Woodpeckers

I heard a live set from the Handsome Family last night – they have – sort of – been described by Griel Marcus as the Beatles of the folk music scene. A lot of their music is about animals and insects, and their live act is at times hilarious, so it is not that surprising they were drawn to Mary Sweeny’s story. As this song explains, she was a famous window smasher in 19th century Wisconsin, also a school teacher and cocaine addict who was constantly being arrested and released for her strange past time. Renee said she Sweeny was the most woodpecker like person ever, as this bird can hear insects moving within treebark whilst flying overhead. Renee has a theory that Mary smashed windows because she could see things in them that nobody else could. The story of Mary Sweeney and much else is found in one of my favourite DVD’s, Wisconsin Death Trip. It’s not a lot of chuckles, but it does make you wonder what was going on back then.

2 thoughts on “Woodpeckers

  1. I love the idea of her being a “famous window smasher” because she took it a step above the rest of the hum drum smashers. Obviously, probably not why she was famous, but it does lend her hobby a little extra flair:)

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