Day 180: Sula Fool

Near the present town of Sula, Montana, Lewis and Clark met a band of about 400 Salish (Flathead) Indians camped in a small semicircular valley now known as Ross’s Hole, a name surprisingly missed by Bailey and Hurst in their search for rude-sounding names. The Indians were on their way east to hunt bison, and they shared their meager rations with the explorers. The visit was without incident except that the Indians’ dogs were so hungry that they ate several pairs of moccasins that members of the Lewis and Clark party left outside their tents. Sula, itself, is a small mountain community that happens to have the same name as the genus of birds that includes the boobies.

When Laetitia and her group arrived in Sula, there was a young man searching the trees with binoculars. When Laetitia asked him what he was looking for, he told her that he had never seen a booby and hoped to see one here. Laetitia was sympathetic—young men often want to see boobies—but his story didn’t quite make sense, so she queried him further. He was a novice birdwatcher and had a bird list that he was enthusiastic to add to. He had joined a bird watchers’ club in Missoula, where some joker had told him that the boobies (blue-footed, masked, brown, etc.) were first described in nearby Sula, Montana, and that the genus name of those birds had come from the town. Had the budding birdwatcher bothered to do a little research before making the trip, he would have found that the boobies, though their generic name is indeed Sula, are tropical sea birds not found anywhere near Montana. The incident provided the limerick of the day.

Some wag had played him for a fool, a
Young birder who came from Missoula
For he had hoped to meet
Boobies that have blue feet
But, alas, there are none found in Sula.