Monday, July 07, 2008

Pale Male or 08-135? Fourth of July Part I and Sally's Question

Pale Male or 08-135? Which is better?

I had made the comment in a previous post that if a bird I was reading about had a name I became more invested in following what happened to that individual bird. (In fact, I'd begin to feel guilty if I didn't.)

Sally left this comment on the post:

Interesting thought, about naming the birds. I guess it does bring us closer to them somehow, in some personal way we "know" them better if they have a name.

Although I think I had the same feelings for Houston 1,2 and 3 as for "Hous", even Riverside 1 or Cathedral 2 is more personally identifying than A217 or 08-135, as we identify our rehab birds here. Once they have a name, though, they are more like our family, and we do seem to take a more personal interest in them.

Would the public at large care more about our endangered creatures if we named them?

My answer? Absolutely! It's been proven. Back in the days when scientists were having lab rats run through mazes to see how long it took for them to learn the maze and how fast they could then negotiate it, there was a variation done in which graduate students thought it was the rats who were being tested but in reality it was the graduate students who were being evaluated.

Here's how it worked. The lead scientist would come in to lecture the students on how the maze trial was to be executed. All of which was introduced as if that was the experiment, but in the midst of showing an example, the mice cages were in view. All the rats had their own little cages marked with their individual letters and numbers. One cage had it's individual identifying notation plus an add on, a name--"Pee Wee".

Periodically the grad students came in and had the mice run the maze and notated the results, but unbeknownst to them there was a hidden camera scrutinizing their behavior.

It was noted that the students over time would give Pee Wee little nudges to get him started in a timed trial and other slight interferences that would help Pee Wee "win", ie., do better than the other rats.

Not only did Pee Wee have a name but it was an identiying name for an underdog rat and there was some thought that the grad students being grad students, and grad school being horrendously competive, and most people secretly living in fear of failure, they particularly related to Pee Wee and wanted him to succeed, as they hoped they would. I do like physically or at least geographically hooked names the best. They help people who drop by to look at the hawks know which one they are looking at.

For instance one season, there was an eyass at the Cathedral who was darker than the others and I believe Rob Schmunk may have started calling him Brownie. People then could individualize which eyass Brownie was by looking and could follow what he did specifically. Then when they saw him on another day they recognize him and enjoyed stopping and paying attention to him as an individual. They began to care much more about the hawks and Brownie in particular.

Now there is no question that Pale Male is a stunningly charismatic Red-tail with an individualizing pale head which makes him easier to identify than if he were more similarly colored to his mates. But I warrant that if he had been called 08-135 instead of Marie Winn's identifying brilliant stroke of a name Pale Male, we'd have heard much less about him. And of course Marie's wonderful book RED-TAILS IN LOVE didn't hurt one bit nor did his choice of real estate. Lets face it fame is the product of numerous variables but without the name? I don't think so.

Here we have a Red-tailed Hawk, a common species, who has become the ambassador for Wildlife in New York City, in good part initially with the public, because he has a very good name. People did and do care about him, and hence care also for the other named hawks which now grace our many neighborhoods with their own local watchers.

I had thought about doing the rest of the post which is about humans as if we readers were another species, observing them. A kind of field noting of Homo sapiens. Giving them letters and numbers for identifiers. Using "it".

I thought about it. It is just too disrespectful and some people might not understand. Therefore if you want to play the game for yourself, just read through imagining yourself to be some imaginery highly cognizant species observing the Homo sapiens fascinating behavior.

It's the Fourth of July. In Milton, Wisconsin as in many towns there is a parade on the 4th. On the left is Harry in his lawn chair. Remember Harry? He's the one with the emu. Harry is baby sitting the early 20th century Shepard and Nichols steam engine. This is the first year ever, that one will be in the parade.

Why does a steam engine need babysitting? Because it runs on steam, life steam, and it takes some hours to get a full head of steam going. There is a fire box full of burning wood that makes the steam. And if something goes wrong, like the water gets too low in the engine, the whole thing will blow sky high. And I mean sky high along with all the people within many yards of the machine. Someone and hopefully several someones are always paying attention to a steam engine.

This big silver number on the end, it's all hooked together is a 1916 Shepards and Nichols separator. When threshing, the separator separates the straw from the grain. Which is a big improvement on throwing portions up into the air from a flat basket hoping the wind will blow the straw out of the grain.
See the little red tank in front of the separator. That is a water wagon. It is important to have a ready supply of water when dealing with a steamer. It's that explosion thing again.
On the right is Paul, he'll be one of the engine operators for the parade. It takes two people to drive the sucker. (Now wouldn't it be more helpful if his name was Engineer?) On the right is Ron, the one wearing the aloha shirt with his overalls. He owns the steam engine. In fact he owns dozens and dozens of various era engines and tractors. His family never threw anything away and liked to collect stuff besides. (And of course if Ron were a hawk, his name would be aloha shirt.) This summer at the Thresheree they're going for the world record of threshing machines threshing at the same time.
12:31pm Finally the engine is getting the go ahead to move from the side street to the main street which is the one that the parade will go down.

