[Tweeters] The Incredible Loudness of Terns

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Apr 18 21:25:25 PDT 2013

After a day digging holes I bopped down to the Anchor Pub where I was glad to see an old friend sitting in a chair out front, soaking up a bit of April sun - that would be Clem "son of clam" Clemson, but everybody just call's him Clam. Clam is a retired clam digger and the Anchor's oldest customer- or at least he looks like it.

"Hey Clam" I said, walking up. I wanted to hear what he thought about the recent closure of the big Kimberly-Clark mill down here on the waterfront.

" WHAT!! Speak up boy, it's so quiet down here I can hardly hear you!" I knew full well he could hear everything I was saying (he's old but can hear like a bat) and he also has an uncanny ability to know what you're about to say before you say it.

Just then a Caspian Tern flew over calling loudly. " Will you listen to that!" Clam exclaimed. "Sounds like somebody killing a cat! But it's just one of them terns.I gotta admire a critter that can make that much noise!" he said with real enjoyment. "But you know it's kinda ironic".

"Ironic? How's that?" I asked.

"Well, my ol' uncle Erster told me all about it, how them terns got to be so loud. It was because of that Industrial Evolution".

"Oh you mean Industrial Revolution".

" Like hell I do! I don't call easier ways for the rich to get richer any kind of 'revolution'. More like the SOS if you ask me!" he said with some heat. Clam is an old Wobbly. IWW all the way.

" No it was that darn Industrial Evolution. See, ol' Erster was here before all the darn mills started up. Back then everybody just used hand tools, and things were nice and quiet. You could hear a clam squirt a hundred feet away. Back then them terns were real quiet like, quiet as a little sandpeeper. But then the darn factories came in and that Industrial Evolution got going- everything got louder and louder. But them terns was up to the challenge! They spoke right up all along, a bit louder each year, and now hear 'em! Loud as can be, and now there's no mills left. Can you see the irony now kid?".

"I get it, Clam , I get it". I said. I was a bit skeptical,and I guess I lost control of my face for a second.

" Now don't go rolling your eyes at me kid. You don't know it, but ol' uncle Erster, along with being a crackerjack clammer, was an accomplished early birder. Back in those days of course you could afford birding even on a poor ol' clammer's wages because you didn't need all them fancy optics like everybody seems to need now, maybe only reading glasses.".

" How did he see anything with reading glasses?" I asked.

" Well see, back in Erster's day a person would just shoot the bird. That way you could hold it in your hand and get a real close up view, see all the details and all the markings. Even get measurements. And of course you could always eat it if you were tired of clams".

" Gee Clam, sounds kinda harsh".

" Now don't get all green on me kid. It's no worse than that J.J Audubon feller. Uncle Erster used to joke that ol' J.J should of called that big ol' picture book he made "I Shot the Birds of America". If ol' J.J. showed up at an Audubon meetin' these day's they might string up that long-haired bird blasting hippy!"

Just then Clam was interrupted by a loud barking sound coming in from out on the bay.

"Whoooeee! Just listen to that Sea dog out there - that thing's got more bark than a big ol' Doug fir! 'Bout the only critter around here louder than one of them terns!"

"Sea dog?" I inquired.

" Well most folks call 'em Sea lions, and I guess they're about as big as one, but they don't sound much like the big kitty" Clam said."Sounds like a big dog to me".

" I didn't know you'd been to Africa Clam!"

" Well I haven't" he said, "but I have seen a lot of MGM movies!"

Jeff Gibson
The Anchor Pub
1001 Hewitt Ave
Everett wa

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