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For a writer, convalescence presents opportunity - isolated focus, uninterrupted thought process and potential inspiration.

Take for example the exciting piece of music the "Tenement Symphony in Four Flats", that Tony Martin sings in the Marx Brotherís movie "The Big Store". Now, picture the composer holed up in a sweltering apartment and forced to endure the cacophony of Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen in the late 1920s. But inspiration unfolds and, as the lyrics indicate, "from this confusion comes a grand allusion". The composer becomes one with his habitat and magic unfolds.

Can anyone forget Hitchcock's macabre "Rear Window" where a convalescing Jimmy Stewart shares his East Side habitat with an ax murderer? Happily, Jimmyís saving grace is Grace Kelly. What's the likelihood that these writings and countless others rise from a dreary convalescent situation and become works of art - either with purpose or by accident?

Well what shall I do with my opportunity? If you have to convalesce, the Highland Lakes area is as good a place as any. The physical act of writing is out of the question for a few weeks - too strenuous. I will begin by becoming one with my habitat, selecting a subject and writing to my memory until I am ready to type.

From the first floor guest bedroom where Iím hanging, I share my habitat of towering trees, and a stunning second story deck, that gives the impression of a tree house, with a great variety of birds. By day, the tree house is a veritable "food court" offering favorites to a large variety of feathered clientele. The house specialty is the goldfinch seed sock, unattainable by any other species, except a feisty pair of squirrels. However, all species return to their own habitat at sundown, save a small colony of White Tail Dove. When it comes right down to it, the doves are my only real neighbors; and, therefore, my only subjects. Luck of the draw, I suppose.

Nature, I believe, is still tinkering with the dove's makeup, and there's much work to be done. The dove's West Point type uniform with the white regimental stripes may be well founded, but it's only available two sizes too big. Consequently, the poor bird takes on a Jerry Lewis sad sack appearance. Also, its skull and neckline, borrowed from some other bird, should be exchanged for something more statuesque. Not surprisingly, the dove behaves in a goofy way and seems delayed in its general response time.

On the lowbrow meter that compares intelligence quotients, one being total dumbness and ten brilliance, the dove is a two. Contrast this with the honored mockingbird with its marvelous birdcall repertoire and creativity, the incredibly alert bluejay with its sometimes sinister aggressiveness and the unique roadrunner that must decide continuously whether to pursue pray on foot or on the wing. These guys are way up on the meter.

Interestingly, the dove's gentle traditional call of "Is that you-who, who, who" is seldom heard. Instead, a harsh and militant call abounds that sounds like "Rip it McKool", not to be confused with "ribbet." In the interest of investigative journalism, I intend to call my friend Dr. David McKool, a retired surgeon in the area and ask him what he knows about any belligerent dove activity. Well, he's a swell guy, but he may tell me, "Take two stool softeners and call me when things clear up."

This bird's suspicious change of attitude and the rise in terrorism are more than a mere coincidence, according to sources close to the FBI. They detect another call that goes like this, "Pray on Ayatollah, Ayatollah, Ayatollah. The FBI is astonished by the dove's newly acquired aggression and they are convinced that this bird could be a valuable leading indicator of any divisive public behavior. Moreover, the FBI is intrigued that the dove's low lowbrow rating corresponds to the population segment thatís high on their watch list.

From my observations, I believe "Rip it McKool" is simply the male"s initiating call meaning "Hey, come on over" Eventually, it is answered by the female's call that sounds like "Whatís this powercold, powercold, powercold." Which means, "Come on, I'm way behind with my work - besides, how come I always have to come over there?" After a moment of consideration, the male replies, "Rip it Mckool". This exchange continues until the female acquiesces or flies off in disgust.

The next morning, before sunrise, the same ritual begins anew; this time, these birds seem to be equipped with bullhorns that project their calls as fiercely as a tumid tufted titmouse. Thatís it! Never mind convalescence. It's time to rejoin the real world.
Copyright © 2003, Robert D. Harrell, all rights reserved

To contact Robert Harrell, Email Robert at harrell@zeecon.com
Horseshoe Bay, TX
June, 2003

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Robert Harrell was born in the early 1930's. An avid sailor and golfer, he lives in Horseshoe Bay, Texas.

Robert Harrell