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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Not Exactly Research--Just Curiosity

   
Author Topic: Not Exactly Research--Just Curiosity
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This is for questions we may have about things that are not particularly research for a current project, but who knows?

I started it because I'm curious about something, and wanted to ask in a way that might be of interest and use to others.

And I wanted to provide a topic that can be used for other such questions.

So I'll ask my question in my next post.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I have two questions that relate to tattoos, and I hope I don't ask in a way that bothers anyone.

I recently read about Sean Astin's experiences in acting, especially as relates to his experience as Samwise Gamgee in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

One of the things he talked about was the decision of the actors who played "the Nine Walkers" to get a matching tattoo to signify their common experience.

Sean said he couldn't believe how painful the tattoo, those quite small, was. And I'm curious to know if that's unusual (he seemed to think it was).

I'm also curious to know how what is called "permanent make-up," which I believe is "tattooed" on, somehow, is considered by tattoo artists. I have a friend who had "permanent lipstick" done, and she told me that after the swelling went down, her lips had not changed color, so far as she could tell.

So my questions concern tattoos. Inarticulate Babbler, or anyone else with experience in this?


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genevive42
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I have three tattoos, none smaller than my fist. As far as the pain, while there is some, I didn't think it was nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Part of it depends on the location. The fleshy areas hurt more because they have to press harder. Areas over bone aren't so bad. The one on my shin itched the most while it was healing - especially over the fleshy areas.

I don't know about the permanent make-up. I would never do it. Too much chance of it not looking good and also you're stuck with the same look forever. My tattoos are coverable unless I wear shorts or a tank top.

I admire people who can commit to tattoos that will always show but that's just not for me; dealing with the public/professional considerations.


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redux
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I have no personal experience with tattoos but I read that Sean Astin's tattoo is on his ankle so it's not surprising that it hurt. There is not much fat or muscle there to take the brunt of the jabs of the needles.
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Unwritten
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I don't have any tattoos, but IB has fielded loads of tattoo related questions from me. One thing (I think) I remember him telling me is that bright color hurts a lot more than the basic colors do. Not that it makes a difference in the Sean Astin tattoo, but I thought it was interesting, anyway.

I'm glad you opened this thread up, Kathleen, because I have a question. In a book I just read, 450 refugees settled into an abandoned hotel and their first order of business was to dig 100 latrine pits. That seemed like an excessive number to me, and I've been wondering, in that odd way writers have, whether the author pulled that number out of a hat, or if that's really how many holes would be necessary.


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:
The fleshy areas hurt more because they have to press harder.

Untrue...if you're with an artist who knows his or her trade.

Each artist:

1) uses different equipment (from groupings of needles--how they're grouped, and the amount of needles in the grouping).

2) runs machines at different settings (including needle-depth and speeds).

3) is heavy- or light-handed (which is how hard they push).

4) is trained differently (or has learned by trial and error). And the techniques they know or can employ differ.

Each patron:

1) has a different pain tolerance.

2) has different kinds of skin (some take the pigments better, others try and reject it, still others bleed at the slightest scratch--which thins the pigment, causing a necessity of more passes).

3) differs in the ability to sit still, without twitching or jumping.

4) could have diabetes, jaundice, or hemophilia (not to mention any number of STDs) that can affect the ability to take or heal.

each body part:

1) Feels different for every person. What may hurt you may literally tickle another person.

2) Has a different amount of tendons (from none to many), capillaries (which can affect the bleeding), and is shaped differently.

The "Rule of Thumb" for pain is generally ANY area that stretches or bends (stomach, pit of the elbow, armpit, pit of the knee, etc...) hurts more. Of course if a heavy-hander runs across your bony areas...


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InarticulateBabbler
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Unwritten, to clarify I was talking about solid colors versus black and gray.
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InarticulateBabbler
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Kathleen, if you have more specific tattoo questions feel free to email me. I'd be happy to help.
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genevive42
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quote:
My statement: The fleshy areas hurt more because they have to press harder. AND Untrue...if you're with an artist who knows his or her trade: from IB

IB, thank you for correcting me. This seemed to be my experience with three different artists but I'm glad to have the proper information. Now I know.


