Friday, June 24, 2011

Nature Tells

She had crept into the shed and wedged herself into its darkest recess. I‘d lifted her before, despite her weak protests, and lain her on my bed. I desired to comfort her. I wished to hear her purr one last night. I longed to be with her at the end. But she had once again made her way here, to this dark place. I called to her softly; she answered weakly…plaintively.

Nature tells what to do. My father told me of the time he had a hernia, his body commanded him in the most imperative of ways, due not to pain, nor the discomfort, to lie down. I stepped from the shed, uncertain how to act. Turning, I looked back through the entrance and in toward her dark resting place.

There is a drawing by the Japanese artist Ando Hiroshige which portrays a view from within a home through a window to a landscape beyond. On the sill, is perched a cat, peering outward. The cat, perched between two worlds, the domestic and the wild, seems to invite the viewer to join it in its contemplation of nature beyond.

She wanted to lie, unmolested, in the darkness. She wished to be in a place that smelled of mice, of dust, of nature. I gently closed the door and wandered, aimlessly, mindlessly, about my yard. I awoke in the flower garden. I knelt down…and after a brief rest, I rose…with a pick in my hand.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Suffering Thing

I found her suffering a short distance from my home, and a quarter mile from the main road. Her injuries were obvious. She’d dragged her useless hind legs behind, as far as she could from her terminal encounter with the speeding metal and glass beasts that prey on her and her brood.

She panted with fear, exhaustion and pain. Propped up by front legs, extended in an unnatural angle, she held her head high, jaws agape. I dared not look into her eyes, for fear of causing her further distress or myself, panic at the sight of her suffering. Standing at a distance I considered…what to do? 


I returned home, where all was well and all in place. I filled a bucket with water...put it in the truck and drove down the road to the new-found dead-end. Placing it as close to her as possible without causing her alarm, I made myself small and returned home.

For coyote, man is a deadly enemy. We have vaguely sentimental ideas of being in sympathy with their plight. But all such sentimentality pales in consideration to their reality. They are shot. They are poisoned. They are struck dead by our vehicles. They are starved and choked by the vagaries of nature; their lives the penultimate expressions of the existential.

The following day, I found her, cold and stiff beside the bucket from which I hope she had drawn one last bit of comfort. She was given respectful covering. Then and I withdrew.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Conversation with Trickster

The southeast corner of Arizona is populated with the natural and the un-natural. And, the most un-natural are the modern-Man-transplants. This was once the domain of Cochise of the Chiracuaua band of Apache who lay close to the earth and the course of nature. Today, the vast majority of us here, have the most tenuous of grips on the very narrowest of ledges upon which we survive. The sun imposes its will in the day, and beats down the most physical. The night brings with it a transcendent blaze of stars that chases away all the rest. But the denizens of the desert remain. One of which is known as Trickster Coyote.

It was early twilight when Man came upon Trickster as She slunk through his yard.

Man demanded in alarm, “Hey, you! Stop!”

Trickster froze in a low crouch. Her look locked on Man in a most cautious way. Man could tell She was checking his hands for anything of weapon-nature.

Man clenched his fists. “What-the-hell! I told you to stay out of my fenced area during the day!”

Trickster raised Her head skyward and indicated with Her eyes. “It is not day, friend. Do you not see the stars? It becomes the night.”

“Yes, but you’re pushing the limit of the agreement.”

“Remind me again, please. I have become feeble.”

“You can’t enter my yard during the day, only at night.”

Said Trickster, with a touch of irony, “Ahhh, yes...the night is mine. You want me to come and clean up the swarm of mice and rabbits that eat your pretty plants...to do you a favor.”

Man retorted, “It’s me doing you a favor. I allow you this! I even give you water.”

Trickster dipped Her head slightly in contrition. “For the water, I thank you much. But you have much and I little. An indulgence please: one of those?”

Man could see Trickster was peering through his legs. He turned in time to see one of his cats hurrying its plumpness into his house.

Man scowled. “That’s what the agreement is about. They’re a part of me. You bite them, you bite me!”

Trickster‘s mouth drew into a wry smile. “Then at least allow me to tree them. They will look very pretty decorating your decadent shade trees.”

