Forget skateboarding, playing video games, or reading celebrity gossip. The new hot trend in America is birding. Yup, birding. I should know; the New York Times told me so. And my old pal Scott Weidensaul is the Andy Warhol of watching Tweety.
(Scott is the one on the left)
Growing up in Mountain City, PA, I was not what one would consider to be a “conventional” native. I prided myself on that. But Scott far outpaced me on the “unconventional” scale. Thus, we were drawn to one another. That, and the fact that he did all my biology dissections for me. Back in the day, we did some hard core dissection. We not only had to cut up frogs and mice; we even had to kill the little buggers.
Now, I like to think of myself as pretty macho, albeit unconventional (the two are not mutually exclusive), but I don’t like facing down live critters and ripping their guts out. Not right before lunch, anyway.
To the rescue came Scotty. Scott was not averse to coming to school in traditional Native American garb with a live snake in a pouch on his belt. A natural dissector.
Scott helped me get through high school biology; I kept football players from throwing him upside down inside of his gym locker. Football players thought wearing handmade moccasins to school and knowing the words to all of John Denver’s songs was “weird.” They may have even made some overtly homophobic remarks, although I never met any gay Native Americans, aside from that guy from the Village People.
On the other hand, for all his dissecting expertise (hell, he even took up taxidermy for a while), Scott could be encouraged to vomit – easily — and against his wishes. He tended to suffer from a nervous stomach.
While I considered him a friend, high school guys often demonstrate their camaraderie for one another by finding each other’s weaknesses and exploiting them. This is what being a male is all about.
I (or maybe I shouldn’t admit to these transgressions. The statute of limitations may still be alive for some of them) … Okay, I was aware of “some people” gluing Scott’s chemistry book shut, right on the Periodic Table. Barf.
Leftover sushi ending up inside his gym bag. Barf.
His calculator being buttered like a roll. Barf. Come to think of it, I know I didn’t do that one.
But now Scott is a Pulitzer Prize nominated nature writer and, as indicated in the first paragraph, America’s Leading Birdwatcher. His book, “Of a Feather” has just received a rave review in the Newspaper of Record, and unlike most everyone else in the world, he is one of the few among us who is truly doing what he loves.
He loves watching birds?!
Congrats, Scott. You made it.