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babooher
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My experience with tattoos is that the fine line work hurt ever so much more than the filling in work. I have a pendragon on my arm. While the outline was being done, I could feel pain spread clear to my neck. Once the outline was done, the work filling in the design seemed easy to handle.


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aspirit
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quote:
450 refugees settled into an abandoned hotel and their first order of business was to dig 100 latrine pits

An Army vet might know better than I do, but that seems like a reasonable number. Our family of four used one pit at a camping site for a while. When we started developing the property and spending more time there, my father dug a second pit as a backup.

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InarticulateBabbler
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An outline should be comparable to a long, slow cat-scratch. It should feel like a sunburn the moment it stops, and the whole tattoo should feel like a sunburn for the first day to three. The smaller the needle grouping (true fine-line is a single needle which has an extra sharp point, usually due to a fish-hook sharpener)is usually more painful than a larger grouping. A single needle can feel like it's cutting the flesh--and usually fine lines do not stand the test of time, they tend to fade out--and a larger shader needle (thirteen magnum to fifteen magnum) can feel like someone scratching an itch or even just a vibration...in places.
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InarticulateBabbler
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Permanent makeup is also called micropigmentation. The practice can only be done by a licensed cosmologist here in Maine. I know it's different in Flordia and a few other states (Florida because I do a guest spot there from time to time). The process is one that requires great care. Now, I've tattooed heads and faces, but I generally stay away from makeup because it's a lawsuit that cannot be won if the patron has the slightest problem.

Micropigmentation involves a gentler layering of the pigments. Eyelids (the most common) and lips are a different type of skin. (Any of the "pink" skin spots are obviously more sensitive.) I can't speak for the artist who worked on your friend, and I can't tell you much without seeing what it looked like fresh, during the healing and after. What I can do is troubleshoot a bit:

1) Tattoos require maintenance during the healing process (and long after in some cases). They should--for the most part--flake and heal...just like aforementioned sunburns. They need to be kept moist enough to keep the skin soft and with enough constitution that whole ares do not slough off. They need to be kept out of the sun. No Vaseline should be used, just Bacitracin, Triple Antibiotic Ointment or products created specifically for the care and treatment of tattoos. A Vitamin E regiment will help heal the tattoo faster, and Lubriderm Skin Moisturizer should be used after the first couple of days to keep the skin pliable while it's healing. Improper maintenance can lead to fading or fallout.

2) Pigments and Equipment. There are some states that require a certain pigment or type of machine to be used for that procedure. One of the common machines I've seen in requirements is literally an assembly-line version of a jailhouse, homemade "gun". (There is an old saying among those professionally trained: Calling an instrument of tattooing a gun is akin to calling one's mother a wh--e. That is accurate way of thinking, too. Those who use "guns" don't use scruples, those who use machines take pride in their work and care about the health of their clients...they don't just take money and do anything. Real professionals call it a machine, old timers--like me--might call them irons, but not often.) The pigments required are often those sold for "permanent makeup," which I find interesting they are not sold for all tattooing. In some cases the pigment is inferior and fades under normal tattooing uses. That tells me something about its integrity.

3) When you have cosmologists and beauticians doing work of tattoo artists because they know where to place the colors, you eliminate all of the training behind the tattoo artist. A properly apprenticed tattoo artist knows how to blend, mix, wash and haze colors as necessary. We are taught to take precautions so that as the skin heals (and some effects lighten) they come to the hue they were planned for. There are tattooists (notice the difference in terminology) that do this, in state which allow it, but it is ALWAYS a good idea if you see their portfolio first.

Okay, things to look for (for everyone not in the know) when walking into a tattoo shop:

1) Some type of Autoclave Sterilizer. If you don't see one, run away.

2) Some type of sharps disposal container. If you don't see one, sprint away.

3) Tattoo License. You might think this would be number one, but if I didn't see an autoclave or a sharps container, I could care less if the state says they know how to clean and bandage you, and clean, sweep and mop their booths--which is what a license in most states really is.

