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“The Cuckoo”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 7, 2015

Yesterday afternoon was just a bit unsettling.  We have a large picture window in the living room that faces the backyard.  There’s some plants on the porch, but no obstructions.  By the garage a few yards away is a bird feeder that gets plenty of action.  Well, I’m sitting on the couch, watching a little Keith Olbermann on ESPN2, when all of a sudden there was a bang on the window.  Birds have flown into that window before, so I knew right away that’s what it was, but this was louder than any of the previous collisions.  I looked out, and saw a medium-sized tan/gray bird on its back, gasping and twitching a little.  I immediately went outside, praying it had just been stunned and would be up and about as soon as I got there.  No such luck.  The poor thing had broken its neck, and died just a minute or two later.

I felt terrible.  I know I couldn’t have done anything to help the bird, but I really wanted to.  I tried to be respectful as I disposed of it; that seemed the least I could do.  And I know this kind of stuff happens all the time.  Like I said, birds have flown into that window before, but this was the first fatality I know of.  (There are a lot of cats in our neighborhood, so there may have been other bird accidents that were disposed of in a more food chain-friendly manner when I wasn’t around.)  But these kind of things are omens in the movies all the time, so it left me feeling just a little off-kilter the rest of the day.

Which makes “The Cuckoo” the best bird-related song I could use for this post.  This is a deeply unsettling tune.  It’s an old English folk tune about gambling and true love and stuff like that, but the mood is so dark and creepy that it could be about birds killing themselves in windows.  Or a Hitchcockian avian uprising.  Or a murder.  It’s eerie.

The more famous version is probably Clarence Ashley’s, which I heard on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.  But the clip isn’t the greatest; you can watch it here if you’re interested.

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