War and Peace

 

I spend many hours writing in my office, where I also look out at the trees and bushes and the astonishing number of birds that come to our three feeders. I can’t actually identify them all. But I am learning…slowly.

These three feeders are right outside the windows of my office and since my office is basically three-quarters windows I have a great view of nature every day.

My wife the Beautiful AP likes to go into the backyard and take pictures of the birds (and trees and bees and plants and bushes and butterflies) but yesterday was a different day. AP was busy going over some pictures she had taken earlier when I saw them at the feeders, two (what I think were) grackles, one black, the other gray.

The gray one stayed on the top bar of the feeder away from the other birds while the black one went to the grain in the feeders, shoving aside the sparrows, and put some feed in his beak and flew back to the gray one and fed her beak-to-beak. He did this over and over again. I called the Beautiful AP over to take a look and maybe get a picture of this.

I know that mother birds and often father birds will feed their chicks in their nests but these two birds were basically the same size so I assumed they were both adults and since males tend to be more colorful than female birds I made the assumption that the magnificent black bird was male and the somewhat less magnificent gray bird was female.

“I’ve never seen anything like this with two adult birds,” said AP attempting to take a picture through the window.

These two (lovebirds? mated birds? courting birds?) continued in this fashion for about fifteen minutes and then they both flew away.

“What do you think?” I asked AP.

“The only thing I know,” she replied, “is you can’t get a decent picture through a window.”

She hadn’t. Too bad. What the heck was actually going on? Was I right in some of my assumptions?

A while later I saw her tromping around the backyard with her sunhat on her head and the camera at her eyes. I wondered what she was photographing.

I found out when she came into the house about a half hour later.

“I got two blue jays at war,” she said. “They were really going after each other. First a cardinal attempted to scare off the first blue jay but the jay just lunged for the cardinal and the cardinal flew away really fast.”

“Blue jays are tough birds,” I said. “I can see they probably evolved from dinosaurs a few million years ago. They’ve got that attitude.”

“Well, the cardinal turned tail. Literally,” she said.

“Our lovebirds didn’t come back,” I said.

“No,” she said, “but then another blue jay came over and these two blue jays were not friends. They went at each other along the fence. I think I might have gotten a decent picture of them going at it. I would think those two were not lovebirds unless it was violent love. They’re aggressive.”

Yes, they are. I have heard and read many stories where blue jays have attacked people for getting too close to the nest – like about 30 feet! They are dangerous birds and when they come to the feeder most of the other birds get away, to a different feeder or altogether out of there.

I did see one blue jay get killed when a cat nailed him and scattered the blue jay’s feathers and guts under the bird feeders. Okay, I admit, blue jays can’t defeat cats.

I have been now watching birds in a somewhat serious manner for two years – more or less – and they fascinate me. First thing, they can fly! Give me my choice of a single superpower and flying would be it. I don’t need super strength because if someone were bothering I could – snap! – just up and fly away, just like that cardinal did.

So today I experienced two aspects of the bird world; love and warfare. Some relationships combine them. Just like Frank Sinatra sang, “Love and warfare; go together like a horse, carriage and carnage.” AP and I are thankful that our relationship is love minus the warfare, once I learned that in marriage one person is always right…and the other is the husband.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Read Frank’s ongoing series about his teaching experiences in School Scobe.

Cute and Unafraid

 

I am having trouble with the Beautiful AP and this has been going on for the past 32 years, 25 of which we’ve been married.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I cannot handle her. I cannot get her to be obedient. Even at the first of our weddings (we married each other three times, one wedding of which we were our own ministers) I wanted her to say, “Love, honor and obey.” She wouldn’t. Instead she changed “obey” to “cherish.”

When she heads for work she says things like, “Now, Scobe, I want you to put the laundry in the dryer and when it is dry I want you to put it in the basket and bring it to the bedroom. Make sure you do the dishes in the dishwasher and put them away. Also, bring in the recycling bins. Make sure your spot in the living room is neat and clean. And…”

“You know I am writing all day,” I whine.

“You can take a few minutes off to do a few little things,” she says and heads out to her beloved library job.

But she is not in charge of everything in our house. We have two parrots, Augustus and Mr. Squeaky. They control her. From the moment we all wake up at 5 AM to the moment they go to sleep (Augustus at 4 PM, Mr. Squeaky at 8 PM), the Beautiful AP is the servant of those damn birds—and the master of me!

How is that possible? She cleans their cages every single day; feeds them in the morning; hugs and coos to them when we all watch television together; kisses them; sings to them and puts up with all sorts of crap (literally) every day.

For decades I have pondered one of life’s fundamental questions: how do I make her my servant? Then I had a brilliant idea; I’d ask the birds for the secret of their success. Obviously, they must be doing something right.

“Guys,” I said to them. “Please give me your secret for becoming the master of the Beautiful AP.”

Of course, I know my parrots cannot talk but I can read their faces. All parrot owners will attest that while the bird’s face doesn’t change, it expresses so, so much. Yes, parrot owners know what the bird is saying. I know what Augustus and Mr. Squeaky are saying to me.

I posed my burning question to the birds. Augustus tilted his head. He is so cute when he does that. You see. I am cute when I do this, right? I can melt people’s hearts when I tilt my head and look at them with my head to the side. So AP sees this and she is in love with me.

I jumped in: “Cute? Got it. But how is it you can control her?

Augustus again titled his beautiful head. It’s simple. I let her know that I am in charge. You know that I am called the “stealth pooper” in our home. But there is nothing stealth about it. I poop wherever I want; on furniture, draperies, that nice 65-inch television where I aim it so the poop drips right down the screen. I poop on AP’s shoulder and even on her head. This lets her know I am the boss. I am cute but I am unafraid to stake my ground. That is my power.

Cute, but unafraid. Hmmm.

I have to say, there might have been a time in my life when I was cute but those days are long, long gone. Now I look in a mirror; a horrifying sight looks back at me.

I turned to Mr. Squeaky, but before I could ask him his secret, he tilted his head and said, Cute, but unafraid. What more do you need?

I mulled this over. Cuteness allows you control. I thought of infants, with diapers full of stinking poop and urine, and the mother changing the kid. “Oogie, oogie, baby is so cute!” As she wipes the kid’s awfully smelling butt clean. “Ooohhh, you smell so bad, you beautiful child.” The child giggles. Mom is in paroxysms of love.

Sometime during the day the infant will vomit on the mother. “Is my little oogie, oogie, throwing up on me? Oh, let it all out my pretty little one.”

Squeaky tilted his head, Now think of humans who are not so cute as a baby doing the exact same thing. They are not in control; they are despised.

So, I thought of really, really old people; those who poop and pee in their pants or in their adult diapers and how their health aids feel about cleaning them up.

The old person’s wrinkled and sagging face is not cute like the baby’s face. Lack of cuteness forces them to pay the aid to take care of them. My parrots pay no one. We treat them to everything!

Finally, I asked Squeaky, “What do you do to show superiority?”

Mr. Squeaky tilted his head (he is so cute!). Do you see that sharp point at the end of my beak? Everyone sees that point. I can hurt you if I want to. I am cute and dangerous. Being unafraid is important; it means you have power. Fear is weakness. Unafraid is power.

I learned my lesson.

I am not cute. If I tilt my head the only thing that happens is my jowls fall down in the tilted direction. I certainly cannot poop on my wife’s head as she comes back from work. I can’t bite her. Unfortunately, I am not unafraid.

So, excuse me, I have to do the laundry now before she gets home.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.