You may have noticed there are three boys riding on top of the separator. I have a question. Look at the boy's expressions. What is it that happens to adolescent boys that turns them into this, emotionally...
12:37pm ...when they started out like this?
12:41pm Engine is now in parade position. This is Marty. He's my second cousin and his father is Harry who has the emu. Marty eats, drinks, and sleeps steam engines. Which is a good thing as we have one in the parade and time is still passing.
Remember the engine has a full head of steam? And it's just sitting there with nothing to do with all that energy that's building up. Suddenly Marty hops off the engine and madly begins turning spigots open. Paul is beside him and some water runs out of the pipes and into the street. Whatever it is, it seems okay now. Marty says something or other "is doing its job". I'm really glad.

A few minutes later with a huge roar and a shreaking whistle, steam blasts out of the top of the engine. That's the automatic steam release valve. If too much is building up, it lets off a little steam to relieve the situation. Now you know where the expression, "letting off a little steam" comes from. Notice that everyone is startled and looking at the steam except Marty. He's looking at the important things. The gauges there under the steering wheel. Just checkin' and I'm glad.
12:52 The release valve goes off several more times. Marty comments that steam engines aren't meant to just sit there and I assume someone may have gone to let someone know that the parade needed to start now. Marty puts on his sunglasses.

12:54pm The people in the people wagon wait.

And off we go. I'm sure Marty is relieved. The machine isn't the only thing that doesn't like standing around. For some reason he reminds me of the tank commander Rommel from WWII when he drives a steamer.

And keep going, there are the folks sitting in front of the volunteer fire house. Some one's grandmother is up sitting next to the fridge in the shade.

The children are always happy at the parade--the floats throw candy.

Then in, it seems like no time, we're at the corner that is the beginning of the end of the parade route.

And here is Harry of the emu, with all his bells and whistles. It really is an amazing collection that runs on an air compressor. And for some reason besides all the noise production he's got a lock from Alcatraz mounted there too.

After prodigeous numbers of ice pops, and feeling slightly more human the guys stand in a guy clump discussing legistics.

Remember Josh? He's the one who saved the giant snapping turtle who was crossing the road at an inoportune moment. Snapping Turtle was featured on the blog. Josh and I released him into the pond he was heading for.
Here he, Josh not the snapping turtle is waiting for the guys to finish their ad hoc conference about getting all the equipment to the Studebakers, without steep hills, so they can all be rolled onto trucks and taken back where they came from. Most of them are stored at Thresherman's Park in big ugly metal buildings. (Just a broad hint, I think they need period buildings to match the age of the tractors.)
Oh, that's a beauty of an 830 CASE Josh is sitting on. Yup the tractors have books written about them which are the equivalent of field guides for farm machinery. Who knew?
And now for a couple of Homo sapien field notes: 2:17pm This is Isabella. She is blue eyed and dark haired. Homo sapiens come in many different color morphs with great variation. This is a reasonably unusual combination.
2:34pm The most rare color morph and here we're lucky to have two to look at. The Red-headed Homo sapien. This is the most recessive color morph in the species gene pool!


Eleanor, NYC said...

During the Holocaust, Jewish people who arrived in Concentration Camps [and I believe, non-Jews also] were given numbers, tattooed on their arms.

This probably dehumanized them, and made it easier to exterminate them.

Donegal Browne said...


Sally said...

Well, I was told at some point that we don't name the rehab birds (usually, there have been some exceptions) because we are not supposed to get attached to them that way, as we are planning to release them! So gee, yeah, that makes sense!
Enjoyed the 4th of July pics-great old-time tractors! Reminds me of riding on my Grandpa's knee on the old Ford in the summer as we rode out to the "back 40" (acres) to count cows and make sure none had found a hole in the fence.

Donegal Browne said...


Because we're not to "get attached" to animals soon to be released which might make us feel bad when they go or in studies as our affection might make us competitive in the animals behalf or experiments for ickky reasons none of us wants to think about, some now consider it unscientific to name animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. A real scientist thinks it through. I'm not speaking about the hidebound box thinking types who automaton like are worried about their tenure and what people think but rather the real deals. The insatiably curious, driven, passionate, and in some cases downright screwball and whimsical people who think for themselves and have made many of the real blockbuster scientific discoveries through history. Of course there are instances where numbers are downright imperative but it's silly to make it a knee-jerk rule which it is completely counterproductive to the goal.

It's a no brainer. If you want people to deeply care that the California Condors may disappear forever. We need to get to know Harvey, and his mate,Crookwing, and his chick, Midge. If we've been following the adventures of Harvey and his family on a nearly day by day basis, when Harvey gets lead poisoning from eating lead shot in a deer carcass, we really do CARE. We want Harvey and all of his kind to survive. We'll send money for Harvey's care, we'll send money so the work can continue so Midge will have a chance of getting a mate someday. And if we hunt, we will never, never, ever use lead shot again. someday .
By the way, Sally, what state are you in and what kind of rehab do you do?

I'm glad you enjoyed the tractors on the 4th even though the photographs themselves might have seemed far afield to some. I too remember vividly adventures with older relatives and farm equipment. Uncle Carl let me drive the 1928 Case when I wasn't even ten yet.