Monday, July 10, 2006

Cicadas, Nightjars and "Singing Moles"

In Patrick's usual Sunday post at Born Again Redneck he mentioned the peculiar buzz that a bird makes that lives about his Robin's Woods empire. He called it a nightjar.
I commented that maybe it was in fact an insect, saying that my Mom called cicadas 'nightjars'-and I have heard others call them that. Must be a regional thing.
Anyway, it got me to remembering Mom and her delusional innocence of the world and I got to wondering if Mom just might have been wrong about nightjars. This little story at her expense will explain that.

My Mom was a simple gal. By that I don't mean she was impaired mentally in any way, but rather her view of the world was simple. She took everything in with a child like trust that you weren't b.s.-ing her. She was, like alot of God creations, just as smart as she needed to be. I think if we honestly consider that, we can say the same for most of us. (although I know I'm not as smart as I want to be!)

So because of her simple trusting nature, alot of her understanding of how things were in the world were really quite wrong. But these were things that didn't impair her going about her day to day life. Just silly misconceptions, that's all. Notions that got imbedded in childhood and never questioned. Just accepted as fact. One evening many years ago one of her "facts" got shattered. At the time we all got a good laugh out of it, even Mom finally came around and realized the folly-after the inital shock wore off-and could laugh at her foolishness.

It was about 12 years ago, hubby and I had made the journey out there to San Diego to visit my folks with the new grandchild in tow. It was Christmastime. One evening the 3 of us-Mom, Dad and myself were enjoying the cool California dusk from their big yard swing. The neighborhood was washed in that orangey pink post sunset glow and somewhere, in a neighboring tree, doves were cooing. There was a lag in the conversation. The doves continued their woo-woo-wooooo woo-woo-wooooing.
Mom, never one to let conversation slip, had to make a comment.

"My! Just listen to those moles! Betcha it's gonna rain soon."

I looked at Dad, Dad looked at me- we both had puzzled looks on our faces. But Dad's was starting to show a grin. This was too good for the joker in him to let pass. Alrighty, he'll play along: "Whatta ya mean, Ma?"
"The moles, silly! Listen to them!" she then tried to replicate the doves call, but it came out as a stifled bellow. "My pa always said when the moles sing like that, it means rain is on the way. We had a bunch of singing moles around our place when I was growing up. You know, you'd never think something like that could make a sound so pretty...Oh, I just love to hear them!"

Dad couldn't keep up the straight man act any longer. "Lands sakes, Ma!! Them's DOVES ! Your dad was jokin' with you...Lord a'mighty!"

Mom had a look like she was about to cry. " Well, I'll be! Really?... Doves?" she looked at me. I took everything I had not to just burst out with a major league guffaw at that point.

"Well, why did he say that?" Now she was getting upset, now she was probably wondering about everything else her dad may have told her. Her little world had just took a big hit and was now spiralling out of it's happy, complacent orbit. She looked like she was about to cry. I guess the closest one could compare this moment to was finding out there wasn't a Santa. Except Mom was in her 70's at this time. She had carried that joke as fact with her all those years. I reckon the right occasion to shatter the myth had never come up until now.

I began to feel alittle awkward, we really shouldn't be making fun of her ignorance and she seemed so devestated by it. But, darnit, Mom made it so easy.
Just then the trio of doves took wing and swooped to a powerline just within our line of sight.

"Now lissen, Ma...." Dad pointed to the group of doves and, as if on cue, they began their cooing again. It was unmistakable as to where and what was making that sound.
"Why...I had no idea!!" She stared slack jawed at the birds. "All these years....." her voice trailed off.
We decided we better just leave it at that. Let that shocking realization just sink in without comment.

None of us ever brought it up again in her presence, but now and then whenever Dad and I were alone and outside and there just happen to be the cooing of doves in the background noise, Dad would lean over to me and whisper: "Moles!" and I would always reply "Yep...s'gonna rain."
And we'd both just grin.


Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

That reminded me so much of my mom who was a simple farm girl and also had some strange beliefs.

BTW there is a pic of a British nightjar on this page.

I could not find any reference to calling cicadas nightjars. It must be a "regional" thing.

7/10/2006 1:50 PM  
Blogger Cookie..... said...

