Memphis Fast Fiction Home
27.11.2011
passenger
Michael Whitten

The air is still; dead.

This was not always the way of things.

Before, when we would take to the skies, we would black out the sun with the beating of our wings.

That was before you men came. With your guns and your endless sport of extinction.

I think I am the last of my kind to nest in Pigeon Roost Road. The winding trail through bramble and tree and swamp and field was our favorite place in the world. It was safe, food was plentiful, and we called it home.

You gave this place its name because of us. We, the humble passenger pigeon, that never once wronged any one of you. We cleared your skies of the insects that ate your fields and sucked your blood, but you saw fit to hunt us for entertainment and feed us to your poor and enslaved.

There are not words to describe the horrors your kind levied upon mine. Tens of thousands dead in an hour, in every hour of a day. Calling out, hearing nothing but cries of pain in reply.

Now when I call out, no one calls back. And I can hear our end in the silence.

Memphis Note
The passenger pigeon is up there with the buffalo and the grey wolf as horrific examples of America’s effect on the natural world. The passenger pigeon used to be the most numerous bird in North America, with flocks numbering into the billions. But, those great flocks made them easy targets for hunters, and the pigeons couldn’t survive without them. Just south of Memphis, near what is now Highway 78, was Pigeon Roost Road, one of the great sheltering spots for the birds. There haven’t been any passenger pigeons there in over a hundred years.