Three cartoon buzzards on the wing


Words by: Tim Tompkins  |  Music by: Tim and Frances Tompkins


Flying silent circles around me,
riding warm air currents, you found me climbing here,
up this slippery slope of a crag,
alone, half-crazed with visions of vultures. Your aim is clear.

If I die out here in this desolate retreat,
you will have this body to eat,
but buzz off, buzzards, I’m quite sure on my feet,
you’ve no chance:
I feel fit enough to…
I feel fit enough to…
I feel fit enough to dance.

I’ve been climbing mountains and fasting,
facing down long habits and hopeless uncertainties.
Trapped and fighting ferociously free,
I’ve finally found a fit-for-survival identity.

Round and round, buzzards, you’re not giving me up.
You bores, spying on me here in the great outdoors,
I will not be one of your scavenged scores.
I’m no vulture food.
You birds are very rude.
Go find a deader dude now!


The collapse of my first marriage sent me wandering into the wilderness of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains in search of myself. With a minimum of provisions, but with the companionship and dark tone of my ebony alto recorder, I became aware that a life-and-death situation had developed when a small plate of shale slipped from under my foot and went scooting down and down, hundreds of feet, bouncing off jagged rocks on the slope and breaking into pieces before coming to rest near a juniper tree. I could have been that piece of shale and just as broken. Descending by this route would be treacherous; there was no turning back. I looked up to see how much more there was to climb and saw a big vulture gliding into view. It saw me before I saw it, and I knew what was on its mind: dinner. Two more buzzards appeared. With grim determination I picked my way slowly toward the top, and an hour later roared to the sky in triumph. There was an easier route down, and when I emerged from the mountains, it was with a newly discovered can-do side to my character. This adventure came to mind some years later as lyrics began to form around a pizzicato cello pattern that developed in my basement  room of the Providence band house while a loud party (very rare, believe it or not) was going on upstairs. About 20 years after that, Frances inserted her belly dance instrumental section for contrast (sexier meter, simpler chord structure), yielding a return to the original theme near the end with a welcome familiarity and a chance to wrap up the story. For all its strangeness – and it was much stranger with its early lyrics – this is probably my most-performed song, in the repertoire of Prince Gabriel’s Fleet of Eugene, Oregon (1976-1979) and of my busking years with Frances (1981-1984).  [Tim]

Performances Credits:

Tim Tompkins………….Vocals, cello, verse and chorus piano, guitar, drums, percussion, foley.
Frances Tompkins
……Violin, piano in belly dance section.

Production Credits:

Recorded, mixed and mastered at the GallopAway Music Studio, San Juan Bautista, CA.

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