Clint Eastwood, of All People, Speaking for the Birds

For the birdsBy Brian Kluepfel

You might not look at the legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood as a spokesman for birds.

But at least in his 1976 film, “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” a somewhat confusing morality play about a peaceful farmer turned vengeful killer, he gets in one of his classic one-liners, this one on behalf of one species.

The story is based on a novel by Asa Earl “Forrest” Carter, a Klansman who wrote pro-segregation speeches for George Wallace, among other morally abhorrent activities, before re-inventing himself as a novelist. (“Forrest” was named for Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, in case you were wondering.)

If you can ignore its origins, the film is an engaging Western. And Eastwood does get off one good pro-bird line.

Wanted by the law for killing a slew of Union cavalry, Wales is cornered by two bounty hunters. With the help of a comrade, the reward seekers are quickly dispatched. When his young partner laments not burying the bodies, Eastwood mutters another in a long litany of classic one-liners: “Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.”

In Clint’s legacy, this might not rank up there with “Go ahead, make my day,” or even in Hollywood’s annals of wildlife dialog like “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” But it is a good line, and you’d almost hope for some California condors or Turkey vultures to come swooping in on the carcasses as the camera pans out.

Carter’s bizarre double life, however, came to an end in 1979, when he died at 53 years old, apparently after a fistfight with his son. He was first interred in his native Anniston, Ala. as “Forrest Carter,” his nom de plume, but his relatives soon thereafter removed that headstone and replaced it with one for Asa Earl Carter.

Brian Kluepfel is a proud Saw Mill River Audubon member and encourages you to join them in their fight for the wild places and the wild birds. (See the ad on this page.) He writes for Lonely Planet travel guides, Birdwatching Magazine and Westchester Magazine. This column originally appeared in his Oct. 9, 2018, “Brian, Birdwatching” blog. 

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