Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Cattle Egret

There’s a swagger in the way the cattle egret walks across the fields of this fenced frontier, wingtips looped into his belt buckle. He won’t talk much at first, but if you get him going he’ll spin stories like country songs—beer drinkin’, cloaca kickin’ and trains beyond the horizon. He’ll tell of blue northers ripping down the plains and the time he lit a fire under a mule that hadn’t moved in two days. He waits while you imagine what a burning mule would smell like and then tells how the mule just moved over a couple feet from the fire and stayed put another two days before movin’ on. Usually, though, he just stares out past the longhorns, dreaming lonely dreams from another time. Maybe he even writes a song or two about the rough and tumble old birds of the past. In the evening, after a long day picking bugs off the backs of settled cows, he sends demos to Nashville and Austin hoping he’ll make it big someday.

glowing orange
the cattle egrets fly off
into the sunset


  1. What a delightful poem (pair). I have to admit to not knowing what “cloaca” meant. It’s damn funny word, especially in the syntax of the story. (The illustrations at Wikipedia make a fine companion to your tail, er tale.)

    Nice mid-point: humor, birds, mix of forms!

    • Thanks, Deb. I started with “butt-kickin’ until I remembered birds don’t really have butts. I know the picture you’re talking about on wikipedia as that’s where I went to make sure I had the spelling right.

      Glad you enjoyed the pair. I’ll probably take on the snowy egret next week.

  2. This is excellent, such a well drawn character. It’s such an American
    cattle egret though! The cattle egrets of Africa wouldn’t recognise
    themselves in it!

    • Thanks, CGP. Our American cattle egrets actually are the same ones found in Africa. They seem to have come here on their own in the early 20th century. I had a sentence relating to that but I cut it–couldn’t get it to work.

  3. come to think of it, clint eastwood does kinda walk like a cattle egret.
    is he from texas?


  4. This is hilarious. I like the “cloaca-kickin'” part. Inside joke for the birders among us, yet I’m glad some are taking the time to look it up! All this egret needs is a ten-gallon hat perched with the brim coming down to his eyes and a big ol’ reed hangin’ out of his beak, cowboy-style. The haiku at the end brought me back to reality, by the way, away from the egrets yarns and dreams.

    • Thanks, Heather. I’m glad you liked that. The hat was another thing I wanted to put on the egretprobably a 1/2 gallon hat, thoughbut it was getting too long.

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