You know you want to.
Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.
Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.
It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?
After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake.
It was 78°F outside (25.5°C) that afternoon and I started thinking my negotiating skills could use a little work.
The threat of a vicious plucking doesn’t have me thinking about toting a shotgun when I cross the dooryard (maybe a tennis racquet) but that ice was looking kind of feeble and I wondered how binding a promise is when that promise is to a Titmouse.
Other bird names sound just as made-up as Titmouse. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of my favorite silly names. It sounds funny, except when it doesn’t.
There are Coots and Boobies and Stints, Wandering Tattlers and Greater Yellowlegs (Lesser ones, too). Then there is the quadruple-entendre Bushtit and the (boom)Chachalaca. Throw in some Greenshanks, a few Beardless Tyrannulets, Cuckoos, Noddies and Snipe and there are hours of immature fun to be had with the bird-watching crowd. Don’t even get me started about Woodcocks.
Alas, new species of birds don’t come along very often (and the old ones have a way of disappearing) so the need for creative new bird names is quite limited.
A glance through fly fishing catalogs and magazines will convince anyone that those who tie flies are bound by no such constraints.
New patterns appear each year, whether created from scratch or as significant variations on a theme, and each of those new flies has a name. The need for names for new flies is virtually unlimited, but coming up with a catchy name no one has thought of requires creativity and deep thought. After all, once someone names a fly Rat Faced McDougal, what could be left?
Quack Doctor might have gotten a few chuckles, back in 1892, along with Cow Dung, when they were included in Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. Green Butt Skunk must have a story but I’ve never looked for it and I don’t know how the aforementioned Mr. or Mrs. McDougal felt about the whole thing.
Fly fishing has Boobies, too, along with other flies that lend themselves to innuendo, such as Stimulators, and Green Weenies. Others, like Bitch Creek Nymph are named by virtue of birthplace but are still fun to say.
I can only imagine what those who don’t fly fish think of those who do when they hear the names of some of our flies (or go poking through these pages). I learned early on that not everything I hear is quite as it sounds and I no longer faint like I used to when snippets of fishing camp conversations reach my ears.
Opening Day is the Saturday after next and I
brace myself for eagerly anticipate the annual onslaught return of the anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond. After six months of quiet, it takes some time to adjust to so many voices outside my head but it won’t be long before I can walk by a camp and not give it a second thought when someone yells, “What did you do to my Montreal Whore?” or, “Hey! Check out the size of my Meat Whistle!” or, “Where’s my Butt Monkey?”
To the ignorant or uninitiated, hearing such things might be shocking but somehow, to me, words like those are as much a sound of spring as peepers and song sparrows. Some of the men talk that way, too.
With less than two weeks to go before opening, me and the titmouses have not been the only ones watching the ice on the lake. Most haven’t been actually watching the ice; they’ve been calling and emailing to ask about it but it changes from day to day, even hour to hour, and I don’t get paid to stand around watching ice melt. The ice has been deteriorating — of that there is no doubt — but the changes can be subtle, at least when observed over the course of the average human attention span.
A camera on a tripod, however, can stand around all day.
And now, for something more dear to an anglers heart than Boobies or Butt Monkeys.
Say it with me: