile Image: Jeremiah Trimble

After a few moments, one of the adults flew past my hot rod and perched upon a wooden barrier. She (males and females are similarly plumaged) watched a gang of drab brown birds pick at the grass around her, then she decided to hop down where they were and partake of the feast. The other birds scattered, leaving the buffet table for her. She seemed to be eating a lot down there, which surprised me because I’d thought woodpeckers only ate bugs out of trees.

Eventually, she was joined by another adult and then the juvenile. I don’t know if all three of them were related but the juvenile sure seemed to be acting snotty with the other two.

I Was A Cartoon Kid

Pileated.

Speaking of red-headed woodpeckers, one of my favorite cartoon characters when I was a kid was Woody Woodpecker. Only he wasn’t a red-headed w., as I’d thought all along back then. He had that tuft of feathers on top of his head, making him a pileated woodpecker. Now those guys are big, up to a foot and a half in length. R-h. woodpeckers are small like wrens and have smooth, albeit also carmine, pates.

I loved many of those half-hour cartoon shows of my youth. The Woody Woodpecker Show (1957-1966) and the others always had secondary characters that starred in their own segments. WW’s were Wally Walrus, Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, Buzz Buzzard, and one or two others. Usually the half hour would be divided into four segments with the main character’s bits sandwiching one or two of the secondaries’.

It was the same with George of the Jungle (1967-1970). His cartoons were always packaged with Tom Slick’s and Super Chicken’s. BTW: If you want to really understand a young boy’s burgeoning sexuality, consider this: George of the Jungle, apparently, had two girlfriends, Fella and Ursula. In the opening sequence of his segments, the girlfriends would be introduced, dancing to a jungle tom-tom beat. They were extraordinarily curvy and wore revealing, leafy, camiknickers. Swear to god, they aroused the bejesus out of me! Of course, I didn’t realize exactly what that arousal was at the time; I only knew I couldn’t take my eyes of them and my breathing got faster. Also, I’d think about them at various times throughout the rest of the day. It got to the point that I anticipated Saturday mornings just so I could catch a peek of Fella and Ursula. So, if you have nine or 10-year-old kids at home and can’t figure out some of their behaviors and habits, take this story into consideration.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends — AKA Rocky & His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show — (1959-1963) also had a stable of associated characters: Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Dudley Do-Right, and the repertory companies of Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop & Son. Some storied voiceover artists of the ’60s, including Paul Frees, Hans Conried, and even William Conrad, appeared in the Rocky and Bullwinkle stable.

Faces Behind The Voices: (L-R) Frees, Conried, Conrad.

BTW, Pt. II: Rocky was voiced by a woman named June Foray, who died in 2017 at the age of 99. She also voiced Dudley Do-Right’s girlfriend Nell as well as any number of Granny characters in classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Her great disappointment in life was auditioning for and not getting the role of Betty Rubble in The Flintstones. She lost out to a woman named Bea Benederet, who went on to play Kate in the evening sitcom, Petticoat Junction. And, speaking of a young boy’s burgeoning sexuality, when Kate’s three daughters — Billie Joe, Bobbie Joe, and Betty Joe — peeked over the rim of the water tower that they were swimming in (apparently unclothed, I desperately hoped) in the show’s opening, this then-10-y-o nearly passed out trying to conceal his heavy breathing from his parents who also were in the living room.

Breathless.

Why am I thinking about all this? I dunno; perhaps a pandemic lockdown brings out the best in me.

Grandparents: Two For A Dollar

Speaking of the pandemic, late-stage capitalists are now floating the idea that it’d be okay for this holy land to risk the lives of millions of old fogies and bats just so we can get everybody back in the streets and spending our hard-earned pennies on useless crap from Best Buy and Walmart. President Gag, for one, says we ought to quit hunkering down and get back to work (and, far more importantly, shopping) by Easter, which comes Sunday, April 12th this year, a scant 18 days from today. Medical experts say hell no, but the Randians and their philosophical brethren and sisteren imply What’s a few hundred thousand grandmas and grandpas in exchange for a robust economy (read: system that keeps the rich rich and the rest of us not)?

Remember Her?

Lots of folks are aghast at this proposed trade-off. Some are even crying hypocrisy, harkening back to the early days of the Obamacare debate, back when that deep-thinker Sarah Palin and cronies scared the hell out of senescent America by claiming there’d be “death panels” for Mawmaw and Peepaw. Now, acc’d’ng to the same bunch, Mawmaw and Peepaw should be happy to stop breathing so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy a healthy dollar. Or, more accurately, so that shareholders of United Worthless Shit Technologies Worldwide can get their customary dividend checks.

The righteous among us gasp that trading lives for economic good is a damned step too far, that we’ve all gone mad trying to protect our nation’s precious wealth gap. To which I reply: chill, people.

Truth is, we’ve been sacrificing people — women, men, children and, for that matter, anything that moves — time and again for economic reasons. What in heaven’s name do you think most wars are fought for? Our endless wars in the Middle East since the first Gulf War began in 1991 have claimed the lives of — at absolute minimum — a half a million human beings on all sides.

And — for chrissakes — this nuclear armed superpower that we live in and love/hate was perfectly willing to incinerate hundreds of millions of people on both sides of the Cold War if the godless commies dared to impose their economic system on too many more populations back in the late 1950s through the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It can be argued that most wars through the history of humankind have been fought for the sole purpose of ensuring the dominance of one nation’s economy over another’s.

Li’l Duce may be the biggest J.O. ever to occupy the Oval Office (with stiff competition from the likes of Andrew Jackson) but he’s not the first willing to off people — countless numbers of them — in the interest of strengthening the American economic system.

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