4) Portfolio. I'd ask you to look for more than the tattoos when inspecting the photos. If you don't see the shop you're in behind some of them, you have to wonder if the photos aren't stolen. I've seen this on a bunch of occasions. It's always interesting to find a tattoo I did in an artist's portfolio, when they don't recognize me. Apparently, people are clipping pictures from tattoo magazines and claiming the works is theirs.

For myself, I do ALL custom work. I draw the pattern for the client--WHILE the client is there--or ON the client, so there is no possibility of someone else getting their hands on it. I wouldn't go to a tattoo artist who couldn't design what I wanted, or at least show me a good chunk of it while I was standing there. In ANY form of tattooing, a true artist--one who uses skin as merely another medium--will always be the best choice...for anything.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited October 17, 2010).]


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JamieFord
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Hmmm...while I don't have any tats, my dad had enough for me, my son, my grandson...he had tats EVERYWHERE. He was a merchant marine, and had them on both shoulders, forearms, hands, chest, back, hips, calves, ankles and feet. The only thing I wanted to mention is that tattoos do bleed, they don't fade but blur a bit with age. Maybe not now, but by the time you're 70, trust me...

And weight gain can transform them as well. My wife is a labor & delivery nurse and sees all kinds of tattoos. She saw a tat on a woman's lower abdomen one time and said, "Wow, that's such a lovely whale." The woman burst into tears saying, "It's a dolphin..."


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, InarticulateBabbler. Great information.

I am actually in process with a story that uses tattoos similar to the ones certain Pacific Islanders have (I believe they are all black, but if there are other colors, it would be good to know).

But I appreciate the information about the more artistic and colorful kinds of tattoos we see here in the US.


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

The only thing I wanted to mention is that tattoos do bleed, they don't fade but blur a bit with age. Maybe not now, but by the time you're 70, trust me...

Jamie, there was a time when inks did blur--fading as the skin weathers is what really happens--but, I bet those tattoos are pretty old. In the last thirty years alone, major advancements have taken place in methods, tools and pigments.

The black I use proved itself for ten years before it was even sold. As for stretching: Yes, it happens. We are dying the skin and cannot control the size of that skin--that maintenance is up to the customer--but, I've only really seen that effect on pregnant bellies. In fairness, the shape usually returns with the flesh. It has happened infrequently with outer thighs and tattoos placed extremely low on breasts.

I'm of the creed that designs tattoos to specifically follow the shape and muscle-tone of the body so that if the body shape changes (and they generally do over time) the tattoos are made to flow with the changes and don't look ridiculously distorted.

Oh, and just to be defensive and facetious about my trade (which I'm not even sure if I want to stay with anymore), you might look to the oldest known tattoos in the world, Otzi, the Ice Man's, which are purportedly 5300 years old. (They held up better than his flesh.)

Kathleen, black is universal for tribal tattoos. Samoan's have a time-honored tatauing (tat-towww-ing) method they still use today. In fact, if they don't get a pair of shorts tattooed (covering every available part between their hip-lines and inches-above-their-knees) they cannot be buried with their ancestors. The Maori (meanining "Natural" or "Normal"), Polynesians who inhabited New Zealand and tattoo symmetrical-tribal-swirls on their faces (called Maori), are suspected to have common ancestors with the Hawaiians. Hawaiian tattoos, like Maori and Samoan are based one symmetry and meaning. In ancient times, they used bird beaks, fish bones, claws, sharks' teeth and other naturally found tools to implement the tatau . Black coal or ash--which was plentiful--mixes for an easy black pigment.

Are you thinking historical fantasy or something more contemporary?

I might help to now an obscure fact (for time-line purposes): the modern tattoo machine was invented by Thomas Edison--but the patent he held was for the electric pen.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited October 18, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Historical fantasy, InarticulateBabbler.

That's cool about Edison and the electric pen leading to tattooing machines. Thanks.

What about when things go wrong, other than skin stretching?

I suspect for many, the greatest reason for not getting a tattoo might be fear of infection (which, of course, is one reason you've warned us about autoclaves and sharps disposal). Is there also a possibility of allergic reactions to the inks?

And anything else? Please go ahead and get facetious, if you like. We don't want to you to feel defensive, though.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Oh, and something related to tribal tattoos, perhaps.

