Blackbirds, Doomsayers & Hexes

Did you notice how 2011 arrived like a scene out of a Hitchcock flick? Out in the middle-of-nowhere Arkansas Four-and-twenty blackbirds fell from the sky, dead, along with hundreds of others. Wildlife folks in Arkansas are speculating as to the cause, suggesting that perhaps the birds were struck by lightening or were felled by an unreported hail storm. Frankly, I find it easier to believe in UF0s and Unicorns. How is it the hail was enough to kill over a 1,000 blackbirds but not enough to damage homes or windshields?

Undoubtedly End Times doomsayers will latch onto this as some sign of the coming apocalypse that they are already predicting will come to pass in 2012.

No telling what the witches in Romania would say about blackbirds dropping from the sky in the dead of night. I’m sure that if they weren’t embroiled in their own struggles they would turn their attention toward the folks in Beebe, Arkansas. But, alas, those dadgum politicians in Romania up and declared witchcraft a legitimate profession. The crafty new law, which went into effect on Saturday, is simply another means of taxation. Witches aren’t the only black-collar workers affected — astrologers and embalmers and valets will also be subject to taxation from here on out.

The new law has ticked off plenty of people but at least one witch has gone public with her intent to seek retribution in the form of a hex. She says she plans to cast a spell using black pepper and yeast to create discord in the government.Thankfully, we live in a more civilized society. We don’t need witches to cast spells to create discord in our government. We have Congress, FoxTV and CNN to handle that for us.

Perhaps all those blackbirds were scared-to-death by fireworks, as some wildlife biologists have claimed. But if I had two cents to bet, I suspect that the deaths are likely the result of the close proximity of Beebe to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where one of the nation’s largest stores of weapons of mass destruction recently underwent incineration.

Don’t assume that if the birds were exposed to some chemical hazard that you are going to be reading about it in the headlines. That won’t happen until we get 20 years down the road and the cancer clusters start manifesting themselves.

Here in Oregon, where I once served as a reporter covering the conniving ways of military contractors serving Umatilla’s Chemical Depot, I learned how very quickly the cover-ups happen. I also learned the economics of community reporting. Consider, for instance, the recent story about how the private contractor burning chemicals five miles up the road from where I sit typing this was fined nearly $60,000 by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality for violating the air quality standards. Oh. And they failed to monitor leaking hazardous waste into water system. A system that, ultimately, feeds into the Columbia River.

But no worries says the company’s spokesperson, Hal McCune. No harm, no foul. No people were never at risk by the company’s sloppiness. Oh. And Hal? He used to be the editor at the newspaper where I worked. He was the one who taught me that companies like Washington Demil would much rather pay a fine than comply with environmental standards. While we have yet to have blackbirds falling in the dead of night, the cancer clusters studies are sure to be forthcoming.

And you thought you wouldn’t live to see this day — when blackbirds rained down from the sky and witchcraft is declared a legal profession.

Seems we do, indeed, have ourselves a blockbuster of a year ahead.

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  • Ivy

    When I saw this on the news this morning, I ran to the computer because I knew you would be posting on this. Question- Was that double negative intentional? (“No people were NEVER at risk…”)

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Ivy: You are so funny. Am I THAT predictable? (A curse for writers). And the double-negative is tongue-in-cheek.

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    Baltimore… Been there. Takes some doing to find it, tho Miz Shelby and I managed.

  • I recall a political cartoon from the Nixon/Watergate days when a few of the insiders began to tattle on each other. Caption was: “And when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing…” At least the 4 & 20 got to sing. The 1K silenced fowl must have known something about waterboarding and kickbacks inside KBR/Halliburton. So they done got their tweets taken away.

    Speaking of… Have you been following the fate of the soldiers exposed to hexavalent chromium at the Karmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq? Smaller numbers but no less serious physical harm than Agent Orange of Vietnam. The aforementioned company has successfully dodged legal responsibility for negligence in all other cases except the current one now proceeding here in OR. If these families ever see a dime of compensation before their grandkids have gray hair it will be a miracle.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Roger: I have not been following the Iraq situation. Not surprised that the companies have dodged liability. I can remember working the newsroom back in the day when the military started using private contractors for jobs that heretofore had been the jobs of soldiers. There was much talk about how the contractors would exploit their position and yep, it’s panned out.

      • Whether it’s KBR’s responsibility or that of the Army is a contract legalese issue. But in public statements, KBR has had the gall to repeatedly claim that there is no medical evidence to indicate that exposure to hexavalent chromium is harmful to health. OK, execs, lawyers and spokespersons, then call a press conference and stand there before the cameras as you add a half teaspoon of it to a cup of coffee and chug it. Put a nice pinch into the next bottle of formula your newborn grandbaby consumes. Make believers of all of us. Or do the right thing.

  • When I read this story I was really puzzled, I think you just helped me put a couple of pieces into place. As for us in Pittsburgh I think out black birds are on some kind of steroids if they start falling from the sky we will be going to the basement for protection.

  • siteunseen

    Glad you posted this. What strikes me right away is those white suits and the facial masks so they won’t breathe anything which would be danger to them. Anyone knows that picking up dead birds doesn’t require a breathing apparatus, does it?

  • smcknight

    Did that nuclear incineration smoke knock out birds in the between-towns, like Lonoke and England?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Or kill the fish in Ark and the birds in LA? Well, maybe it was flying unicorns.