About this time fifty years ago (Fifty! Good Lord!), Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and the other members of The Beach Boys were putting the finishing touches on a musical masterpiece. This influential tour-de-force that gave us “Sloop John B” (my personal favorite) and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” did not yet have a title. It did have, however, in addition to a looming release date, a panoply of somewhat a-typical, for the time, sounds mixed in; those were, according to one account of how the album was named, Brian Wilson’s favorites, his Pet Sounds.
When you live closely with animals—pets and otherwise—you come to realize their sounds, their vocalizations, mean something. If you’re out and about you might catch the snort of a startled deer, the putt-putt of a hen turkey, the whirr of a rattlesnake, the cry of a soaring red-tail.
At home the cats have their sad, I’m-so-hungry-I-can-barely-meow sounds when it’s close to feeding time, or when they think it should be feeding time. One of my horses makes a sort of whistling noise when he smells something he doesn’t like—a bear, for instance. If we’re riding, that’s my cue to collect the reins and be ready. If he’s in the pasture, I need to go see what’s going on and perhaps encourage the bear to leave. Dogs, of course (barking dogs were included on Pet Sounds), have a friendly oh-hooray-we-have-company bark and a who-the-hell-are-you-and-why-are-you-at-my-door vocalization that it’s best to heed, especially when you’re that person at the door. I had a dog once who would sit in the living room and look longingly out the window at the female dog who lived across the road, whining softly and giving me pleading glances.
His wishes could not have been made plainer had he spoken to me in words.
For sheer entertainment, though, nothing beats the sounds of chickens. You don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never heard young roosters learning to crow. I’ve noticed the hens often “egg” each other on with a “ba-gawking” when one is doing her thing in the nesting box. Like a labor coach, maybe? When the flock is out in the yard and one of the roosters finds something tasty, he makes a distinctive noise that brings the hens running. When there is trouble in the coop—say a bobcat—there is no mistaking those kinds of chicken noises and you, as the human in charge, better get out there fast! And at night, when they go to roost, the sounds they make are almost like a purr.
Brian Wilson is scheduled to perform Pet Sounds at various venues throughout 2016. I don’t know if I will be lucky enough to hear him, but I can go outside anytime I want and listen for my own pet sounds. You can, too.