Some permanent body artwork, in African tribal traditions, I believe, involves not just ink, but exploitation of what has been commonly called "proud flesh," where the skin creates scar tissue (hypertrophic is the medical term, I think), and so scoring or tattooing the skin can raise particularly interesting and artistic ridges.

Anyone know any more than that about such traditions and designs?

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited October 18, 2010).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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Kathleen, I'm not really being defensive--it was just an act.

Small correction, the Maori facial tattoos are called ta Moko.

Reactions to pigments: In modern tattooing pigments the base is saline solutions, which is found naturally in the body. Of course, any person could be allergic to anything--even their own sweat! I have seen someone use bagbalm for care and treatment, and in return puss green. I've seen a couple who got tattooed--personal friends who should've known better--go into a public hot tub and get a matching infection that had to literally be cut out. I've also seen someone get a ringworm in a freshly tattooed area.

More toward your research: in ancient times, they used the same "needle"--whether it be beak, claw, sharpened stick/comb, bones or teeth--on everyone in the village/family. So any bloodborne pathogens or diseases would have a higher chance of spreading, any airborne pathogens would have a higher chance of spreading in a fresh wound and any parasite or microorganism could penetrate the site easier.

I read somewhere that the Samoans had a better than average chance of infection, and most recipients of those tattoos did, in fact, have to deal with some level of infection--surviving the infection was/is part of the rites. Because of that, today, there is a nurse on-hand for the procedure, (I believe I saw that on Discovery Channel), and these nurses were sponsored by the villagers to return for the village's benefit.

Scarification and branding are far less common than tattoos, though scarification gained popularity when certain NFL players sported them, but are children of ancient ritual scarification.

You might research the Karo of Ethiopia, where the scars on their chests represent warriors felled from other tribes. Or the entire Omo Valley: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_1Z5_frqW26w/S44SocyW3VI/AAAAAAAAKys/w9B0wJG1WYQ/s400/ScarBack.jpg Karo, or the http://migrationstoriesofnigerianigbo.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/igbo_ichi_marks.jpg Igbo (Eboans), or even the Kangra: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a1/Sepik_River_initiation_-_crocodile_scarification_1975%2C_2.JPG/406px-Sepik_River_initiation_-_crocodile_scarification_ 1975%2C_2.JPG of the Sepik region in New Guinea (who believe humans were established by roaming crocodiles, and so try to emulate their skin in http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Sepik_River_initiations_1975%2C_6.JPG their initiation ceremonies. The Baule Tribesmen of the Ivory Coast look at scarification as the physical manifestation of civilization. You might look into their masks and sculpting traditions.

Using fishhooks to pull small pieces of skin up cause large keloids, and rubbing soot in the wound for a "sterile irritant" will cause the keloids to be more pronounced. the Maori use a chisel called a Uhe. They also rub pigments in after the preferation, which some African tribes do also.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited October 18, 2010).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Wow! This could get really intriguing. Again, thanks, InarticulateBabbler.

So, does infection affect the appearance of the tattoo--in other words, can you tell by looking that someone has experienced (and overcome) an infection? And if so, can you tell what kind?

(I am beginning to imagine all kinds of interesting "magical" possibilities for stories in something like that. The mind boggles.)


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InarticulateBabbler
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The short answer is: sometimes.

Infection could lead to a treatment where something is cut out (which would leave a scar that would likely need new ink to complete the tattoo), sloughing off if someone doesn't treat it (which is not a pretty sight), or certain antibiotics (which would probably not appear in an ancient setting) could fight the pigment along with the infection and result in a rejection of the ink. For the most part, once an infection is passed (which usually occurs from improper care and treatment, or negligent care and treatment), you wouldn't be able to see the evidence.

However, overworking an area (a common beginner/non-trained mistake) can make the area more susceptible to infection, fall-out, holidays and scarring.

There are dangers of going too deep with a needle--least of which is scarring--and running a machine at the wrong setting.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And what does "rejecting the ink" look like? Is there a faded-looking tattoo, or does the skin appear as if there never was a tattoo? Or another, "sometimes" because it depends?

