While I was researching material for our present discussion, my computer turned up the following under “Radio Rants for 1995.”

“This fall Maine hunters will continue to wear red hats instead of white ones. This means that hunters will continue to be shot for redheaded woodpeckers and not white doves.”

Our topic today is pareidolia. You might not be familiar with the term, but most of us experience it from time to time. Pareidolia is the need of the human brain to make sense out of chaos; to recognize something in the distance although it is not really what you think it is. I do it, and perhaps you do, too.

Only a week ago I looked out the window and thought I saw a certain thing way off by the stone wall. My brain quickly made sense out of what my eyes reported and told me what it was. But after I squinted at the object for a while, it morphed into what it really was and not what my brain had initially thought it to be.

If you live with someone who doesn’t hear well, you know that the brain also has a need to make sense out of streams of sound. Some old dubber might hear “wretched bees” for “refugees,” or “flagship” for “fractured it.” If you live with someone who can’t hear well, my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, feels your pain.

The brain has a need to make sense out of what the ear hears or the eye sees. And the brain doesn’t care if it is right or wrong as long as it comes up with something. I offer this in an attempt to understand why so many people get shot during hunting season. (We should also remember that hunters don’t speak of the hundreds of cases where the fired bullet missed.)

Could pareidolia also explain why so many city people are shot by jittery police? Any city person who has watched any amount of evening news knows that when stopped by a police officer, you do not reach for your wallet, you do not move, you do not blink.

A hunter, stiff from standing in a tree stand for two hours, might see a deer in almost anything that moves, be it green, brown or orange. Not being a hunter myself, for years I have thought it remarkable that someone could look at a human being and see a deer. But if you realize that your brain’s job is to help your eyes make sense of your surroundings, a hunter seeing a deer in anything that moves in the brush is very understandable.

If you look in any Maine newspaper most any day in November, you will see that pareidolia makes it possible for hunters – who want more than anything in the world to see a deer – to shoot anything that moves. They really saw a brown, furry animal with 2-foot antlers and not their hunting buddy when they looked through their sights.

Would a neurobiologist suggest that if you are hungry, you might smell food? That if you are looking for a fight, any comment might be taken as an insult? That if you are looking for a date, just a smile might be interpreted as an invitation?

I gratefully attribute the following story to Ronnie Marsh, with whom I spent the summer of 1957 crewing on the Victory Chimes.

The Marsh Man said the first time he went hunting, his friend told him to stand at a place along a railroad track where he could see for quite a distance. The friend would walk way out round in a big circle and hope to drive out a deer. Marsh was a very laid-back, agreeable person, so he did exactly as directed.

Suddenly he saw a man in a brown fur coat running along the track. He wondered why any person would be foolish enough to wear a brown fur coat in the woods during hunting season. And, on top of that, the man was running on all fours, with a rack of antlers attached to his head. Marsh couldn’t bring himself to shoot, because he didn’t see a deer – he saw a foolish person.

And he never went hunting again.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/ MainePrivateRadio.html