Woody Woodpecker Turns Manic Attack Bird, Pt. 7: The End

The lie


Cruel reality.
Not funny

All right: Enough with the Big Advice already. I think we all know there’s only one thing in this world that truly concerns any of us: Manic Woodpeckers.

There I was, near to my goal of ogling nest innards.

And then came the bird call heard ’round my nervous system.

Upon hearing that lone, initiating call of the BAS, I dared hope it was an errant vocalization. Maybe it was a bird new to the neighborhood, one not familair with the idea that you’re only supposed to start the Bird Alarm System when a Troubling Predator has made an appearence—not a lonely, dorky teenager who is nonetheless continuing to radiate the kind of peaceful Tarzan vibe that any animal would have to be anti-instinctual to find threatening.

Clinging to the tree trunk, seven feet off the ground, I froze, and listened for what I dreaded was coming.

And then I heard it: The second BAS call, coming from about half way down the meadow behind me.

Not. Good.

I panicked. Which, I discovered, is difficult to do if you can’t actually move—which I couldn’t, since I was one Nerve Pulse away from dropping off that tree like a sack of door knobs.

Frozen, yet panicked, I decided to go for it. Who knew how far away the Owner Bird of this nest might be? Could be really far! Could be in China! Or maybe the bird was deaf!

I had to take a chance. I was young. I was impetuous. I was … poorly groomed, I think.

The whole thing was just ugly.

But dang it, nature is nature—and it was calling me in a way that, well … didn’t involve me hiding behind a bush. No, this time nature was calling to me, “Quick! Look in the nest! Before something happens!”

So I scrambled further up the trunk—until I was right beside the nest of my quest. Only about one more foot to go!

And that’s when I heard the most God-awful (are we allowed to say that? If not: sorry! I don’t mean it in vain! Or vein! Or …?) screeching sound in the history of exploding nerve cells.

I turned to look back across the meadow.

And that’s when I saw the winged vision that haunts me to this day. Seriously: the sheer visual of it is something I know I’ll remember forever.

A mature (well—let’s say full grown) Pileated Woodpecker has a wingspan of about three feet. Not vulture-size or anything—but pretty impresive. And I am here to tell you: When you’re seven feet off the ground clinging to a fat, rough tree trunk, and you look behind you and see a full-grown PW flying straight at you, with its freaky-looking red mohawk, its long white neck with what looks like a black collar strapped tight around it, it’s three-foot wingspan—when you see this giant, angry, punk-rocker of a ticked off, screaming bird coming at you—it can be a distinctly impressive sight.

It sure was to me, anyway. My whole body went into “Well, We’re Done” mode: I froze like a statue. All I could do, it seemed, was watch my terrible fate fly right toward me.

For a moment there, through the haze of my sheer terror, I couldn’t help but Actually Admire the way the bird commanded the air. That thing was definitely clear on how to gain the most momentum in the shortest amount of time. It had the whole Flap-Distance-Wind Velocity calculation down. If woodpeckers ever get jobs at NASA, we’ll be on Jupiter before you can say “Now, glide.”

The last thought I had before the bird actually banged into me was, “Isn’t it going to stop?”

That’d be a no. This was Roller Derby Bird, for sure. That thing hit me hard. It did this awesome thing, where at the very last moment it sort of swooped in from the side, tucked its head, and just butted me with its shoulder.

And then there I was, knowing for sure I couldn’t fly. I hit the ground like the frenzied sack of teen bones I was.

And that bird soooo wasn’t done with me. Once I was down, it latched onto the tree trunk about two feet above my crab-walking backwards body, and cussed me out with a long, shrill, shrieking string of Bird Invectives that I’m sure had gophers and mice all over that meadown holding their ears shut.

It actually poked at me a few times with its beak! It had this amazingly long neck—and suddenly its whole head was dangerously near my crotch; I was in imminent danger of getting the bird’s voice.

I had frozen pretty good in that tree—but once I was down on the ground getting grilled and almost-drilled by the scariest creature I’d ever seen, I became Joe Backwards Hustle, for sure. I think I scooted backwards about half-way across that meadow before I slowed down. I practically burned a trail betwen me and Psycho Woody.

Anyway, that’s how, one day, when I was 17, I got attacked by a woodpecker. It was totally my fault, of course. And I’m absolutely positive that somewhere within this experience lies a lesson for me. The moment I figure out what that lesson is, I’ll let you know.

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  • Ha-ha, too funny. I'll have to remember to take my pictures from the ground, and stay out of the trees.

  • nisperos

    As Franky would sing….

