Headline of a local newspaper article:
“Xcel’s N. D. bird fight may be over”
Saturday morning, as I was startin’ to change StarTribunes in Socrates’ cage bottom, I just naturally put the ringing phone on the speaker. That was mistake number one; number two was leavin’ it on, which resulted in a lot of extra and very messy work for me.
The caller was our family “activist,” Uncle Morton. “You read yesterday’s paper yet,” he demanded?”
“Well, I …”
“ … article on a wind project, business section, you’ve got to ….” At that point, I heard but a word here or a phrase there as Uncle Morton’s voice was largely preempted by laughter. Ya wouldn’t believe uh parrot could make that much noise.
“Pipe down, Socrates!”
The parrot gyrated madly on the big swinging perch near the top of his cage.
“Bonehead … bonehead,” he squawked. “Nutcase, nutcase.”
I should stop right here and explain a couple of things about my parrot. First, according to the vet, he’s got uh condition … real fancy name to it an’ no medicine t’ cure it. I took him in about six months after I bought ’im offun my neighbor, Dr. Lehrenfalsch, uh biology professor who moved t’ Harvard. Darn bird got t’ sulkin’ in the bottom uh his cage and swearin’ at me – kept repeating, “ontology recapitulates phylogeny.” S’pose them’s German cuss words.
Anyways, Doc Cecil kept Socrates at his clinic fer uh couple uh weeks before he called me back in.
“You got yourself a pretty smart bird, Mudg. Fact is, he’s so smart he looks down on most people.”
“You sayin’ I gotta lower his cage?”
“No. Giving you a reason for his condition.”
“In a nutshell, Mudg, I’d say pomposity compounded by hauteur.”
“… uh pompadour cause by … hey, he don’t wear no hats!”
“That’s not exactly … what I said was, pomposity compounded by hauteur.”
“They got uh antic biotic for that?”
“… there was, Mudg, we’d cure the world.”
“I didn’t bring the world in here, Cecil, just my parrot … You can’t do nothing for ‘im?”
“…’fraid not. In my opinion, like many caged creatures, he needs mental stimulation.”
“Fer gosh sakes, Cecil, He’s got me t’ talk to all day.
Cecil didn’t say nothing right away, just stared at me. Finally he says, “Get ’im a TV, Mudge.”
Well, that’s the first thing. Second is, I gotta explain about the “bonehead-nutcase” thing. It was uh moment I forgot the darn parrot’s big ears, during a phone conversation with my weeping daughter; I referred t’ Uncle Morton as a “bonehead nutcase.” In one of his “Global Warming Modes”, he’d told my daughter she was an “irresponsible, solipsistic desecrator.” Her “desecration” was using her fireplace, which, accordin’ to Uncle Morton, released unnecessary calories into an already overheated atmosphere. Only thing overheated is Uncle Mort’s brain, but that’s not the point, it’s my brainy bird.
Socrates must have elephant blood; he never forgets. Anyway, he’s never forgotten my characterization, and anytime Uncle Morton is mentioned, or heaven forfend, visits, we’re treated to uh litany of “bonehead … nutcase.”
But Saturday morning, in between a “bonehead” and uh “nutcase,” Uncle Morton muttered something about the newspaper article an’ uh hundred million; money always gets my notice. Uh hundred mil gets my full attention.
“Shut up,” I hissed, as Socrates paused for breath.
“Whattaya mean, ‘shut up,’ that any way t’ treat a national emergency?”
“I was tryin’ t’ quiet Socrates … what ‘national emergency?’ ”
“All them birds the wind farm is going to chop up, that’s what. And all the while Ill bet the gol dang power company’s just worried about them whooping cranes upchucking on their propellers an’ getting them dirty … but I can fix that.”
“How?” Instantly, I realized I shouldn’t uh asked.
“Make little bird barf bags for the cranes … collect the stuff … good fertilizer … real green idea.”
I could tell he’d really thought this through; Uncle Morton was in “Full Environmental Mode with Birdwatcher Tendencies.”
“… as for the piping plovers suffering bent pipes from hitting on the wind mills … tell me that isn’t a national emergency! Those Washington bureaucrats won’t take action, so I must. All we have to do is catch the little fellows with the bent pipes and bend them back. … why I called. Need the name of that electrician who did the fancy bending in your cabin … anyone knows about pipe bending, be him.”
“I’ll get his number and call ya back.” As I pressed the speaker button to disconnect, I realized my parrot was silent – silent but not still. Socrates rolled on his back in the cage bottom, wings aflutter, feet thrashing, sopping up a viscous mixture of parrot poop and sodden newspaper. The mess he hadn’t absorbed decorated the carpet. Socrates gasped for breath, between fits of laughter.
Living the true meaning of the expression, “dirty bird.” I spent the rest uh the morning cleaning cage mess from Socrates’ feathers and then the carpet, which got me t’ thinking. That’s the trouble with activists. I suppose they’re well meaning, but too often, they just make a mess for the rest of us.