The other day, I was running some errands. I drove from Murphy back towards Dallas/Plano, looking up at the dark green mistletoe hanging in the leafless trees beside the road.

Along the way, I always pass over this small lake. Some days, there are more ducks and geese than other days.

The regal blue heron

As I drove slowly over the bridge, I noticed that on one side of the bank, there was a concrete pad, right at the edge of the lake. It was small, about two feet square. The water was gently lapping against the concrete slab.

Perched on top of the slab was a blue heron. It was standing on one leg, with its head tucked down between wings. As it looked out over the water, the heron looked like it was in charge.

Swimming toward the heron in the shallow water was a group of geese and ducks, about eight to 10. It appeared as if the ducks and geese were waiting for words of wisdom from the blue heron. The heron maintained its stoic perch, looking regal and waiting for just the right moment to share knowledge with the less intelligent beasts shaking their tails and making lesser noise as they gathered in front of the heron.

Normally, I would have made a mental note of this sight, and moved on. But there was something about this image that got me thinking. When I was a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed the Disney cartoon movies, such as The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, The Lady and the Tramp, etc. You get the picture.

Sterling Holloway

Back then, there were some very familiar, consistent voices that Disney used for his characters. These were voices I grew up with. They told me the important stories of the day and these voices were very distinctive. It seems that Sebastian Cabot was often a character, the raspy Sterling Holloway was Kaa the snake in The Jungle Book and Pooh in Winnie the Pooh. Who could miss the very deep tones of George Sanders as Shere Khan the tiger in The Jungle Book?  And, even if you get away from Disney, who could forget James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars, as well as the voice of CNN, the news station?

So, I started thinking. For this scene of the blue heron and the ducks and geese, who would I assign as voices for these animals, if I was staging my own version of a Murphy Jungle Book? The voice of the blue heron had to be powerful yet somewhat soothing, a voice that would draw the geese and ducks closer to listen to the heron’s wisdom and learnings. I thought of a lot of voices, like Tom Selleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison Ford. But sometimes it is not really necessary to have the kings of the box office to get the message out. For that reason, I decided that Linda Hunt, the diminutive actor of NCIS: Los Angeles with the very idiosyncratic voice would be the perfect voice for the heron.

Helen Hunt, Nick Cannon, Kevin Costner, et. al.

I also thought I needed some other recognizable voices for the geese and ducks. Together, the noise from the geese and ducks had to be somewhat chaotic, distracting, yet also recognizable. For that reason, I chose the following to be voices of the ducks and geese: Helen Hunt, Niecy Nash, Billy Crystal, Jamie Lee Curtis, David Letterman, Kevin Costner, Bette Midler, Nick Cannon and John Cusack.

By the time I got home from errands, I could not shake the images of these figures as ducks and geese, huddling in the water as a heron tells them successful ways to get food, stay alive, fly with the best of ’em, and stay away from danger.

The blue heron as Linda Hunt

Now, every time I cross over the lake, I’ll look for Linda Hunt, and just try to shake the sound of Bette Midler as a goose honking on and on about the quality of the water where she swims. “Oy vey, it’s too murky for my delicate webbed tootsies! Where’s Linda Hunt? I need a transfer to a different pond!”