of the Meadowlark
of the great influences of my
childhood was the song of the
meadow lark. Larks had become
special, because my father had
woven a myth wherein the day
of my birth, March 21st,
and the first day of spring,
and the return of the meadow
larks were intertwined. In fact
he put together a ritual we observed
for many of my early birthdays.
We would go out behind our barn,
and look out across our cow pasture
towards the Boise de Sioux to
the east and listen.
bourne on the chilling March
breeze would come those glorious,
pure, soul-restoring notes of
the first lark, 'See see the
hear him, Daddy. 'I would shout.
I hear the meddlelark! I hear
dad was a great whistler, and
he would immediately answer the
lark's call with his own almost
perfect reply. Then the lark
would answer; then my dad, then
other larks would chime in from
other quarters of the pasture
and voila, Spring would have
really seemed special then, augmented
by my boyhood enthusiasm and
love for all things natural.
But the returning spring birds
held an almost holy mysteriousness
to my young, developing soul.
There was a mingling of spirits
taking place: hope, and promise
and renewal and restoration mingled
themselves with pure joy and
jubilation that winter, that
grey deathly thing was dying.
larks always struck the first
chord for me, even though other
avian voices were often audible
on March 21st as well.
Kildeers and red-winged blackbirds
would soon or simultaneously
be heard from the east side of
the red Pinkney barn on those
sacred and blessed mornings.
And at night, flock after flock
of geese voiced, their wild cries
adding the miracle of night migration
to the awe filled-imagination
of at least one young “
brother of the old wild goose”
fully tuned to their wild tumult
in the night.
was the larks that inspired my
first venture into poetry. I
think I can even still remember
something of how that poem went:
songster, bird of spring
perched or on the wing,
all the pastures ring
I joy to hear your voice;
all the fields rejoice
you is all my choice
out your song.
many springs since those early
days I observed the ritual of
listening for the lark.But it
was about 1988 when I first experienced
disappointment when the larks
failed to show up on time. Sadly,
that disappointment has been
growing steadily for the simple
reason that Rachel Carson’s
prophecy of the 'silent spring'
seems to be coming true at least
for the meadow larks of the Red
River Valley of the North
year’s spring journey down
to Bigstone Lake in South Dakota
to open our lake cabin turned
up not a single meadow lark.
I used to see hundreds on such
trips even back to the mid-nineties.
hope it is just the absence of
the little farms with their cow
pastures that has become the
cause for this dark omen; but
I fear intensive areal spraying
and wall to wall intensive farming
of every available square inch
of farmland is the real culprit.
good old farmers, many going
out of business in my boyhood
50's, often left all sorts of
fence-lines and marginal land
available for wildlife. Now there
is almost none in the valley,
nor are there larks--or pheasants
for that matter.
the redwing blackbirds still
thrive, but field sparrows, upland
plovers, bobolinks and even killdeers
seem to be on the way out.
pray God will give them sanctuary
somewhere, but what a huge loss
it is to the valley, that the
few farm boys still growing up
out there on the huge expanses
now passing as farms, will not
be able to stand outside their
barns on the first day of Spring
and be awed and inpired with
the purest thing in all of North
Dakota nature: the song of the
song was all I needed to assure
me that 'God was in His Heaven
and all was right with the world.'
the kids have rap music. God,