    "He pecks a few holes in the tree to see

    If the redwood's really red.

    And it's nothing to him on the tiniest whim

    To peck a few holes in your head…

    He he he he he, he he he he he…"

    So, tell the truth and shame the devil:

    Is this (or has it ever been) your ring-tone?

  • No. But now I'll never sleep again. Thanks, man.

  • Tony

    That was a great read. Too funny.

    I am still convinced you need that show on Animal Planet…"John Shore—Nature Man".

  • Tony

    Well, I don't think the problem is you interacting with nature. I think the problem occurs when nature decides to interact with you.

  • I do like the sound of that. Except for the part where I’d actually have to engage nature. But maybe I could use some kind of Nature Pope Mobile–you know? a glass-enclosed vehicle?– which I could drive around in the wild. Then I could, like, POINT to stuff that looked interesting, and go, “Can someone go over there and check that out?” or, “Hey! I think I saw something move over there! Someone go look at it!”

    I’d watch that show. For about four minutes.

  • You got that right. I was once TOTALLY–and I mean in ways (and places) to disgusting to delineate–attacked by a Portugese man of war, if you know what that is. Which I hope you don't. At least, I hope you don't know about them as intimately as one of them got to know about me, once.

  • Okay, I know this post is so 2007, but I just had to thank you for the laugh.

    That, hands down, is the most hilarious thing I've ever read! I almost woke all three of my kids. I tried to maintain, but after a few seconds of what reminded me of laughing in Church – or, more accurately, trying not to laugh. You know the laugh – the one that if you were somewhere else and drinking milk, it would totally be coming out of your nose – anyway, I gave up (and Thank God refreshments are not really smiled upon in Church!)

    Anyway, BEST laugh I've had in forever. You are just too cool!

    I don't know yet if there are more "psycho animal" stories in the rest of the archives, but already I'm pretty sure I'd never go to a zoo with you. lol

  • Thank, Nonnie. This is so sweet of you! I do have, on this site, some more animal things: I did this whole bit on squirrels, and another on Coyotes. You can find them under … well, "coyotes" and "squirrels" under the Categories button right to the right here———–>

  • nonniewatson

    Those, I've read. (I started from the beginning. With three kids 6 and under, I might catch up in … oh, a month or so) Thus my reluctance re: the zoo. Any zoo. lol

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that animals dislike you, but there is definitely something bizarre going on there.

    You're writing style is a treasure – I'm so hooked.

  • Well, I sure do appreciate the kind things you've said here. You always HOPE people are out there reading and enjoying your stuff, so … it's really nice to learn someone is. Thanks again.

    Re zoos: I live in San Diego, home to probably the most famous zoo in the world. The zoo here is like Eden, only … more organized. I do okay there. Here at my APARTMENT, though … you know what? I can't even begin to tell you what's been happening here with these hummingbirds that live in this tree right outside my office window. But without question—and I mean, withOUT question—they have some kind of serious issue with me. They may love me; they may hate me (how can you tell with hummingbirds?), but they DEFINITELY feel something extremely extreme about me. It freaks my wife out. Doesn't do me a lot of good, either.

    One things for sure: hummingbirds are the chihuahuas of birds.

  • nonniewatson


    That does it – I’m now completely convinced that at some point in your life you must have seriously offended a member of the animal species (or fowl, reptile … I don’t know, but SOMETHING) and they have since put out the word about you.

    Playing that out in my head is pretty funny itself – what, for instance, might the hummingbirds have heard from Woody? Where did it start and through how many species and lines of communication has it crossed? What was said? (Ooh … The “Godfather” would just HAVE to be the fish – if they give the word, well – you know the saying “sleeping with the fish” – except in this case, cut to the fish’s home and it’s reversed – they have stuffed humans on their walls.

    Okay, I’ll stop. lol

    Forgive me – I’m an illustrator/graphic designer and this type of thing would make one hilarious comic strip! Endless possibilities! lol

  • Man, that IS funny!

    Do you know what my wife calls me? “Tasty Man.” Because all animals, all the time, if given any chance at all, bite me.

    Yet … animals also seem to LOVE me. Cats (and of all my Animal Issues, this is by far the weirdest) follow me around. They actually … walk behind me, randomely, all the time. Cats seem to OWN me in a way I can’t even begin to … say, basically.

    Anyway. It’s just too … something or other. But … thanks for … thinking about it with me!

  • nonniewatson

    My pleasure. 🙂

  • Loved Woody since I was a little boy. Great blog.

  • Thanks, David.

  • I loved Woody growing up! Funny blog, keep it up