Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Poncho was a "Santa Fe" shepherd who looked me straight in the eyes while sitting quietly in his shelter cage. One wag of the tail and I was hooked. True to that first impression, he was always very sensitive to what us humans were about. Here's the story of one conversation I will never forget. Read it in the Los Alamos Daily Post
Wild Jays never fly over the house to the backyard’s Hen House pen for a snack of lay pellets, but a few small birds do, even when Lucy and the gang are there.
On the front porch bird feeders, only one Scrub Jay watches and waits for us, but him or her (we can’t tell which) keeps his distance. He doesn’t come in for the peanuts if I wait outside on the porch, but he will snatch peanuts off the porch railing when Don has turned away to fill the hanging feeders.
Years ago two generations of Scrub Jays frequented the feeders, and some took peanuts from our hand, but only if we rested our hand on the fence rail. One Jay would come down from the aspen trees for peanuts, even if I sat down beneath the porch roof to watch. One day I pushed the relationship too far.
While I sat on the porch chair, the Scrub Jay took several peanuts and hid them in the yard. When only one peanut was left on the rail, I got up, took the peanut, and set it on the table beside my chair. When the Scrub returned I showed him the peanut. He hesitated, squawked, flew in, picked up the peanut, and flew back to the railing. Then with a squawk he threw down the peanut and flew off.
The message was quite clear. “Okay,” I hollered. “You win. Peanuts go on the rail.” A few moments later he came back, picked it up and hid it in the front yard. Ever since then his rules for the peanut game have remained firmly in place.
(Also in Los Alamos Daily Post April 22, 2014)
On the other side of the yard from the Hen House—on the west side—sits the covered front porch. It is enclosed by a wooden fence topped with a two-by-four railing. On that railing and on the various shaped blocks that decorate the fencing, go unsalted peanuts in the shell, for the jays.
Now on The Los Alamos Daily Post
DeeDee was an exceptional dog--intelligent and loving, with integrity to be admired. She was taught not to bark, so she did not complain, though it became obvious that she was in a great deal of pain near the end of her life. A brief article in the Daily Post takes a look at the dilemma many dog owners face. I'll be writing about her life in blogs to come. DeeDee--An Impossible Dilemma
There have been no grasshoppers in our yard since First Turkey did them all in 35 years ago. Maybe that's why this title caught my attention. Then its thoughtful consideration of our lives and their meaning caught my soul. <
Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving> by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Boston, Skinner House Books, 2002.
It’s a rare book, only 138 pages long, that becomes a treasure. I marked thirty-five of those pages because they contained quotable quotes.
Jeffrey Lockwood begins by taking us deep into the Wyoming prairie to watch grasshoppers doing nothing, just being, most of their time. Perhaps we should be called “human doings,” not “human beings,” he suggests. Then he leads us seamlessly into observations about complexity and “...what science cannot fathom, nature still manages to exploit.” Before we realize it, he has led us full circle to ask, “What is a grasshopper good for?’ and concludes with the timeless answer: “...we value our children...because of who they are,” not what they do.
As we learn the details of Lockwood’s work as an etymologist, defending farmland against hordes of grasshoppers, he illustrates his dilemma of what it means to kill. “Taking life, like giving life, can be a sacred act.” Sometimes an essential act, if we are to live.
We watch as Lockwood teaches his children about his job killing grasshoppers, while capturing and releasing insects he finds in his house. In either case, he feels that his obligation is to “...mitigate their potential pain.”
The author notes our need to control as we confront nature’s “absolute indifference” to our existence, encourages us to “...contribute to moving human society through this phase of self-destruction”, and ends with a treasure chest of quotable quotes about the complementary nature of science (how we came to be) and religion (why we came to be).