"Decadent trees? You are the decadent one", Man growled

Trickster was ready for Man. “No sir, you are wrong. Without the aid of all of the most unnatural things you have brought with you, you would collapse into the dust. Your trees need a prodigious amount of water that you must suck from the Earth. You hide yourselves inside your boxes, from the face of the heat and the cold and the rain. You do not grow food yourselves but drag it here and eat mountainous amounts until your ridiculous, fat bellies leave you listless and unable to walk. And then you excuse your lazy repose by saying the land about you is monotonous…so boring you seldom venture beyond your little fenced perimeter. It is you who are decadent. I, who am part of nature, will never be so.”

Man was taken aback by the imperative tone of Trickster. He shifted his feet nervously. He felt unstable, as if he had been shoved. “Again…stay out of my yard during the day. I’ll indulge you an occasional dead chicken or duck, but leave my pets alone. I…and…uh…your howling is disturbing my peace.”

“I am sure you are refering to my yipping, that calls my friends and family together, you find so disturbing. The Song I sing I know you to admire. It comes from my soul. It makes my heart pound and quakes my very body. You know it to be the truth and you envy me. Your music is stupid and loud and sounds of something about to break into pieces. But I see Men all about stepping from their boxes to hear my Song. They stand at attention and listen and admire it for a very long time. So, you see, I also sing for you.”

Man was now thoroughly flustered. “Go away. But remember the agreement. And…give my best to Cochise.”

“Ahhh...yes…of course…Cochise. You speak of The One. You invoke him and assume him to be one of yours. You think by doing so it will make you great by association. But Cochise was closer to my kind than to yours. He and his pack learned their ways from me, Coyote, but you and those of your ilk are his simple, distant, degenerate cousins. He is more a part of me than he a part of you. I go now.”

Trickster’s voice had worked a mesmerizing effect upon Man. It was then She moved with silence, grace, and swiftness through the barbed fence and vanished into the brush. Man was left standing at attention, staring as the new stars grew slowly in intensity as his transfixed state faded. A cool breeze brushed his hair across his brow. He found himself alone. Man wondered if he had imagined his entire conversation with Trickster.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Harvest Day

Ducks are fine creatures and if a bond can be made they are among the finest pets a person could have. When my package of ducks, advertised as a variety pack arrived, I found it contained only one Swedish Blue and twelve of the Peking breed. I had made the mistake of ordering around the Easter celebration when everyone wants the yellow hatchlings. As the loading of the package was up to the hatchery, and about the only ducks they had available were Pekings, I received a small swarm of peeping and cheeping, mostly yellow ducklings.

The ducks grew into eight drakes and five hens. The hens soon began laying four eggs each day more than I needed. I tried them scrambled, fried, poached, as eggnog, as quiche, as dog treats. I am not a great egg eater and began to choke on the overabundance. Meanwhile, the drakes spent all day, every day, squabbling about who "owned" the hens. The commotion they created prompted me to begin honing a grudge against them in an effort to overturn any moral compunction that might restrain my harvesting a succulent duck. The leverage worked and a "Harvest Day" was declared.

By surreptitious means I snagged a duck. The process is quite simple. You need only place a tasty morsel, such as a worm, in your hand and offer it. A duck will rush up to snag the treat and when it does so, you snag it in turn by the bill. This method can be used only once as the others will observe your deviousness and word or should I say the “Quack!!” will spread quickly throughout the flock and you will never be allowed within ten yards of one of them again...ever.

So, I tucked the duck under my arm and as a consolation prize for making this his last day on Earth, I dubbed him “Freddie”, a name I intended to award to all such future volunteers. I carried Freddie to a cage behind the house and conveniently near a water barrel that I would employ as the chopping block. The others ducks were in a tizzy about the trick they had seen me play on Freddie. They watched me with suspicion and alarm and from a considerable distance as I proceeded into the house to recover a large knife I intended to use to pop off Freddie's head. As I exited the house, the other ducks squawked in terror at the sight of the implement of death. But they do that at the sight of anything unusual. They are highly excitable creatures.

I placed the knife on the water barrel, fished Freddie out of the cage, tucked him under my left arm, brought him near the block, and again lifted the knife. Freddie responded by stretching his beautiful white neck out on the block as if he understood how the game of chopping-the-duck’s-head-off was to be played. His behavior caused me to pause in his execution and as I did so I was distracted by the sound of muttering coming from behind me. I turned to find three or four ducks stretching their necks from around the corner of the house where they observed my horrifying behavior. I imagined thought bubbles above their heads that read:

”What’s he doing with Freddie?!!”…”What’s he doing with that knife in his hand?!!”…”Oh, grief! No!!”

