Mixsonian Larry

The Call of the Whippoorwill

  Tonight I heard a whippoorwill which brought back old and deep memories.    I had my windows open and heard a strange whistling sound outside and thought “I know that sound” and paused to listen closer.  Then I heard it again, “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will”, and the memories came flooding back.    It was a whippoorwill.  For those of you unfamiliar with the whippoorwill it is a bird seldom seen but can be heard usually just as dusk is falling.  It is a strangely haunting sound, “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will”.  The sound of the whippoorwill is special for me for it brings back fond memories of my childhood visits with my grandparents.  Let’s step back sixty years….

  When I was little we would go visit my grandma and grandpa Mixson out in the country.  The closest town was Micanopy which was itself some miles away, so it was, like, really out in the country.  After dinner, as dusk was falling, we would all go sit on the front porch.   My brother and sister and I would most often sit in the porch swing with mom or grandma, while grandpa and dad would sit in rocking chairs.  That far out in the country you would experience a silence like no other.  You would hear the sound of the rocking chairs going slowly back and forth with an occasional squeak of the floor, and then the night sounds slowly emerging.  The sounds of the crickets starting up, a dog barking in the distance, and on those special summer nights, the sound of the whippoorwill.  It would start with a single “whip-poor-will” and then pause and you wonder did you really hear that?    Then again, “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” and I would ask, “What was that?”, and grandma would answer it is a whippoorwill.  And I would ask… “What is a whippoorwill?”  and grandma would give a simple answer “a bird”.   I would wonder what kind of bird is that with such a strange haunting sound, a bird you heard, but never see? 

  Night would fall, the song of the whippoorwill would end and it would be time to go home.  We would say our goodbyes and give our hugs, pile into the car and dad would drive us home.  More often then not my brother and sister and I would be worn out from spending the day at grandma and grandpa’s and we would be half asleep as we left.   But there was one night I stayed awake a bit longer as we left.  As we drove down the dark dirt road, off in the distance, just at the edge of the car lights, there were two red glowing eyes in the middle of the road like some demon.  Dad slowed down, the red eyes came into the range of the headlights and we found a very strange bird sitting in the middle of the road, and dad said, “that’s a whippoorwill”. 

  That was a special time, a time of wonder, a time of discovery, a time of family, a time of love.  The sound of the whippoorwill I heard tonight brought this all flooding back.  I cherish these memories deeply.

Larry Mixson, 03-20-2019