Crazy as a Coot!


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And as he [i.e., Paul] thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad!” But he [i.e., Paul] said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but I speak forth the words of truth and soberness”.   (Acts 26:24-25)

But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are foolishness unto him;  neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   (1st Corinthians 2:14)


AMERICAN COOT’s water take-off (credit: Audubon Field Guide)

Isn’t it ironic how unbelievers can accuse Christians of being “crazy”, especially in conversations when a Christian (like the apostle Paul) is soberly speaking God’s weighty words of eternal truth!  In short, if you dare to explain the timeless treasure-truths of the Holy Bible, to an unbeliever (whose foolish heart is darkened – see Romans 1:21) who rejects truth reflexively, and who thus dismisses Biblical truths as “foolishness”  —  you can expect to be unjustly accused of being “crazy as a coot”.

Crazy as a Coot”:  what does that mean?  So, what kind of bird is a Coot, anyway?  (Not quite duck! – and not quite chicken!)  Why are Coots called “crazy”?

Let us consider the American Coot (a/k/a “Mud Hen”), a head-bobbing waterfowl that resembles the Common Moorhen (a/k/a Florida Gallinule or “Candy Corn Bird”), except the Coot is almost all sooty black, red-eyed, possessing greenish legs that end in individually “scallops”-lobed toes, and sporting a prominent poultry-like white bill (with an incomplete blackish ring near the bill-tip), garnished by a red spot on its slightly bulging forehead “shield”.

The expression “crazy as a coot” may at first seem inappropriate for such a well-adapted, successful waterfowl, but watch American Coots in spring and summer [!] and the appellation becomes much more suitable. These spirited and aggressive birds squabble constantly during the breeding season, not just among themselves, but also with any waterbird that has the audacity to intrude upon their waterfront property.  They can often be seen scooting across the surface of the water, charging [perceived] rivals with flailing, splashing wings in an attempt to intimidate.  Outside the breeding season, coots gather amicably together in large groups.  American Coots are known in many places as ‘Mud Hens’, and are often misidentified as a species of duck.   [Quoting Wayne R. Petersen & Roger Burrows, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Lone Pine Publishing, 2004), page 123.]

“Squabble constantly … in an attempt to intimidate” –  does that sound like anyone “crazy” that you know personally?  (If so, you really shouldn’t reply by blog-posting the name or names of whomever you are thinking of.)


AMERICAN COOT’s water take-off (USFWS photo / public domain)

Like others perceived as being “crazy”, the Coot dramatically displays a lot of head-bobbing energy!   Go, coot, go!

When swimming, it pumps its head back and forth; it dabbles but also dives from the surface. Taking off [to fly], it skitters, flight labored; the big feet trail beyond the short tail; a narrow white border shows on the rear of [each] wing.  [Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), page 64.]


AMERICAN COOT (credit: Birdzilla)

Of course, it’s easy for me to link dramatic displays of energy to “craziness”, because it has been decades since I was described as highly energetic or animated (although I was actually nicknamed “Jumpin’ Jim”, about 30 years ago, when I was a young tall-building litigator in downtown Dallas).

Nowadays, if I wasn’t “low-energy” I might be “no-energy”! (Did you know that I never get tired?  What’s my secret, that I never get tired?  —  simple:  I don’t get tired; I stay tired.)   On that I’ll rest.

Of course, my real “rest” is in the Lord Jesus Christ  –  Whom to have, as my personal Savior, may seem “crazy” and “foolish” to a Gospel-rejecting unbeliever, like provincial governor Festus (recall Acts chapter 26).  However, the infallible holy Scriptures assure me that to belong to Christ is not at all “foolish” — rather, it is the power of God unto His very gracious salvation (1st Corinthians 1:18 & 15:3-4; Luke 10:20).


AMERICAN COOT on nest (photo credit: MDC Discover Nature)



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