I returned my attention to Freddie, and as before he helpfully stretched his neck out on the block. I raised the terrible knife over my head. As I did so he looked up at me with one little gray eye that seemed to say, “How’m I doing guy? Am I doing this right?” His trusting little eye blinked rapidly and my knife wielding arm fell limp. 

I lowered Freddie from his too Heavenly perch to the Earth where he hurried off to compare notes with his amigos. There would be no sending of ducks to heaven that day nor would there be any future harvest day, as I love my creatures too much and as there is an abundance of homes in need of my overabundance of ducks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easy Shot

The slug cut a swath of pulverized flesh through her right flank and she went down by her front legs. The thirty caliber bullet carried, even at the range of three hundred yards, enough energy to collapse her front legs within a half second and lay her on her side in one. The entry wound was dead center to her torso, but inhumanly, not to any vital organs. So she shrieked to the sky and thrashed her legs in the dust and snorted and wheezed for a while too long. She was dead within a minute.

I stood at the barbed wire fence, almost afraid to speak. The rancher was in a fit. I’d heard men curse before, but his were different. My father cursed in an offhand manner; he dropped something…he cursed. But this man’s curses were directed and an order of magnitude worse.

The rancher’s fists were balled tightly at his side. His eyes glared with darkness and his words were choked. He sounded as if he would cry. “God-damned hhhell!! What the God-damned hell makes people do this!!?” White flecks of spittle were on his lips. The horse was already beginning to bloat. She lay on her left side. The bulging wound, puckered to the sky, was surrounded by a vomitus of dried blood. There was a beginning of stink and of flies.

My father bought a Garand thirty-caliber rifle, known as a thirty-ought-six or
30-06. These were war surplus and available by mail for a nominal amount. I don’t know why, but he got the idea into his head to go hunting…for something. I wonder if there might be a blood lust lying within people waiting to be sated; in some way it must take some shape, find some form.  The thirty-ought-six is a man-killer. The weapon was used at a time when the thought was to kill thine enemy, not just wound him, but to lay the fucker in the dust permanently. Military strategists later came to realize, a wounded soldier was more of a burden to the enemy than one stone dead, and so they devised bullets that have a high probability if wounding.

I mustered up the courage to ask, “What happened?”



He shouted, “What happened? …I’ll tell you what happened!! Some cowardly son-of-a-bitch shot this poor innocent horse for the fun of it; that’s what happened!” He continued for a while, alternating between curses and lamentations, and I stood, frightened and respectfully still, trying to find words appropriated enough to sooth, or placate, or to excuse my taking leave.

I watched as my father, disassembled the rifle, cleaned the parts, laid out his plan and executed it in a very methodical manner as he did with all his electro-mechanical projects. The barrel was to be cut short, eliminating the front sight. The stock was also cut short and “floated”, that is to say there was to be a gap between the stock and the barrel so as to eliminate any distorting load the firer’s grip might cause the barrel to bend ever so slightly and cause the bullet to deflect. The receiver was to be drilled and tapped and a scope fitted. And last but not least a shock absorbing pad would be attached to the butt for user comfort. My father was a genius of sorts. If he wanted a radio he built his own, if he wanted a cement mixer he built his own, if he wanted a sail boat he built his own, and if he wanted to kill something…

I excused myself from the scene and only returned after a month to witness the carcass shriveled. At the time the ranchers were poisoning the coyotes and havelina that would have cleaned up the rank mess within a week or two. As a result only the rats and insects were left to slowly disassemble and scatter the bones. It took months. Finally, after a year or two, the bones were gnawed to nothingness by all the creatures in need of their calcium.

It took many, many months, for the last traces of the horse to be worked into the soil or blown to the sky. But it took me many decades to fit the various bits of facts and hints about this incident together into a truth. People speak the truth in an obtuse manner. They tend to say the opposite of what they are trying to conceal but in such a singular way so as to accentuate what they really mean. The spoken words stick, but don’t register until enough little pieces pile up; they coalesce over the years until they finally push through into a truth. My father’s declaration, "he wouldn't harm a fly”, stood in stark contrast to the nature I knew. But I also knew the distance of three hundred yards from our back yard to the horse in the draw…would have been a very tempting and easy shot.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eureka

I have speculated that if someone could invent a pet food that appealed to the human palate it would sweep the competition from the field.

