ROAD RUNNER MYSTERY STILL IS UNSETTLED
J. Feeney May Know Whether Bird Does or Doesn't Kill Rattlers, but Now It Appears He's Lost, Too
The curious story of the investigations in Tucson of John Feeney of Elmira, N. Y., about the truth of the yarn of the road runner killing the rattlesnake after fencing him about with Cholla Spikes, as published in The Star recently, seems to have traveled to the far east, and the New York Sun publishes the following story about the matter:
"Does the road runner or chaparral cock snare the rattlesnake by building a fence of cholla spikes around him and then dispatch the reptile at leisure? The story, received with scepticism, has often been told about this bird of the southwest. Mr. John Feeney of Elmira recently went to Arizona to learn the truth. He learned from some of the pioneers that they had witnessed the capture and death of rattlesnakes in the aforesaid fashion. Mr. Sidney De Long of Tucson affirmed that he had seen a pair of road runners, evidently mates, do the trick. Cattlemen were prolific in experiences of the kind, but the Arizona Historical society had no data.
"The road runner is such a strange bird that anything told about it is believed. Dr. William T. Hornaday is his 'American Natural History' is credulous himself. The bird, he says, 'is remarkably odd in form and also in its habits.' He thus describes it:
"'It is about the size of the small crow, with a tail as long as its entire body and head, and legs that are so long and strong they seem like those of a grouse, save that the toes are longer. The body is slender, but the neck and head are large and the head has a conspicuous crest. The beak is large. Although the bird has wings it seldom uses them, and they must constantly be growing smaller through disuse.'
"Mice, lizards, snakes and centipedes and insects are provender. The doctor testifies that it is the most nervous of birds, abnormally suspicious and phenomenally quick in its movements. It flies little, but leaps far and high with closed wings. He estimates that if the road runner goes on 10,000 years in its present habits it will cease to fly at all and will be able to leap twenty feet in the air. This remarkable description of the uneasy and elusive bird of the Arizona desert prepares one for the 'many strange yarns' that have been told about it, including the story of how it traps the somnolent rattler."
The story of Mr. Feeney's search for the truth of the road runner-rattlesnake story has been widely quoted, and recently a letter was received by Secretary J. F. Myers of the chamber of commerce from Malcom Fraser of Prescott saying that he would like very much to get into communication with Mr. Feeney in order to learn the result of his investigations. Secretary Myers, not knowing whether Mr. Feeney was in the city, stated yesterday that in case he was, a visit at the chamber of commerce would put him into communication with Mr. Fraser.
The Star story as originally published stated that Mr. Feeney intended to state that without further absolute disproof the story was so well supported by trustworthy evidence that it seemed to be trustworthy. Mr. Feeney intended to address his letter to the Elmira Herald.