The bird is now in Jeopardy!
Published: Friday, April 28th, 2006
It’s official — the roadrunner has made it to infamy. Everyone knows, of course, the way to gauge if something is famous is if it shows up as a Jeopardy! question or a crossword clue. Since “Gargulinski” doesnít fit well as a crossword clue, it’s better to gauge it by Jeopardy! And Mr. Roadrunner was certainly there, even if it was only on the home game version that doesn’t even feature a live Alex Tribek or contestants telling us inane anecdotes about how they got on the show by studying Jeopardy! questions during executive board meetings. The roadrunner was even the $1,000 question, no less, for a fact that anyone who lived in New Mexico, however briefly, takes as common knowledge. After all, the bird is plastered all over the state’s drivers’ licenses, random billboards and even some roadsides. Well, perhaps the latter is not really true, since the birds are much too quick to habitually get hit by a truck. The bird deserves its fame in many other ways, some of which even the staunch New Mexican may be unaware. Roadrunners prefer walking or running to flying — which is somewhat sad, as they are not fully utilizing an amazing gift. In fact, 94 percent of kids asked what magic power they would most like to have, they said wished they could fly. The other 6 percent either wanted to be invisible or eat a whole bag of Oreos without getting a stomach ache. But even on the ground the roadrunner is brisk, striding in speeds up to 17 mph. That puts even those New York rush-hour commuters to shame. They also eat rattlesnakes (the roadrunners, not the New York commuters). This is a grand service to residents as a co-worker at my New Mexico job once came in all pale and pasty, saying she found a rattlesnake under her truck that morning. Not only was she late, unable to concentrate and for some reason still wearing sandals, but she kept a shovel by her desk all day and we kept tripping over it. Roadrunners would nab that snake right where it rattles, thereby saving employers an estimated $321,067 per year on episodes like the above. Roadrunners also have a couple of very unique body system things going on. They absorb water from their waste products before it wastes them, thereby making it a perfect desert inhabitant. They also do some weird thing with salt and their nasal passages, a situation best explained by a wildlife biologist who has spent many years living under desert rocks. This, of course, increases the roadrunner’s chance of being abducted by aliens for further study and thereby lets New Mexicans breathe a little easier, especially those who live in Roswell. It only makes sense that little green men from Mars or little purple women from Venus would most certainly rather investigate roadrunner nasal passages than the twisted human brain. The roadrunner is also smart. Besides somehow getting with Darwin and adapting its body to adapt to a dry, uncomfortable and rattlesnake-infested environment, the bird knows to take frequent siestas in the blazing mid-day heat. We, too, tried this at my New Mexico job, but it caused more problems at the office than even the shovel by the desk. So we see why the roadrunner made it to Jeopardy! — and how the TV cartoon gets a lot of it wrong, thereby cheapening the roadrunner’s image. Sure, the roadrunner constantly outfoxes the coyote, but one must ask why this intelligent, beautiful bird is wasting time and energy playing with the coyote in the first place. We must also ask where that annoying “Beep, beep” noise came from. That same biological expert who lived under rocks for years said the roadrunner makes no such silly noise. Instead, the bird emits a series of dove-like coos and often clatters its beak together. This would sound much more like a music box with castanets than the blaring beep with which it has been vocalized. Perhaps a campaign to raise the roadrunner to a sophisticated status is in order. We need to show the world he deserves to be revered, honored, maybe even emulated (save for that nasal passage thing). Being featured as a question on Jeopardy!, my friends, is merely the first step. Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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