I have found it. They are pre-made frozen beef patties made by a company called Flanders. I was shopping and though I seldom consider such a purchase I found myself comparing the unit prices on frozen beef patties. The Flanders brand was half the price of the others so I indulged and purchased a package of twenty.

Upon arriving home I could not resist popping one into the electric skillet and soon the smell of something vaguely beefy began to fill the house. I say vaguely as there was only a hint to beef scent mixed with other unknown qualities. I lifted the ground, fried remains onto a plate and my cats gathered about to beg a sample. I tested the “burger” myself and found it almost unpalatable. The pieces I offered the cats were chewed a bit and spat out. The package promised “beef” but there are many parts of the beef that are rejected and I now know where they wind up. The parts I had purchased were probably snouts, snot, tails and integuments. I offered the remainder to my dog who like a true omnivore devoured it with enthusiasm.

I am the alpha dog in this wolf pack and my dog Beta is the beta dog. We are fellow omnivores and are at some level in competition for the good stuff. His enthusiastic consumption of the patty has sparked a competitive nature in me and I have found myself developing a taste for these “dog food burgers” and too, possibly as a result, have the overpowering urge to lift my leg on an ever widening circle of territory.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Stroll In the Mountains

It was a wet summer in ‘73. A friend came to visit and we packed for a hike in the Huachucas. The desert was an emerald green and all the little snakes were out of their too-moist holes trying to dry off. The south-eastern end of the Huachucas cross the border with Mexico and the entire length is a common and easy smuggling route with all the canyons and oaks that afford cover.

We were only a mile in and passing along a pine shaded trail and up a slight rise where at the crest we surprised and were surprised by a string of mal-hombres. They were numbered, three gringos and four Mexican "mules." Neither side could see the other coming and so the encounter was sudden. The coyotes were carrying long-guns, side-arms and big knives. The carriers were dark thin Mexicans 
carrying tall, bulky packs that extended over their heads. We halted before each other at a range of about forty yards. 

Their armament was not meant to be raised against the law nor for passersby but for use against squads of rip off teams that ambush such smugglers. Neither I nor my friend had ever had such an encounter before. With a flash of a friendly waves and tense smiles each side reassured the other and each quickly surmised the other to be more interesting than a threat. And so we closed the gap. They and we spoke in soft, low voices.

Their leader inquired if we had seen any "law." His eyes darted nervously behind dark shades as he munched one end of his handlebar mustache. We informed him of the Forest Service truck we had seen at the head of the trail. His nervousness increased and he conferred in whispers with his fellow coyotes. They decided to continue along their path. We wished them luck and stepped to one side to let them pass and spent the next few days in relative peace, being serenaded by rattlesnakes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trickster Must Go

I have an implicit understanding with the coyotes that lurk about my property. They must not cross the perimeter fence surrounding my home during the daylight hours. Their intrusion during the darkness is tolerated. There is nothing I can do about that and really it is welcome as they vacuum up the rodents that damage my sparse garden crops. At night the cats are tucked safely inside my home and the duck into her pen. The dog is asleep in his house and wouldn’t rise to challenge a coyote; they are simply too tough and the dog knows it. During the day, however, the cats and duck are out and about and Trickster is a expected to keep his distance. But he has violated the agreement.

I surprised him around noon a couple of weeks ago. He was sniffing about near what was once a chicken pen. Our encounter was very brief. He spotted me the instant I him and he flung himself over the four foot fence with the greatest of ease and slipped into the tall brush but not before making brief, sneaky eye-contact. Then last week I saw him lope through the yard as if in an effort to flush out anything live. He was searching for targets of opportunity. There are no rabbits within the fenced area that might lure him; he was after a plump cat or duck. These were severe violations of the agreement.

I thought he might be searching for water as this is a desert and we are in a drought. In an attempt to satiate his urgent need for water I have been placing a full bucket in a remote location, emptying it in the morning and refilling it in the evening. Leaving a water source out during the day creates a problem. The coyotes, and bobcats are drawn to it not just to slake their thirst but also to hunt any creature that also needs the water, and of those there are many. The bucket of water becomes a waterhole. By removing it during the day the cats will not run the risk of using it and being ambushed. But that was not sufficient for Trickster. He continued to raid the yard during the day.


I have the right to defend my creatures and if Trickster threatens my pets or livestock I have the right to dispatch him. Trickster made himself a problem and so must go.

