Diversionary Bird-Dom

This post is dedicated to my friend, Mimi. I’m sure she would have screamed louder than I did.

Our office building is nothing fancy. In fact, it’s made out of cinderblock, so it’s damned cold in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer. It has a flat roof, so every few years we have to retar the thing. My husband, the dear Mr. Demonic, is on an austerity kick due to two kids in private college and an economy that’s going south faster than a flock of geese, and we have foregone the usual maintenance, like roof, painting and new furniture.

As a result, the roof leaks and our drop ceiling tiles are all spotted and ugly. The paint is peeling on the outside of the building due to the massive icicle that formed on the side of the building. I took a picture of it, because it looked like it was edging toward the door and was going to devour us whole.

The other problem is the toilet. Oh, Lord. Not only is it old, but it doesn’t flush well. I’m thinking something is stuck in the escape pipe.

Our office bathroom fan is home to an army of sparrows. I don’t mind birds, in fact I have a cranky lovebird in my house. However, when they take up residence in the vent leading to the outside, that’s when I have to object.

Sparrows have to be one intelligence quotient above a chicken. They seem to prefer feathering their nests in vents rather than in bird houses. We had this problem in my house and I bought an assortment of bird dwellings to get them to lay off the vent. No luck. I solved the problem by shoving a bright yellow tennis ball in the vent, and voila! no more birds.

I can’t reach the vent at the office, it’s at second floor level. The birds come and go, and in the spring you can hear the baby birds cheeping away like they owned the place.

Last night, my Number 2 thought she heard a bird, but she claimed it was inside the building. Mr. Demonic pooh-poohed the idea, thinking how the hell would a bird get inside a building. (Let’s see… hole in roof? hole in vent?)

It turns out Number 2 was right. A sparrow decended out of our false ceiling and began to buzz her. Mr. D grabbed a box and cornered it in the copy room. He thought he had eliminated the bird problem, but noooo….

This morning I’m sitting at my desk minding my own business when a sparrow dive-bombs me, narrowly missing my head. He bounced off a window, and I screamed. (What? It could have been a bat.) The screaming caused him to fly to the other side of the office, where he flew into another window, obviously not hard enough, because he escaped. He flew back and forth for a time before hiding in a far corner.

The noise rousted Mr. D from his comfy office down the hall. He began to open all of the windows (there are eight big ones) to release our little avian visitor. It’s freaking 18 degrees outside, and a cinder block building doesn’t retain any heat whatsoever. We were reduced to Creamsicles in mere seconds. Mr. D took a huge piece of cardboard and shepherded the bird out of the window.

It’s now two hours later, and I’m just starting to warm up.

We should have left the bird inside. You know the thing is just going to find his way back in.

Critters, Ducks and Other Water Fowl: Off-Topic From Squirrels

About fifteen years ago, the Demonic family lived in a far northern suburb. We were so far north, we were almost in the next county. Back in those days, it was desirable to move far away from the metropolitan center. When the Mr and I first married, we moved to a relatively close northern suburb. After four years and a most positive change in fortune, we found a beautiful French colonial atop a hilly lot, far, far away from everything, and that’s where we stayed for a long time. What snapped me out of genteel suburban living was having to drive back into town for school and work five days a week. Most days, we spent a good hour on the road, and that was just getting there. Add to the mix a major snowstorm, unexpected road construction or fatal car crash, and that road time all of a sudden expanded into three hours or more – one way.

Still, it was nice to be out so far, yet still enjoy the civility of manicured lawns and nearby neighbors with which to share barbecues and play dates. However, there was a downside, and that was the wildlife situation.

Up there, there are squirrels, but squirrels are in the minority. Those squirrels would have to fight with opossums, wood chucks, skunks and other creatures for their share of the pest pie. In fact, the biggest pest in that area would be skunks. We trapped fourteen of them in one summer, one right after another. Before you think I did this on my own, I should clarify. We hired a pest control company to rid us of the family of varmints that were nesting under our deck. At $40 a pop, we probably should have moved back to town several years earlier.

The other form of pestilence in the northern suburbs would be waterfowl. Ducks are present, but our neighborhood was scourged with a preponderance of Canadian geese. Ordinarily, I don’t have any beefs against Canadians, but I have to complain about their geese. Entire large flocks would congregate at the neighborhood lake, making the sand and boat ramp slick with birdie doo-doo. The lake was thick with floating goose byproducts, thus making swimming uncomfortable at the least and a health risk at the most. During the summer, when the temperature climbs to the high 90s with a 100% humidity reading, one likes to take a dip into the lake, especially when one is married to the Tightwad known as Mr. Demonic, a man who wouldn’t buy central air conditioning. (He has, of course, accepted it if it was already installed in the house.)

