What color is a crane?
My first job out of college was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Dakotas. Whooping cranes were a big deal then, as they are now. The USFWS had a public service announcement playing on just about every local radio station asking anyone who spotted a “whooper” to call in to our office.
The phone rang and a farmer some 50 miles away said there was a “whooper on the ground out back” of his barn. We got the address and a gang of us hopped into a van and sped across the prairie to catch a glimpse of the rare bird.
When we got there, the old farmer shuffled out of the barn and said, “Too late, the bird flew away.”
So the leader of our group decided it was time to make sure this was all on the up and up.
“Describe the bird,” he said.
“Well, it had long legs, stood about five feet tall and was silver,” the Farmer said.
Whoopers have long legs and are about five feet tall, but they are mostly white. Sandhill cranes, are similar, but mostly gray.
Our leader started to explain this to the farmer to better nail down if the bird was a rare whooping crane or not-so-rare sandhill crane. Halfway through the explanation, the farmer held up his hand and said, “Hold it, sonny. Have you ever seen a real, live whooping crane?”
“Well no,” said the head fed, but I’ve seen photos and films of them plenty of….”
“Hold it sonny,” interrupted the farmer. “Pictures and movies are one thing. An hour ago, there was a whooping crane standing in the field behind my barn. And it was silver!”