Have I said I really appreciate your willingness to answer questions?


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InarticulateBabbler
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Rejecting could just be bleeding heavily (that's the most common indicator). It could result in looking like it had never been tattooed, or light/thin or lighter gray when it's supposed to be black or--in worse cases--it could look like white plastic. Either way, it won't look like what's supposed to be there.

Holidays are blank or very thin spots--a term held over from house painting--which can be easily filled with a touch-up.

When a scab (or piece of skin) sloughs off, a scarred pit is left behind. Usually scars raise, but when skin sloughs off, it is a cratered effect.

the worst looking scar I've seen from anything dealing with tattooing is when someone tried using lemon juice on a fresh tattoo to try and remove it...it looked like a textured map, a patch of skin risen and pitted with what looked like a series of fork-stabs.

As to your question, rejecting the pigments look like heavy bleeding and patchy coloring. Drinking alcohol thins the blood and can cause this--which is why it is illegal in most states to tattoo on someone whose been drinking. Rejecting a piercing is a much more interesting look, the jewelry actually migrates as the skin forces the alien object out. I've seen this in faulty-pierced lips, eyebrows, and navels, where the ring falls free and there are two flaps of skin remaining.


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DRaney
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This is a very interesting conversation. Kathleen, you are asking the questions I have had in my mind for a while. IB, I appreciate such detailed info. Great thread...
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JamieFord
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Fascinating stuff.
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philocinemas
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Does anyone know anything about birds?

I have a strange situation that has been going on for about 5 months. There is a bird, I suspect it is a finch (short orange beak, reddish wings and yellow underbody), that keeps attacking the french doors leading to my back deck. It does this daily. I think it is either seeing it's reflection or trying to come inside. It only goes for one particular side of the doors (the one we open to come in and out). Could this be a formerly domestic bird trying to return to captivity? I've tried opening the door for it (just out of curiosity), and it always flies back to the tree where it lives. Any thoughts?

I've actually considered writing a short story about it, but I haven't quite formulated the plot yet.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There was a wild turkey at Zion National Park one summer that spent quite a while attacking its reflection in the gift shop door at the lodge. It would run full tilt at the door, according to my husband (who was there having lunch on the front lawn after an early morning hike), and "BAM!" crash right into the glass. Then after a few minutes, it would do it again (must not have required much recovery time). My husband had to leave before anything was done about the bird, so he didn't know what happened to it.

The colors you describe, philocinemas, imply that this bird might be a male, and so I'd vote for the attacking its reflection idea.

On the chance that it is attacking its reflection, if you can break up the reflection somehow (hang netting of some kind or one of those bead curtains on the door perhaps?), that might help. It might help people not walk through the door, thinking it's open, as well.


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Robert Nowall
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http://www.suite101.com/content/when-birds-attack-windows-a2529

On birds attacking windows.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks for the link, Robert.

That reminds me. We had a house once that had sliding glass doors that opened onto a little square patio with the kitchen window looking out onto an adjacent side (does that make sense?). What I mean is that the patio was nestled into two walls of the house creating a corner around half of the patio. (I hope that makes sense.)

It's important because one time when I was sitting near the sliding glass door, I saw a mid-size bird chase a small bird into the corner at such speed that it hit the corner and fell to the patio, either dead or unconscious.

The mid-sized bird landed on the patio, eyed the small bird, and seemed to eye me as well (to see what I would do?), and then pounced on the small bird and grabbed it and flew off with it.

As I recall, the mid-sized bird was not a raptor (my brother had a kestrel at one time, so I know what they look like--and that reminds me of another story). It was just a mid-sized (American robin--thrush) uniformly grey bird, and the small bird was some kind of sparrow, I think.

I was too surprised to do anything but gawk.

And the above-mentioned "another story" involved my walking in my neighborhood a year or so ago and noticing a large group of sparrows clustered on the road ahead of me. Before I reached them, they practically exploded into the air, leaving a kestrel sitting on one of the sparrows, and staring at me. I didn't even see it attack, it was so fast.

I, of course, had stopped. I stayed very still, to see what the kestrel would do, and after it looked at me for a moment, it grasped the sparrow and flew off with it.


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