Our Canadian geese were fat and tired. They never migrated south, nor did they ever move back to Canada. The reason for this is painfully clear. We had neighbors who fed them daily. Why fly to Mexico in the winter when you can survive on Aunt Bessie’s bread crumbs today? Once a year, the neighborhood would pay to have the geese rounded up and taken elsewhere. This was done right at molting, when they couldn’t fly away. Of course, after the feathers came in, they flew back to the comfort of their old neighborhood, so it was a lose-lose system. Terribly flawed.

My backyard neighbors in that subdivision had a pool. Having a pool is a good thing if your lake is infested with geese. The mother, a gorgeous blond who had four children but still looked like a Hollywood starlet, or at least a retired cheerleader, stayed at home and cared for the pool, which was not fenced. They never invited us over to the pool, but that was cool. She kept Mr. Demonic entertained, as she laid out looking quite fetching in her bikinis.  We could see all of the action when watching TV in our family room.

One day, a friend of mine gave me a bird feeder as a present. Mr. Demonic had a great time putting it up in the back yard. As soon as we launched our feeder, we discovered the sneakiness of the squirrel population. Sure it is nice to watch birds as they take seed from your bird feeder, but those pesky squirrels (and other critters) were eating everything up.

Daily I would fill the feeder, and then attach all sorts of items to it to prevent squirrels. These included big round feeder umbrellas, coyote pee, nails, heck, I even greased the pole with Crisco. Every day, they found a new way to thwart my attempts at keeping them away.

There was a byproduct to this exercise in futility. As soon as the squirrels knocked all of the seed to the ground, the geese would head over to eat giant mouthfuls of seed.

One day, my gorgeous blond neighbor knocked at my patio door. She wasn’t happy. In fact, she was pretty tense. “Yes, could you please stop feeding the birds? The geese are flying into my pool and making a terrible mess.” She didn’t wait for me to respond, she just turned and left.

I was probably this close (like two millimeters) away from giving up bird feeding completely, but after that, I bought a 25 pound bag of bird seed and kept feeding the squirrels and everything else.

Of course, these days, I wouldn’t feed the birds if they came up to the back door with a tin cup.

Henpecked

I love the word. I don’t know why.

It’s a weird little word that brings back memories of Rickie and Lucy Ricardo, or Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Not that either of those two husbands were “henpecked.” At least, I don’t think they were henpecked.

What I find fascinating about the term is that in the real world hens don’t henpeck their rooster husbands. I know this, because we raised chickens. This is the pecking order as I know it: geese will peck on everything, so they are the kings of the yard. They will even peck dogs and children. Then next in line comes the rooster. Roosters peck all of the hens. The hens then pick one scrawny chicken to peck, and all of them peck at that one, until its head is completely bald and there are few feathers left on its back.

Chickens are completely strange animals. For birds, they are totally stupid. This is a great disappointment for a bird lover like me. My lovebird is MENSA level compared to a chicken. I once conducted a chicken intelligence test. I placed chicken food on one side of the coop, right in view of my chicken. Then I opened the door. The hapless chicken almost killed itself trying to got through the metal wire to get to the food. It never did figure out that if it had taken a few steps to the right, it could have found freedom and a large pile of feed. Instead, it continued to bang its head against the mesh.

As a child, I often wondered why the chickens didn’t form some sort of cooperative. Why didn’t one of them come forward in the aid of the one at the bottom of the pecking order? Why didn’t the chickens unionize and turn against the rooster? Why wasn’t the rooster smarter than the goose? It was smaller. It could have hidden from the rampaging goose. Why didn’t that rooster, if he was so smart, get all of the chickens together to wage war against the goose?

The answer is plain. Chickens are too stupid for that. It’s hard to imagine them as being descendants from the dinosaurs. Oh, wait. Those guys weren’t that brilliant either, which makes the chickens mere continued existence on the planet a rather provocative question.

Now, back to the word “henpecked.”It’s traditional use back in the day was to indicate the male unit of a couple deferring to the female unit. Common terminology in today’s vernacular is that the guy is pussy whipped, or just plain “whipped.” This assumes that the woman in the relationship has all of the power. I personally don’t like the term “whipped” because of its sexual connotation. The other side of being whipped is prostitution. I do like the word “henpecked” though, maybe because it implies power without having to trade sex for it.

I was thinking about this because it reminds me of my daughter and her boyfriend. He has assumed the “whipped” nickname by his friends. She does rail at him at times, and he’s usually so quiet, we don’t hear a response. We had no idea he was responding. He appears to allow her to run his life. I know better now. He sometimes yells back, just not in mixed company. He has his own ideas, and sometimes they conflict with hers. He’s respectful, but not henpecked.

Henpecked. I still like that word, though. It has a nice ring to it.