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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Saturday, October 10

When I was growing up in South Dakota, we had country birds like blackbirds (regular and red-headed), crows, pheasants (lots of pheasants), meadowlarks, kingfishers, gold finch, and sandpipers. And I’m sure there were various hawks and owls, but we didn’t see much of them, or maybe I was just too young to notice. And in town there were a few redheaded woodpeckers, too many cooing and pooping mourning doves, some feisty blue jays, at least one house wren that lived in a tiny birdhouse outside my bedroom window, and robins all over the place doing their cockeyed worm search on our lawns. But by far the most numerous of the town birds were the house or English sparrows. Tiny gray birds whose tiny chirps were so omnipresent we overlooked them (underheard them?).

House sparrows were imported in the mid-nineteenth century in an attempt to rid us of inch worms that did monstrous damage to shade trees. After several failed importations of the bird, several final importations all over the U.S. and Canada were successful, to the ultimate dismay of most people ever since. The tiny birds bred like rabbits, ate seeds and buds and not insects, spread chicken lice and mites and livestock diseases, pooped everywhere. They earned the nickname “winged rat” by their detesters. I’ve always thought they were cute and friendly. We have some here that hang out at the golf courses and will come within a foot or so of golfers sitting on the patio, snatching up bits of dropped popcorn.

I just read an article about the sparrow, reporting that the birds are disappearing all over the country. And no one seems to know why. It reminded me of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring from the early Sixties. Her book wasn’t really so much about the death of all species of birds, but a protest against our use of DDT. Our use of insecticides has made our lives better and safer, but the reduction of insects may have had some affect on the numbers of our insect-eating bird species. But probably not much, and none on the sparrow, which is not an insect-eater. Since reading the article, I’ve made it a point to look for sparrows around our town. Almost none. Still a few on golf course patios, still the occasional one flying overhead at CostCo. But no flocks, no ubiquitous chirping. I invite any readers, wherever you live, to scout around for sparrow sightings. I hope this tiny bird doesn’t disappear entirely from our midst. I would miss the little winged rats.

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