Rare birds.

I saw a Phainopepla in the morning, and in the evening I saw a cowboy pour shots of whiskey into his ear. More about the Phainopepla in a moment.

That night I’d gone to a roadhouse. This was near Sedona, where a new age vortex was said to be strong, so maybe this all happened in some kind of alternate reality.

A shaky guy dressed in black joined me at the bar. He introduced himself as Chuck, and asked if I’d stand him to a shot.

While I was thinking of how to say no to this oddly worded question, he set his black hat on the bar, grabbed my shot, and threw it down his ear.

He tilted to keep the booze in, then slapped his head. Dirty hair sprung like a bunch of springs being unsprung.


I ordered two more shots. And two beers. This time, I was buying for both of us.

I downed my whiskey the usual way, and Chuck threw his into his ear again.

I drank half my draft, and he poured a bit of his beer into the same ear. A chaser, although some quickly foamed out and ran down his neck.

“I shot a coyote,” Chuck said. “That’s the problem.”

I still didn’t have a reply for this guy, but I looked at him, and I guess I looked interested. So he went on.

“I took a strip of its fur, wrapped it in a band of leather and figured I’d wear it in my hair. Saw an Indian do that. And I liked it.”

“Okay,” I said. “I get it.”

The guy had wanted some decoration. We were in a vortex in a flaky part of the west. He did have an aging hippie style. Made sense, I guess.

“Okay…” I said again, using that great all-purpose All American word to invite him to continue.

“Turns out I got mange from it. Mange is mites, you know?”

I did know. I know a lot of weird things, whether I’m near Sedona or not. I nodded.

Chuck went on, “Nobody gets it in their ear, but I did. Doctors can’t cure it. Alcohol stops my itch. So there you go,” he said. And tossed another shot into the side of his head.

He burped.

I’m pretty sure the sound of it didn’t come from his ear. But, by that time, my boilermaker had hit home. Maybe I did hear an ear-burp.

But I was going to tell you about that Phainopepla, right?

~     ~     ~    ~     ~

6 Responses to “Rare birds.”

  1. Sarah Bullfinch says:

    I love story and the website! Have you read “Seldom Seen Birds” and the 2 other titles of the series? if not, find them at Amazon , have a beer and laugh your tailfeathers off!!!

    Happy birding,

  2. jeff says:

    this is the kind of story you read once in a blue moon.

  3. Joyce J. says:

    And….”phainopepla” sounds like an ear burp.

  4. Gary Wood says:

    When I worked in psychiatric services, there was a guy who poured gasoline in his ear to kill the ants that were taking over his brain. I guess he moved to AZ.

  5. Joyce J. says:

    Okay…..In this “story” you’ve got a western guy in black…who wants a head decoration and acts fidgety…A phainopepla is a black fidgety western bird who has a head crest that’s wispy……ahhhhh…..a connection…..that’s okay in a vortex but hard to grasp unless you know a phainopepla, but fun all the same.

  6. Abraham Zion says:

    Stay our of the vortex, Mike, it’ll warp your mind.