So I pulled the slugs from two .308 rifle rounds, emptied out half the powder, stuffed cotton wadding inside the cases to take up the space and hold the remaining powder against the primer. I trimmed off the end of the metal clad slugs so as to cause them to mushroom upon impact and replaced them in their cases and sealed them with a swab of laquer. Two rounds is sufficient. If I hit him with the first round the second would be used to dispatch him. A fully loaded round is simply too powerful. I have neighbors within one quarter of a mile.

Then I got to thinking that I could frighten some animal sense into him with a blank round, so I pulled the slug from a third round and replaced it with cotton wadding; the slug was not replaced. It will be used in the first instance and I will only later employ the deadly rounds if Trickster returns. Trickster, after all, may be female and could have young that are dependent on her. I don’t want to make orphans.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Big in Japan

One of the “to see” features of Japan, if you ever have the good luck of making such an excursion is to Yoyogi park in the metropolis of Tokyo. There you will have a chance to listen, if your ears can take the roar, various bands, most of which are from other parts of the world. And, you will see the Elvis dancers twisting their life away. After the onslaught of sound, which I should warn you sounds like that of a jumbo-jet taking off, the bands will offer themselves up to be worshiped as idols by their Japanese groupies.

There was one particular fellow, a member of some punk band that I am sure is unheard of in the States, that had place himself on display for the admiration of a clutch of overly enthusiastic Japanese girls that had coalesced near him for that purpose. The girls, about a dozen of a very young age, were gathered together at a distance of twenty yards from this specimen of western-rock-hero. They giggled and squealed and clutched each other like…well, like small overly excited children. The object of their admiration was a large pot-bellied lug of a man with a shaved head, dirty white short-sleeved shirt, frayed, grease stained cut-off pants, and high top boots with lug soles. His arms were crossed and he wore the greatest shit-eating smile on his face I have ever seen on anyone, anywhere. Suddenly, one of the girls burst from the group, closed the distance between herself and her hero in a flash, and she threw her arms around him. The brief embrace was returned and she dashed back to her groupies, who squealed delight and enfolded her as if to share the scent of her brief encounter with the exotic. He stood there beaming. Yes, you too could be big in Japan.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Comes Early to Southern Arizona


As I peered through my patio window and the calming haze of a glass of wine, I observed the small birds flitting about on the grape vines that drape my perimeter fence. They repeatedly darted to and fro and perched upon the recently cut end of one of the vines. I have the bad habit of waiting until late spring to perform my primitive vine pruning.

The birds would chase each other from the same perch as if in competition for something. They would sit and dip toward the cut end. I watched this performance for quite a while until my curiosity lifted me from my recline, upward and outward to investigate.

It was quite simple. The birds had found spring sap oozing from the freshly cut ends of the vines to their taste. They were enjoying a flavored drink. Why imbibe duck-poop tainted water from the duck bath when you can instead quaff spring-sap tea?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The World Needs a Good Bombing

This song, to be sung to the tune of "The Times They Are A-Changing", is dedicated to the too many of my society who can find no end of specious reasons to enter into war. 


“The World Needs a Good Bombing“


© Zedshort


Come gather ‘round haters
Of all political stripe
And holler and yell out
Your jingoist tripe
And call everyone else
Who levels a gripe
That they’re cowards and should be leavin’
Leave the fighting and killin’
To those with no moral bone
For the world needs a good bombing.


Come bleedn’ heart liberals
And neo-cons who all gripe
That things over there
Seem about over ripe
And we must jump in now
Oh, the flames are just right
While there's glory
To be a-reapin’
Time to be killin’
Though it’s morally thin
For the world needs a good bombing.


Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he who gets voted out
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a war to be fighting
And if you won’t pander
They will cut off your balls
For the world needs a good bombing.


Come fools and hot-tempered
Throughout the land
And don’t hesitate
To make the demand
Put your sons and your daughters
At whimsy’s command
Begin a new war
We’re not needing
Sacrifice dearest first born
Send to foreign land
For the world needs a good bombing.


The heat it is on now
All hope is aghast
The quick will meet death
And the dead they will laugh
But the doubters today
They won’t be the last
To raise high a long middle finger
To those who praise discord
Hatred surely to last
For the world needs a good bombing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Man of Constant Hunger

To be sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's version of "Man of Constant Sorrow"


"Man Of Constant Hunger"


©  Zedshort

I am a man of constant hunger
I’ve been hungry all my days
I’ll say goodbye to my own kitchen
Where I’ve spent most of my days.


