On the Wings of a Dove

With gas prices well over $3.00 a gallon and apparently settled in at that level for the duration, we’re seeing more and more magazine and newspaper articles about sources of alternative energy. One that always comes up in western South Dakota is wind power.

Wind is something we always have plenty of. As I write this, I can hear the musical jangling of the wind chimes hanging just outside my window—a frequent sound even in the sheltered valley where the house sits. Further out on the prairie, wind is a constant.

I used to think the Rapid City airport was the windiest place I’d ever been, until I experienced the wind at the airport in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I remember landing in a small plane at Rock Springs one July afternoon. As usual, the controller in the tower announced the weather conditions. He gave us the temperature and altitude, then—after a pause—the wind conditions. We could hear the surprise in his voice as he said, “Dead calm.” He had to repeat it, apparently to convince himself that it was true, perhaps because he had never had occasion to say it before. “Dead calm.” Lacking the expected wind to brace ourselves against, we almost fell over when we got out of the plane.

The prairies of western South Dakota are a lot like that. Your cowboy hat had better fit well, and you’d better pull it down tight, or your last glimpse of it will be a puff of dust as it touches down briefly on its way to Nebraska, Wyoming, or North Dakota.

So a recent dinner-table conversation among friends that started with high gas prices inevitably made its way to wind power. As we discussed wind farms, with their rows of massive windmills, someone mentioned that those huge vanes are seen by some as a threat to passing birds.

One of the men at the table, an engineer with that profession’s practical turn of mind, didn’t see potential bird-kill as a problem. He pointed out that you could simply supplement your wind farm income with a second business—selling snacks of wild bird meat. Western South Dakota buffalo wings, as it were. If the windmill vanes were set just right, the killing, cleaning, and cutting up might even be done in one fell swoop.

Of course, we’re talking about robins, doves, and meadowlarks, with only occasional hawks or eagles, so it would take a lot of wings to make up a serving. Perhaps a better approach would be to specialize in breast meat, maybe prepared in a smoker as my father does with dove breasts during hunting season every fall. They’re tasty little tidbits that certainly could appeal to the public. Advertising would have to be done somewhat carefully, of course. “White meat” is a little vague and not necessarily an accurate description. “Smoked meadowlark breast” just doesn’t have the necessary flair. Offering an all-you-can-eat “breast feed” might lead to embarrassing misunderstandings.

Perhaps it might be best just to call them “wings,” regardless of the exact parts of the birds offered for consumption. The public wouldn’t care. They’d be sure to flock in for a taste. That’s because they’d be irresistibly drawn in by the name of the business: “The Wings Beneath my Wind.”

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