restricted access 8. Facts to Suit Theories
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209 C H A P T E R 8 Facts to Suit Theories Clermont, North Queensland, 9 November 2013: A tenant in the caravan park is sternly and repeatedly shouting the name of his town. What’s wrong with Butch, Buddy, or Diesel? Scout and Bandit are also fine dog names. Maybe you could name a dog Clermont if you lived in Billings, Montana, or New York City, or even Paris—the name would likely roll off the tongue much easier in French. Yelling out a town’s name—isn’t that what a rock star would do at the end of a show, and then only once? Clermont is a mining hub, and the caravan park here is laid out with mining history in mind. These days, mining means coal, but the town witnessedagoldrushin1861 .Thebackroad,whereI’mparked,isProspector’s Parade, which curves onto Johnny Cash Court. Speciman [sic] Drive becomesFool ’sGoldCrescent(althoughbothrundeadstraight),whileGold Rush Way cuts down the middle, and Detector Avenue is off to the side. A pied butcherbird pair is actively singing duets, and as they fly around the park and the field behind, I follow them and record, getting a full tour as a bonus. A man drives twenty feet to drop off a small bag of trash and keeps the motor running as he gets out. The horse races blast from his speaker. In this neck of the woods, the radio network affords multiple opportunities to listen to racing twenty-four seven, both live and rebroadcast . Breathless announcers switch from track to track across the conti- “This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What do you imagine that it means?” “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” —Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 210 is birdsong music? nent, as if it were breaking news. The races are compelling. I’ve warmed to them as a music substitute. There’s the rhythm and inflection of the voice, not to mention the preposterous equine names: Ready, set, racing! Take Me to Paris charges to an early lead, with Cash Strapped pushing up. Temporary Home is showing pace. Farther back is Ready Reply, followed by Glass Harmonium. Big Weekend makes his move. Moment of Excess lifting now. Who Shot the Barman presenting on the outside. And it’s Temporary Home by a nose!1 She Devil—no, not a horse, but the name affixed to a Ford Falcon Ranchero parked on Johnny Cash Court where the birds have led me. You know, the model with just the front seats. (Later, I go online to get the correct color—vixen red or venom? I keep scrolling. Neither, as it turns out—she’s emperor red.) Next, the birds draw me to the temporary residents ’ side of the park, where two senior German couples with identical rented vans have set to work cleaning their (to me) already immaculately white vehicles with a squeegee and a bucket of soapy water. Meanwhile, a young French couple is sullenly smoking at the campers’ kitchen under the no smoking sign. Across from my campsite, someone dominates a conversation. If the word “f—ing” is an intensifier, she is very intense indeed.(“Rememberwhenwe—hadto—mailthelottoinby—Saturday? We put the same—numbers in every—week.”) Sixty-five people lost their lives in the 1916 Clermont flood. Among the visible reminders of the flood’s destructive force was a piano lodged thirty-two feet up a tree. The tree is still here, and the piano is reputed to be—it is not, but a replica is. I fantasized that a pied butcherbird would sing in that tree this morning. No bird did. A bird in drought, a piano in flood—it seemed a bit of serendipity that would make a terrific jumpingoff point for a (re)composition for violin and piano, Up a Tree. I planned to take advantage of the ruined piano in our garage. Is any of this human history, folly, and contradiction on subject? Yes, and no. The cognitive dissonance that I often experience negotiating my own species versus Cracticus nigrogularis gives me misanthropic pause. Might we think about ourselves from an extremely limited, arrogant, and skewed perspective? Who are we really? A hundred-piece symphony orchestra performing a masterwork of Western art music? A turbo-charged jazz pianist improvising over the rapid onslaught of chord changes that...


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Subject Headings

  • Birdsongs -- Australia.
  • Butcherbirds -- Behavior -- Australia.
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