It’s a satire, son!

… paraphrasing Looney Tunes’s Foghorn Leghorn, describing a discussion of how to trap and then dispatch predatory coyotes in a suburban neighborhood of Cleveland Heights OH — in which Tim Evanson reported putting out a roadrunner (aka road runner), tied to a stake, as a lure (another Looney Tunes allusion) and I suggested as an alternative bait “the superfluous infants of the poor” (alluding to a Jonathan Swift pamphlet of 1729).

Tim and I both spoke satirically; we both wanted our satirical intent to be recognized; and we were both reluctant just to flag our suggestions with a smiley 😀 that shouts out “It’s a satire, son!” But readers often fail to discern satirical intent (especially if they don’t know what sort of person the writer is), so Tim and I jacked things up with those preposterous allusions, both of which wear their own satirical intent on their sleeves. (No actual greater road runners, Geococcyx californianus, or desperately impoverished infants are implicated in our proposals.)

(I will confess that it took me half an hour to get the two sentences of my proposal just so.)

It all began on Oakridge Dr. in Cleveland Heights yesterday, with Tim posting this photo to FB:


(#1) — TE: Very big male coyote on Oakridge Dr. this morning. A couple doors down from my house. [photo from a neighbor walking her dog; note that TE has a relatively small dog of his own, so that neighborhood coyotes are unwelcome news]

The FB exchanges continued (allusions in boldface; satirical jabs marked with a 😀):

— Edward Shaw: Are [hunting] bows illegal in Cleveland Heights? You know ideas for other things as well [for eliminating the coyote threat].

— TE > ES: I used to put out a roadrunner tied to a stake. [😀 (to trap the coyote) allusion to Wile E. Coyote vs. Road Runner in Looney Tunes animated cartoons; they’ll make their appearances later in this posting]

— AZ > TE: It would doubtless be more effective to use the superfluous infants of the poor. I offer this as a modest proposal. [😀 allusion to Jonathan Swift’s 1729 “A Modest Proposal [For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick]”]

— AZ: Wow. Definitely on the wolf end of the coyote scale. And with the bearing of a wolf.

— James Moore > AZ: Could be a wolf/coyote hybrid …

— TE: There are no wild wolves living in Ohio.

— AZ > TE: I was aware of that, only noting that coyotes are variable, coming on a scale with one wolf-like end.

— TE > AZ: James suggested a hybrid, but I have no idea where the wolf DNA would come from. Maybe a DeSantis flight? [alluding to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, currently given to flying migrants (fleeing Venezuela, especially) from Texas to northern sanctuary cities and other locations]

— AZ > TE: I knew about [hybrid] coywolves (and coydogs), but wasn’t suggesting they were involved here (if that’s actual wolf DNA, it’s from a long time ago). But your proposal to blame it on DeSantis is both ingenious and entertaining. May flights of Floridian wolves sing you home to Cleveland! [heavily reworking the line from from Hamlet: “Good night, sweet prince. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”]

The creatures: coyotes and road runners. From Wikipedia on the canine in #1:

The coyote (Canis latrans) is a species of canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the wolf … historical names for the species include [the American jackal,] the prairie wolf and the brush wolf.

The coyote is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its wide distribution and abundance throughout North America [AZ: this reference to a major urban pest is entertainingly understated]. The species is versatile, able to adapt to and expand into environments modified by humans. It is enlarging its range by moving into urban areas in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

And from Wikipedia on the bird:


(#2) Greater Road Runner, on the run (photo: Nancy Christensen / Macaulay Library)

The roadrunners (genus Geococcyx), also known as chaparral birds or chaparral cocks, are two species [G. californianus and G. velox] of fast-running [up to 20 mph or more] ground cuckoos with long tails and crests. They are found in the southwestern and south-central United States and Mexico, usually in the desert. [AZ: There are no road runners in Ohio, which is over a thousand miles from their territory.] Although capable of flight, roadrunners generally run away from predators. [The bird calls with a nasal “meep meep” when running away from danger; hence the Looney Tunes Road Runner’s beep-beep, also echoic of the sound of automobile horns (and electronic devices).]

And then, at the movies: Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. From Wikipedia, an affectionate account (which might soon be altered by editors critical of the entry’s lack of sources):

Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner are a duo of cartoon characters from the Looney Tunes series of animated cartoons, first appearing in 1949 in the theatrical cartoon short Fast and Furry-ous. In each episode, the cunning, devious and constantly hungry coyote repeatedly attempts to catch and subsequently eat the Road Runner, but is successful in catching the Road Runner (but not eating it) on only extremely rare occasions. Instead of his animal instincts, the coyote uses absurdly complex contraptions (generally in the manner of Rube Goldberg) to try to catch his prey, which comically backfire, with the coyote often getting injured in slapstick fashion. Many of the items for these contrivances are mail-ordered from a variety of companies implied to be part of the Acme Corporation.


(#3) The Acme firecracker disaster; through this link, you can watch Wile E. Coyote vs. Acme (part 1), a YouTube compilation of virtually every single Acme product used by Wile E. Coyote in his attempts to catch the Road Runner (from 1949 through 1980)

One running gag involves the coyote trying, in vain, to shield himself with a little parasol against a great falling boulder that is about to crush him. Another involves him falling from high cliffs, after momentarily being suspended in midair — as if the fall is delayed until he realizes that there is nothing below him. The rest of the scene, shot from a bird’s-eye view, shows him falling into a canyon so deep that his figure is eventually lost to sight, with only a small puff of dust indicating his impact.


(#4) The  mid-air pause before the fall

The coyote is notably a brilliant artist, capable of quickly painting incredibly lifelike renderings of such things as tunnels and roadside scenes, in further (and equally futile) attempts to deceive the bird.

The characters were created for Warner Bros. in 1948 by animation director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese, with Maltese also setting the template for their adventures.

It has, of course, occurred to me to riffle through the Acme catalog — where is that damned thing? — for products that might allow Tim to rid his neighborhood of pesky coyotes. (We have those coyotes here in California too, just not in my immediate neighborhood.) Maybe there are Acme drones that can launch Acme anti-coyote anvils; that would be cool.

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: