Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Oh, Deer!

When I was little my mother wouldn't let hunters do their hunting on our land. Back then I figured that was strictly because she couldn't stand the thought of something being killed on her property, on her watch. Now I understand that a big part of what drove her to go charging up the ridge, into the forest, to ask hunters politely to leave, wearing earth tones, risking her own life, was that we kids were always running around on that ridge, wearing earth tones.

So, I come by it naturally when I say I don't like hunting. I don't know what it's like to go hunting, but I know I don't want to go because it's everything terrifying wrapped into one experience. Waking up early, trudging off into the cold, sitting perfectly still for hours waiting for... something, loud noises, carnage, heavy lifting, and all to produce a rotting corpse I now have to deal with in a time-sensitive manner. I don't care much if other people want to hunt, I just don't want it to impede my life in any way. I never had any problem with deer. They never seemed to have a problem with me. We were coexisting perfectly, better than most humans and me even. And now this:

We pulled into the driveway the other day and were met by what I interpreted to be a gang of angry punk/grunge adolescent deer standing around trying to look bored and offended at the same time. It was like if deer replaced every album cover from the '90s. They barely lifted their heads. I don't know if there's a poppy plantation nearby where they gather but it's the only thing that makes sense. That or they're organizing.

I was so stunned at their total denial of my entire existence that I actually found myself kind of like, "Hey, deer, uh, these rules were made thousands of years ago, how DARE you stand there in MY way. When I come YOU go, that was the agreement." I was shocked at their audacity and at my reaction to not being considered enough of a threat to their existence to even meander out of the way of the car. They clearly have no idea what I am capable of. As I said before, I still would never kill a deer, but in return, I WOULD appreciate some acknowledgement from the deer of the grace I'm giving their piddling little existence. I'm a MAN! As in, I'm a woman but it sounds better to say "man" when declaring your person hood in front of any sort of obstacle.

I was equally miffed and intrigued after this stare-off and wanted to test them right back, because that's what you do when you find yourself feeling those two emotions equally. So, I waved my arms from inside the car. Blank stares. I actually opened the car door, got out of the car and yelled "Hey, DEER!" A few kind of looked at me like they'd be looking at me while lighting a cigarette, "You sure you want to do this, Slick?" Damn right. So in a display of the most boldness and confidence and superiority I've given in at least a decade, I came from where I was standing behind the car door and marched right up to them. "Hey, DEER!" Looking behind me at Justin still seated in the car. "This is amazing!" I tried to look as menacing as I could, as I felt my bravery slowly crumbling into mere bravado. I raised one arm like it was a gun. It's stupid, I know, but I couldn't back down now, I had to do something. I continued my calculated march with my arm-gun, head kind of tilted like I might be looking through a scope or aiming. Whatever I was doing, just take my word, it was really dumb, but at the time I felt like it was incredibly cool. Before I got within arms reach of the mob I started clapping and they finally skittered off into the back yard, which is where I last saw them, where they probably still are, building a bigger, nicer house behind me to make me look more ridiculous.

So, if only in the interest of maintaining our dignity as MEN, and women and children, infants and infirm alike, someone take some of these deer out. Let 'em start hunting with machine guns and grenades. Otherwise I'm liable to just drift off into the woods in shame and let them move on in because what possible value can a person be if you can't even make deer acknowledge you? Sorry Mom, the world is moving on, changes are afoot, it's a free for all down here.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Parroting and Parrots

I'm not an animal person. They're unpredictable, needy, and just one more living thing I pathologically want to like me. Justin, on the other hand, will welcome anything into our home which requires regular maintenance. Despite our limited space I have deemed one corner our "Flotsam and Jetsam Corner," wherein we have a revolving door of fish and birds. The Flotsam fine as they require minimal attention. The Jetsam, two parakeets, were a nuisance at best to begin with but I've been shocked to find that I am rather intrigued by the birds, Blue in particular. Blue is the blue parakeet, there is also a green one called Green who, when outside of his cage, regularly gets stuck in corners and small spaces inconsistent with life after a time and requires rescuing, which he doesn't even have the sense to recognize he needs and flaps around and bites and fights your good will the whole time. It makes me really resentful.

Blue has a little more sense. When he's let out of his cage he stays pretty much where he's placed and doesn't cause a lot of fuss. I attribute that to higher intelligence than Green, but is more likely due to the fact that we have one of those cool looking old fans with the razor sharp spinning blades behind about four "s"-shaped "protective" wires, about the gage of an earring post. It had occurred to us that the fan did pose a threat to a none-the-wiser pet shop pet with the ability of flight but, as with most potential threats which occur to us, we dismissed it, until one warm night when we heard the sound of something possibly going through a wood chipper and then a bunch of flapping around. We collected him off the floor from among a pillow of chopped feathers and coddled him to soothe the shock and tried to keep him awake to, I don't know, I mean, you're not supposed to let people sleep after a concussion, right? I doubt Blue had gotten a concussion, but we were trying everything short of immersing him in ice water that we'd ever heard of people doing to keep someone from dying. Minus a few feathers I think he came through the better for it since he was clearly significantly traumatized enough to stay where he's put. His favorite place is Justin's old baseball glove.

Justin gets obsessed with certain things over periods of time and once he's amassed a significant collection of products, gear, books, what-have-you pertaining to said obsession, the obsession moves on to something else. For instance, we will never again have to buy light bulbs because he went through a light bulb phase which compelled him to buy several of every size, type, color, wattage, and shape of light bulb. Right now, it's birds. He's a studious man and has devoted himself entirely to learning everything he can about birds, parrots in particular. And I have to say, they're fascinating, more interesting than light bulbs anyway, Tesla connection aside.

Apparently the most intelligent bird is the African Grey parrot, in terms of verbal communication. I find it fascinating that birds can talk. I had always assumed that when a parrot talked, he was merely "parroting" what he had heard. But according to Justin's research, the African Grey, among a few others, actually tell you things, they really are communicating.

The local pet store has a parrot that talks. His name is Clyde. He doesn't like anybody except the owner of the pet store, Mary. There is a sign on his cage warning customers to keep away, he bites. The sign is redundant though because if you even attempt any cutesy stuff with Clyde, he'll say "watch out" or "back off," depending on one's proximity. He acts mean all day but when it's closing time he starts talking his head off to Mary. "Clyde is hungry!" "Clyde wants out." When he gets too chatty, Mary will tell him "that's enough, Clyde, no more talking." To which he'll respond "Clyde doesn't want to stop!" Aside from referring to himself in the first person, he's like a little kid. He's got a vocabulary of about 150 words. And he uses those words not only to express what he's thinking and feeling, but to amuse himself.

Mary has a dog at home and when it's nice outside the dog is let out through a sliding glass door. This would not be a problem except that Clyde has learned that the dog's name is Sue and how to mimic the sound of Mary's voice calling Sue. Mary has had to learn to leave the sliding glass door open when Sue is out because if she closes it, Clyde will call for Sue in Mary's voice just to watch her run headfirst into the glass door. And he'll do it until Sue is about knocked out. Clyde finds it hilarious.

Humor is a pretty sure sign of intelligence. There's kind of a riddle, a thought process that goes with a sense of humor. For an animal to do something strictly because it's funny is amazing to me. On the other hand, these highly functioning parrots are known to mourn. Their life span is something like 30 years. That's a long time to learn language and emotions and form attachments and opinions. When the caregiver of a parrot passes away or is no longer around, they have been known to go into a kind of depressed state. They'll quit talking. They won't eat. They'll even weep, not necessarily shed tears, but will tuck their head under their wing and make sobbing sounds. They're mourning.

So, like I said, I'm not an animal person but I can't deny that they can be endlessly interesting, more so even than light bulbs. Every animal, if you study them enough has something amazing about it, bees, whales, dolphins, dogs, all of them are incredible. I don't want them in my house necessarily but I can appreciate a bird with a sense of humor and attitude enough to tell people to "back off." As for right now, Green is safe in his cage and not lost or stuck or anything and Blue has climbed/flapped up onto the couch and has been sitting on my leg the whole time I've been writing. He can't talk, of course, but I'd like to think that if he could he'd be saying "I like you."