Purple martin hotel. Manor & Chestnut, Austin. May, 2007.
Long ago, sometime after the Jurassic wound down but before the auspicious occasion of my birth, purple martins purpled freely o’er the countryside, feasting on succulent mosquitos so that Native Americans wouldn’t have to invent DEET. Then came the European invasion, bringing, along with genocide, disease, and white supremacist ideology, sparrows and starlings. These non-native opportunists soon took over all the purple martin nesting sites, with the result that today mosquitos ruin everybody’s summer, and the martins are completely dependent on humans to erect these towers of plastic gourds and menace the sparrows with brooms.
Naturally, to meet this emergency, there has arisen a Cult of the Purple Martin. The Purple Martin Forum has 3500 registered users. The Purple Martin Conservation Association has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in their efforts to delay the bird’s extinction, and offers free downloads for information on how to channel your natural paternalism into maintaining a purple martin colony. In Austin there’s a cultist dude who drives around with a purple martin house nailed to the top of his car. He is Danny Sinclair and he sells purple martin houses. He maintains a purple martin sanctuary a few blocks from my bungalow. For $700, he will come to your house and dig a hole and pour concrete and erect one of these hotels. He’s all purple martin, all the time. Result: you can’t swing a dead cat in hippie dippie environmentally conscious Austin without thwacking one of these purple martin hotels.