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Animals: Feathered Matador

2 minute read

The Mexican road runner is a long-beaked, shaggy-feathered bird about the size of a partridge. The road runner is death on rattlesnakes, and tall tales are told of its prowess: that it traps its victim in a ring of cactus, hops in and out, pecking holes in the snake’s hide, then plants cactus barbs in the wounds until the rattler is as dead as St. Sebastian.

Last week a full-length documentary film on Mexican animals, produced by Brothers Stacy & Horace Woodard, made the road runner-rattlesnake story a little less tall but no less telling. The Adventures of Chico shows 10-year-old Goatherd Chico taking his siesta, guarded by his road runner pet. A rattlesnake approaches. Without hesitation the birdattacks, head feathers fanned and wings tensely spread. Like a matador it lures the snake into striking, easily swings out of reach. Like a matador it waits and feints till the enemy tires, then kills with swift skill.

Brother Stacy Woodard, recently head photographer for Pare Lorentz’ The River (TIME, Nov. 8), became interested in motion pictures while studying zoology at the University of Arizona, has since filmedanimals from amoebas to whales. He and Brother Horace spent a year in Mexico filming Chico, his peon father, innumerable animal actors: tanklike armadillos, ridiculously funny honey bears, a lion making a kill, deer Walt Disney might have drawn. The film has a hybrid dramatic content: It is a touching, entertaining mixture of the most sentimental Silly Symphonies, the most thumping Westerns.

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