News that Tom DeLay is to resign takes me back to the Spring of 2004, when I was teaching a course on urban bird conservation at the University of Texas at Austin. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would walk down to the Texas state capitol building to look for migratory birds with my students. Twice I ran into Tom DeLay while walking to the capitol with my binoculars and Audubon Texas baseball cap on. The first time, since I had just seen the movie Adaptation on DVD, I thought it was the actor Chris Cooper. But then I figured out who it was. One time he was getting into an SUV with a bunch of guys, the other time he was standing in a group with other men outside a building just north of the state capitol grounds. We made eye contact as I walked by, and though I thought he gave me a sour look, maybe he was just having a bad day. At the time, I wondered what he was doing in Austin. Now we all know he was there to redistrict Texas and solidify his power base. We're still waiting to see how much legal vs. illegal action that involved.
So, while I technically didn't bird with The Hammer, I did bird in his shadow. While he was making major power moves, I was just off stage, with my students, trying to get them to better appreciate birds and the landscapes we share with them. Several students from that class have gone on to undertake more bird studies, and to find employment doing bird conservation work. I still get emails from some of them, and its fun to know that this class had even a small impact in the lives of young people who want to make the world a better place. Not exactly a major power play, but then again, its only birdwatching. Tom, if you manage to beat the rap in Austin and want a more peaceful way to try and change the world, you're welcome to bird with me anytime!