Wish I Was a Buzzard

We joined the line of cars waiting for dismissal bell at our great granddaughter’s school. We idly watched as some school personnel with satchels or bundles left the building after a hard day’s teaching. Then our eyes were riveted on the sky above. Buzzards were circling, almost as if they were playing tag celebrating with children and teachers that the school day was done. As if on cue, two buzzards lit in the very tops of two dead pine trees. Each of them spread their wings until they appeared as a cross on the top of the trees, their wingspread about four feet. We watched, mesmerized, waiting for them to fold their wings down, to fluff their feathers, or take flight. They sat just that way, still as statues, for a good five minutes.

Charli came across the parking lot lugging her saxophone and book bag. She climbed in the back seat bubbling as usual with news of her day. We drove away just as I noticed the buzzards lifting to the skies.

Since then I have thought several times about those buzzards, some of the humblest of God’s creatures, how they put on an unusual drama for us that day. Buzzards aren’t usually romanticized. Garbage disposals, they lead a pretty mundane life. What did it mean, two buzzards in the shape of crosses on the tip top of two dead trees?

I was reminded of a children’s picture book that was a favorite of Dixie Franklin’s when she was our children’s kindergarten teacher. One year I taught nursery school in our church’s daycare program. My room was next to “Miss Dixie’s” so we often shared how the day had gone. One day after the last child had left, she wiped her brow as she laughed and said, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a buzzard!” Then she told me about the book she’d read to the children that day, how they had caught on to the charming repetition and repeated lines with her.

On a whim, remembering those buzzards, I ordered the little book, happy to learn it is still in print.

Oh, Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard is a simple sweet story by Polly Greenberg, whimsically illustrated by Aliki. A father and two children are picking cotton all day every day. The father tells his children if they work hard he might give them a sucker at the end of the week. All day every day they pick, and pick, and pick and the sun is so hot. The little girl looks up and sees a buzzard circling, circling, and says, “Oh, Lord, I wish I was a buzzard.” She sees a snake coiled up cool as could be under a bush and says, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a snake.” She sees a dog, a partridge and a butterfly and, in the hot, hot sun, picking, picking, she says “Oh, Lord, wish I was—–” At the end of the week the father gives each child a sucker and they all head home, happy.

It’s a slice-of-life little story with no astounding point. Of course the reader can infer whatever point they see, such as hard work brings rewards, or it’s best to be who you are instead of longing for something different. But couldn’t the story be intended simply to help children enjoy reading? And what about the buzzards we saw? Maybe the buzzards we saw on the trees were just for entertainment, not there to offer any big lesson. Maybe they were cooling their wings or showing off to the other buzzards.

Sometimes, I think, God gives us a laugh just because we need it.


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5 responses to “Wish I Was a Buzzard

  1. Oh that is wonderful! I believe that God makes different kinds of funny miracles; it just depends on who recognizes them. =)

  2. Suzanne Dover

    I love the buzzard story, and the buttermilk article was just right.❤️❤️😁😁

    Sent from my iPhone


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