There is no food to which I’m a stranger
My face is smeared with crumbs galore
But there is one promise, my dear foodie:
See you 'round the golden arches evermore.


Through every buffet I will wander
Through Asian, Country, and then more
Now my poor gut is fully distended
Need a ride to those ER doors.


I’ll have my stomach pumped out
And have my poor health restored
Should have known how bad I’d be feeling
Guess I was just plain bored.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Talkin’ OK Cupid

The following is to be sung to Bob Dylan's "Talkin' New York". The only difference is in the sixth stanza where my version contains six lines whereas Dylan's contains four.


Talkin' OK Cupid


by Zedshort


Rambling round from bar and band
Seeking love in every bush or hand
Thought all hope lost and feeling down
‘Till I come into OK Cupid town
Every type of woman and man on display there
And some in need of definition.

Lonely time in Cupid town
I found myself lurking around
Heart adrift no anchor called You
Somebody could die, lonely and blue
It was a lonely time then
People said my heart would stop and die pretty soon
Guess that was the consolation prize.

So I wrote me a profile full of heart
Poetry, and grace and added sparks
Described you and me both to a Tee
And posted it electronically:
OK Cupid, here I am.

I searched and found a gal on said site
That seemed to me just about right
Wrote her a letter true and blue
Zed, she laughed, I ain’t for you
You sound desperate to me
Girls wants honesty not truth.

So, I honed my pen and proceeded to lay
Out my plans for our future day
Drew them a picture fine and true
The gals there said I sounded lewd
They explained they was bitching whores
Not whoring bitches.

After weeks and weeks of hanging around
I found a gal in Cupid town
Had a nice face, big tah tahs too
I changed tune, paid membership dues
It was a wild and crazy and torrid affair
Lasted one whole day.

Now, someone I don’t know once said
If it’s happiness you want all of your life
You must make an ugly woman your wife
Body that screams but face like a horse
Balloon like ass and hooters that snort
Won’t be putting her on display in public too much
But we’re bound to keep the house warm.

So one morning when I awoke cold and alone
I lodged a complaint in my Cupid journal-tome
But heard in response not murmur nor hoot
It was then I knew I’d been given the boot
So long OK Cupid town
Howdy, Match dot com.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Three Criteria

What is he thinking? Why does he act as he does?

Women are constantly asking themselves those questions of their men friends and it is time I reveal to you a number of facts about male behavior. First you need to understand that there is an under-layment of basic animal behavior. Everything displayed after that is nothing more than the d├ęcor of our vain behavior. We are a rather like decorator crabs, picking up bits and pieces of our environment and requisitioning those items for our personal use which is primarily an effort to attract a female of the species. But, as I said, there are really only three things that make up our foundation and everything else is fluff.

The three criteria by which men judge everything in the world are as follows.

  Number one: Can you eat it?

  Number two: Does it make music?

  Number three: Can you have sex with it?

If it does not meet one of those criteria, it is judged as being of peripheral interest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lonely-Boy

Lonely-Boy arrived as one of twelve ducklings in a small cardboard box. Their peeping, cheeping and rustling aroused the interests of the postal clerk and so I opened the package right there on the counter and displayed to him and to the persons in line behind me my new clutch of fuzzy cuteness. They nodded approval.

I knew straight away that something was wrong with my duck-assortment order. Only one of the twelve displayed a coat different from the others. I had eleven yellow ducklings and only one of another sort. I complained of this in a call to the hatchery and they explained they had sent what they had on hand but at the time of the Easter celebration about all they had on hand were Peking ducks; that is all anyone wanted.

So I put them in a cage, draped with a bed sheet and a heat lamp as a surrogate mother. They alternated throughout the day and night with waking and sleeping, peeping and quietude. They grew into Peking ducks and a solitary Swedish Blue.

The Peking duck in case you were raised on Mars, is the all white duck with the requisite yellow bill. They are highly inbred and very decadent. Decadence is defined as the inability to maintain the institutions you have create. To that end I would say, Peking ducks are so inbred that they no longer know the proper method of laying, sitting, hatching, and caring for their young. The vast majority of Peking ducks are raised in hatcheries. I once made the mistake of allowing a Peking hen to attempt the process of laying and hatching of several clutches of over three dozen eggs with the net profit of a single duckling. That, ladies and gentlemen, epitomizes decadence; keep it in mind for future reference.

