Black birds, dark thoughts and the colors of spring
Despite the damning of weathercasters by wannabe tomato growers,
the past week offered a rare glimpse into the heart of Mother Nevada in all
her fickle beauty.
Dark skies and raging winds have served as a battleship gray
backdrop for a spring rich in rare color. Mom wallows in the lushly drunken
luxury of a water-sated winter. Her attractiveness and fertility intoxicate
But she also warns us. If you would abide close to her bosom, you
must embrace her dark side. The black crows now rearing their young
throughout the region act as her messengers. They clean her estate of fowl
matters most foul.
Big, mean, loud and unforgiving, they are reincarnations of the
souls of Nevada robber barons past who now do feathered penance for their
sins as predators and scavengers. As they once were, they are again, dark
shadows extending greedy wings.
We apparently dislike Mother's bastard birds. State government has
declared open season on them. Bad idea. I nominate them to replace our
unlikely official state featherling, the mountain bluebird.
More than any symbol I can imagine, the black crow perfectly
portrays the darkside of this pretty place. If I could vote, I'd drop the
happy little harbinger of happiness and make the crow our official fetish.
The crow perfectly reflects us and, figuratively and literally,
eats the bluebird for breakfast.
Look above you as you drive along on a blustery afternoon. Mother
Nevada's dark angels soar overhead against a quickening sky. When even
hawks and eagles chicken out and stand down, the brazen crows maintain
Crunch! Thump. Just as you wonder if that big bird up there be crow
or hawk, Mom jolts you back to reality via a pothole on the chunky obstacle
course of city streets.
The cruddy carpeting has reached up to remind you that you cannot
long escape the two-faced reality of Mother's House.
Look over there at the cheap weekly motel where people were killed
and will be again. Here's a raggedy person who can't even afford that
humble housing, heading instead for the shelter of the riverbank and the
certain roust of some cop.
The crows are lost to your sight as you creep into the slowness of
the downtown caverns. They are somehow so much prettier in the stubborn
light of a winter which won't retire.
Even the streaked and splotchy stucco of the Flamingo Hilton
becomes right when set against a storm sky with crows alight. What would
look tired and dingy with blue above and heat bleaching downward now looks
like lusty impressionist splashes in a neon-laced color cocktail. Mother
Nevada's seductive spring can make even the mundane attractive, but beware.
You know you are not welcome within the casino citadel unless you
have something in your pockets worth vacuuming. You know that many people
working here have dangerous, low paid jobs and live one step away from the cold riverfront.
You know that they are increasingly forced to pay more and more of
the expenses of the overlords from their meager paychecks. Soon, they may
be stuck paying the tab for the continuing depredations of the railroad as
Its black engines and deep footprints cut through the hearts of our
two little towns, spewing black smoke to complement the crows above and
The gambling overlords in their cherrywood aviaries look down upon
Union Pacific's landbound, flightless bird of burden and recognize it as a
Need a bit of the corporate welfare to which we've become
accustomed? Peck away at our plantation population all you please. They've
always got a little more to give in the name of a booming economy and
Crows in the sky. Carrion birds on the tracks chasing us to the
shelter of the river bridges. The blackest birds oversee and manipulate
from the fine-feathered nests of their guard towers.
Such is the price we pay for intimacy with beautiful Mother Nevada,
the high rent for living in this lush, light and darkly seductive place.
CROW DU JOUR Now that it's okay to shoot pesky crows, I'll be
eating hearty. Last week, I noted that the late, great Sen. Frank Church
(D-Idaho) was knocked out of politics during the 1980 Reagan landslide
partly because of misrepresentation of his abortion position by the Rev.
Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority.
Turned out that I misrepresented the good senator's position as
well, basing my comment on a news report from just after that forgettable
election when Church joined more than a half-dozen liberal giants on the
Former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan (D-Nev.), who now runs the Las Vegas
Sun and other southern Nevada newspapers, thought I was wrong and called
the senator's widow to find out for sure.
Bethine Church related that her husband took the right-to-life
position until the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision which he
afterward supported as the law of the land. However, he also sponsored a
bill to allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortion services.
On ABC's Nightline after the 1980 election, Sen. Church and five
other defrocked senators were displayed like talking heads on a trophy wall
against a smug Rev. Falwell. Sen. Church took special offense at Falwell's
campaign smearing him as a baby killer, a rant started by now-disgraced
former congressman George Hansen (R-Idaho).
"Frank Church was raised a Catholic (his father's religion), but as
did not affiliate with any particular church or denomination. The
biography by LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer ("Fighting the Odds") says he
left the Catholic Church by high school age. His son became a Unitarian
minister," according to an e-mail from Alan Virta, Head of Special Collections
at Boise State University Albertson's Library.
I thank him for his prompt response to my information request, and
to Gov. Mike for setting me straight as he has done in the past.
Unlike the Lush Rambos of the world, when I cook it, I eat it.
Hold the buckshot and pass the ketchup. Gimme some charred critter,
properly deep fried.
Cro Magnons of the world, unite.
Be well. Raise hell.