Gawkers, gawkees

HAVING all those people standing around, staring, would make anybody want to hide - especially if he's a rattlesnake, or a buzzard. Few of the rattlers and none of the birds showed up when they were supposed to last week.

Californians hope horned toads won't be as contrary come May.

Texans tried to have their annual rattlin'-good roundup the other day in Sweetwater. So many people came the reptiles must have been afraid to. There were fewer than expected. Outnumbered 20 to 1 by the human rounder-uppers, the snakes must have felt like primary voters beset by a posse of exit-poll takers.

What the buzzards felt like nobody knows: They weren't there to ask. Every year at this time they're supposed to be. But they didn't show up as scheduled last Thursday morning in Hinckley, Ohio, to be gawked at by the 20 buzzard fans hanging around like journalists waiting for a presidential candidate to drop out.

The swallows of San Juan Capistrano were more considerate. They made their heralded annual return from Argentina this week, right on schedule. Like the rattlers they were outnumbered by watchers: 30 silent swallows, 5,000 noisy tourists.

The horned toads also are likely to be punctual - as long as the humans that'll bring them are. There'll be a four-day derby for both in Coalinga, Calif., starting May 10. Included will be parade, barbecue, and bicycle races - for the humans - as well as several events for the horned toads, which are a rather nonphotogenic kind of lizard.

Great leapin' . . . horned frogs!

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