The Swedish Blue is far less inbred and still retains the instincts that ducks should have and that, primarily, is to be among those of their kind and preferably to be among as many of the females of the species as possible. The one Swedish Blue duck I received I named Lonely-Boy, for obvious reasons.

Lonely-Boy had very dark purple plumage, grading into iridescent green ticking along his neck, a white bib and greenish-yellow legs and bill. He was a handsome fellow but it soon became apparent to the other ducks that Lonely-Boy was different in those obvious and ways. The Peking ducks discriminatory behavior began simply. When feed was provided, he was pushed out. When it came time to crowd into the duck house for the night, he was compelled to sleep on the roof. But don’t worry, ducks have a very thick layer of down and in spite of the layer of frost on his back in the morning, I am sure he was quite comfortable. Ducks are hardy creatures.

But hardest of all, Lonely-Boy was cut off from the primal-animalistic source of all affection…sex. Yes, Lonely-Boy liked to be with the Peking females, and I have no doubt that the females liked him too. He was after all, a dark and mysterious fellow. What could be more alluring?

But the males of the Peking breed had a problem with that and attacked and beat the stuffings out of him every time he charged into their midst to satisfy his desire. The squawking and honking and complaining was terrible to hear and even more so when it occurred late at night and worst still when the mauling of poor Lonely-Boy took place beneath my bedroom window. What a commotion! Lonely-Boy was driven from the flock and condemned to sleep on the opposite side of the house from which he would make the occasional booty-raid.

I grew tired of it all and resolved to find Lonely-Boy a new home. So, I placed an ad, “Free duck. Pretty Swedish-Blue, other ducks don’t like him. Name…Lonely-Boy.” Several people called me. One snarlulous, gruff, old man, sounding rather drunk and tired complained that he had a solitary duck and a large pond but the other visitor ducks, being wild had flown and his remaining duck, being very domestic and lonely, was quacking night and day in an attempt to call back his long lost buddies. He hoped that another lonely duck would mollify his lonely duck and the two together would equal one happy duck. In retrospect I should have given him the duck.

Another person, curious about such an exotic advertisement inquired as to how one would keep such a creature. I explained that ducks being cold weather birds with ample layers of feathers and down, needed deep shade at all times and a pool for bathing. She asked if she would have to pick the duck up and place it in the shade, as if the duck was so stupid that it would sit in the direct, intense Arizona sun all day and roast in its own feathers. No, I explained, ducks have a brain in their heads. I put emphasis on the word “their.”

Last, but not least, a woman called and told me her parents owned property in Payson, Arizona with a stream that ran year-round, with other domestic ducks, and geese, and wild ducks and they fed them and they were happy and such and it sounded to me like ducky heaven and so I said, “Yes, please come and take him away.” So, she arrived and we proceeded to catch Lonely-Boy.

There is a difference between a domestic ducks and domesticated ducks. Domestic ducks are those that are bred for making large quantities of meat and eggs while domesticated ducks are those that have been handled frequently enough as to let you get near them whether they are a domestic ora “wild” breed. Lonely-Boy was domestic, but not domesticated, and he gave us a run for the money. After much tripping and falling and huffing and puffing, and with the other ducks running interference just for the hell of it, I finally cornered him and stuffed him into a box and consigned him to his new owner. And good riddance! She promised to write and send photos of Lonely-Boy in his new home and true to her word, within a week, she sent photos of him "dancing on the water" of his new stream and one of the wild ducks cruising down stream to inquire into the source of commotion and to welcome the new-comer.

It truly sounded like ducky heaven, until a few weeks later, when I receive another letter about the situation. She informed me that a cougar had been seen stalking about in the area and she inquired as to whether cougars would eat ducks? I responded that cougars would eat anything meaty they could get their jaws around. I never received another letter from her. I can only hope that, one way or the other, Lonely-Boy has found ducky heaven...lovely, misunderstood Lonely-Boy.





