The birds and bees
Last updated 2/4/2005 at Noon
Just recently, one of my readers insisted that I “stick to the birds and bees,” a subject, that many of you know is dear to my heart. So here goes…
When I worked for OMSI, I was jack-of-all-trades. My official title was “Naturalist,” but I also helped in the exhibits department, drove the museum bus “Spacecruiser” and gave hundreds of talks at schools, PTAs, and service clubs.
I also helped get the “Science Fair” going in the museum, ran Camp Alpine and toured the West with kids on the “Science Tour.”
But my favorite job of all was to prepare Camp Hancock near Fossil for summer operations and keep it going until the summer director arrived.
“Camp Hancock,” as it will always be to many of us “old-timers,” has now been promoted to the Hancock Field Station.
That’s okay; progress is something we cannot escape. But all the so-called “progress” in the world cannot remove the cherished memories of the many spring and summer nights and days I spent at Hancock with those wonderful teenagers from all over the US of A.
One warm morning, a young science student came up to me and blurted out, “Mr. Anderson, would you tell me about the birds and bees?” That took me aback and confused me a little. I knew this kid well; his father was a well-known physician in the Portland area — a reproductive physiologist no less — and this kid wanted to know about the birds and bees?
“Oh well,” I thought, “stranger things have happened,” and said, “Come on Art, lets go have a chat under that juniper tree.”
After we were comfortable I launched into the discussion with a few comments about sex being necessary for the continuation of the human species and began to approach the biological difference between men and women. I didn’t get very far as the young man interrupted me.
“Oh, shucks, Mr. Anderson, I know all about people; what I want to know about are the birds and bees.”
We sat there looking at each other trying not to laugh, but we both ended up guffawing and leaning on each other until we had tears in our eyes.
Then I said, “Oh…” and we started laughing all over again.
When we finally quieted down, a few other campers had come over to see what all the hilarity was about. When we said we were having a discussion about the birds and bees a couple of them asked if they could join us, while two older boys said, “Oh, we know about that…” and started to walk away. However, Art said, “No wait. This is really going to be about the birds and bees.”
In all of the nature talks, lectures and sermons I have given over the years, that day will stay with me and always fill me with so much gratitude and warmth. We talked about the sex life of birds, how hummingbirds are the most “unfaithful” of the birds as a male will mate with a female and then promptly go off looking for another lady-friend.
This met with a couple of ribald comments from
a few boys and looks of
stern disapproval from the girls.
We talked about the sex life of bees, which, as any beekeeper can tell you, ain’t much.
The drones (male bees) are only allowed to live in the hive long enough to mate with the new queen and then they are banished or killed. However, they do mate on the wing and that’s got to be cool.
The discussions drifted in and out of the birds and bees, and when we got to parthenogenetic reproduction among female whip-tailed lizards, one of the girls said, “See, you guys, we don’t need you!”