Bird #6 — Red-winged Blackbird

agelaius (belonging toa flock) phoeniceus (deep red)

Wednesday, May 23, 1979 — 10:30 a.m.

Des Plaines, Illinois — O’Hare International — Manheim Road

My roommate Larry and I were driving to my house from Moody in Larry’s ugly gold Ford Pinto, bringing a load of my stuff home. We had just pulled off the Kennedy Expressway onto Manheim Road when I spotted a male Red-winged Blackbird perched on a fence post in a weedy field between the airport and the road.

I think this was the trip of the Great Derby Calamity. Larry and I, because we were young and stupid, had purchased hats to wear around school. His was a stove-pipe, mine was a derby. I was holding mine in my lap as we drove down the Kennedy Expressway. The breeze coming in the open car windows suddenly grabbed it and whipped it out the window. To show you just how stupid we were, we actually contemplated pulling over (on the Kennedy Expressway, mind you) and trying to recover it. Fortunately, our brains kicked in just in time.

Two days after I saw this bird, I graduated from Moody. I don’t recall much about the ceremony except that during it someone walked on the stage and gave President Sweeting a note. He interrupted the program and informed us that a DC-10 had just crashed at O’Hare.

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