Lonely-Boy dancing on the water
Wild ducks investigating the newcomer


Friday, January 21, 2011

My New Hood Ornament

As I waited for a light at the intersection of two major roads, I became aware of a little boy. I turned and found Little-Boy was sitting in a child’s seat, front passenger side in the truck on my left. He was dressed in a blue suit, hair neatly combed and parted. As I looked at him, I also looked past him, at his mom. Mom was a “looker.” I try not to be rude, but I must reiterate, mom was a “looker”, and so I was compelled to look; I am after all a guy. I suppose Little-Boy noticed my looking. He turned to me and I said to him in a mock-enthusiastic manner, as both our windows were down, “Is that your mom?” I believe I heard him reply, “Yeah.” I added, “Your mom’s pretty!” Mom took notice and smiled. Little-Boy whipped his gaze from me to his mom, and back to me and back to mom, and back to me. I noticed on his face a most serious and dark look of disapproval. I went back to watching the light when without warning, a small toy clattered across my truck’s hood. The child had launched it at me. I set the brake, turned off the engine and hustled out to recover it. I was laughing, mom was laughing, Little-Boy was not. I returned to him his toy, and hurried back to mine as the light had changed. I had just closed the door, when the toy came flying through the open window. Little-Boy had perfected his aim. The traffic proceeded and left me no chance to return his “gift” as they were well on their way but I am certain that I saw, as the two of them pulled away, mom was laughing. Mario, however, was mine.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Brief Story

Rolf Velsen was born June, 1925 on a farm outside of the village of Vilatch, province of Vilatch, in the state of Carinthia, of Austria. He was what the people of that time and place would have called a peasant. In our vernacular of that day we would have called him a “poor, dumb farm boy.” Rolf’s education extended to the sixth grade, and his world was encompassed by the countryside about his home to a radius of ten miles. All beyond that was a foreign land. He was Lutheran and attended church regularly. Rolf’s acquaintances consisted in the main of his extended family, the nearest neighbors, and a few school chums. He worked the land beside his father and mother and brothers and sisters with the simplest of implements. He had never spent a night away from home. Home was all he knew. He was not sophisticated.

On August 1943 he was conscripted into the German Army. He said goodbye to his parents and siblings, and boarded a truck with others of similar luck, which carried him to a train that in turn took him to Salzburg, a distance of less than one-hundred miles from home, near the German-Austrian border. The handful of hours he had spent away from home already seemed to him to be an eternity, and homesick, he jumped from the train as it began to pick up speed. Several hours later he was captured by the police, turned over to military authorities and after a brief interrogation had revealed the facts, Rolf was placed in a cell. The next day he was given a Court Martial for desertion and found guilty. The following day Rolf Velsen was ushered into a courtyard with a thief, and a saboteur, placed against a wall and shot.

This story was related to me by an old man under the influence of a Scotch and heard by myself through the same haze. The story is a retelling of a tale relayed by at least several others and in the telling details may have been lost and others corrupted, but not to such a extent as to render it useless.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mr. Stinky Breath

In the past I had the habit of leaving the cat-port open all night. My mousers have a duty to perform and it is best performed late at night when their prey are moving about. Trouble is they too frequently bring their victims into the safety of home. Whenever I can, I take their toys away and toss them into a bucket and the next morning bury them in the vegetable garden. 

You probably recall the story of how the Pilgrims that settled in New Plymouth, Massachusetts nearly starved to death due to the infertility of the very sandy soil they were attempting to cultivate. They were starving, that is, until the natives taught them how to fertilize the soil by using fish, which they had in abundance. Fish are high in protein and protein has an abundance of nitrogen, and potassium and their bones are high in phosphorous, and calcium, and upon rotting the fish become a very nearly balanced fertilizer. As there is a shortage of fish in the desert, I’ve learned to use the rodents my cats bring me. With a foundation bar, I drill a hole near the roots of a chard plant, lift a rodent out of the bucket by the tail, insert it nose first into the hole and using the foundation bar, gently tamp in in place. I’ve found I can deposit three small mice or one good size rat in each hole. It’s best to leave the tail of the last one hanging out slightly so you don’t accidentally over-fertilize that particular spot.

One of my cats, Legs, likes the hunt and early in mid morning knocks off to come into my bedroom to “report”. He’s a big tough, blond, male tabby who loves his man. He likes to sit near my head late at night and purr into my ear and breath into my nose. Late one night he was doing so, with his cold nose so close it would occasionally touch mine. I had noticed in the past a peculiar scent about him at those times but never put it all together…I was after all half asleep…when I found myself overly disturbed by that awful musky scent that he was breathing into my nostrils. When, finally, it dawned on me…what I was smelling…was the scent of…rat blood. I must say, was so very good of him to report to me, in his pure animal-cat way, the success of his hunt.