As usual...Excellent, well written read Liz. My grandmother always called cicada's nightjars (every seven years or so) as well....never understood the connection.....or what a real "night-jar" was.... age 8 or 9, once asked me what a particular sofa was covered with...I said "Naughahide". She queried..."what's Naughahide?" which I kiddingly told her (in front of my other three children) it was the hide from little Nawgies...small little critters native to Canada...and it took alot of them to make the covering fer a sofa...

...she's 39 now and just realized a week or so ago (at our grandson's graduation party) when I laughingly informed her that there are no such critters as Nawgies and that I was kiddin her...

P.S....the other kids, now ages 36, 37 and 40...also believed it...

7/10/2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Ha! Thanks Cookie. See Patrick, I knew other old timers used that word for cicadas. And about them and Dad used to josh Mom about them, too!
Dad told her it took 46 Naugies to cover a recliner and that they were becoming extinct! I think she only halfway believed us, cuz she knew Dad was always pulling her leg.

I appreciate the link Pat. How do you do that? I can never get a link to work in Comments-even with the html!

7/10/2006 6:51 PM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Okay, now I believe cicadas are called nightjars buy some folks. :)

I can't explain the link thingy here as Blogger will not accept it.

7/10/2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger Walker said...

Omigosh I had a pleasant laugh at that story. Really really great, WTR, and I wasn't laughing AT your mom. I recognized her!

Just a few years ago (and, Lord, I'm 52), I thought body builders didn't have REAL muscles. It wasn't like they were actually STRONG, it was just cosmetic or something.

My mother told me that. Probably because I was shocked by how they looked. Never questioned it.

Makes me question my sanity, though!

7/11/2006 6:14 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

I thought I wrote you a comment before on this... hell, I don't see it.

Anyway, I just read your singing moles for the third time, and, really, WTR, there is a freaking market for that story. You should really try to freelance it. Cute as hell... I got one of those deep, satisfying chuckles out of it.

And your ending is just so perfect. Lord, I can see it all happening. Truly, you should win an award for that story. Fantastic!

7/11/2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Thank you for brightening my day. I love hearing "em sing too. Grin.
(a sign in yard one street over say... "Free Moles, U dig")

My late dear sweet uncle told my aunt that the cattle on the steep Columbia River Gorge were grown with two legs shorter on one side, so that they could walk the sharp grade and graze.

I think she was a little naive and gullible, but she had spirit ---- hit him with her tea kettle later.

7/11/2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Walker, thank you.
I really do enjoy writing that kind of stuff, even if I don't know jack about proper grammar, punctuation, etc. (I did go to school in Cal. afterall.) But that's what editors are for, eh?
I've been toying with buggin' the local paper for a weekly space. They're always lookin' for content-I may just stop notioning and actually do it. It's a start.

My Mom was so naive and childlike sometimes, her world was so much more fanciful and nice than reality! Maybe that's why she clung to the misconceptions. A place where little blind moles poke their heads out of their holes and coo in the evening dusk, like a troop of furry Stevie Wonders, doesn't sound like a bad place to live! Almost Disney-esque.

I think your 'lost' comment made it after all. That's funny about the bodybuilders! You're half right-I suspect a good portion of them are, uh, chemically enhanced at the very least! And don't even get me started about my Gran'ma and the Apollo space program...

7/11/2006 9:50 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

WTR, I am in publishing and, based on that story, I was trying to think whether we would have some kind of use for it. Can't say so right now.

But, I really, really want to encourage you to approach your newspaper about a column. Get about five of them together. You'll have to cut them down significantly if you want them printed as a column, which is the best use for it. But get five together, cut down to maybe 300-350 words, and I bet they will take it, especially if you can put a local angle in each one.

Your stories are just terrific!

7/11/2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

Or, there are actually some magazine markets for that piece.

PS Please get started on Grandma and the Apollo space program.

7/11/2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

I knew you had been in the newspaper biz, so your remarks aren't lost on me.
I'm humbled. Thank you for the advice, too!! I wouldn't know where to begin!
I respect the advice and opinion of those who have been there,done that.

(maybe we should take this offline...I'll email ya later today, if that's alright.)

I've heard similar tales about the cattle here in the hilly Ozarks, too!
Thanks for stopping by!

7/11/2006 10:48 AM  

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