that there bucket, the one with the coffee-can scoop, it’s the back-up for my all-you-can-eat buffet. it’s insurance, i’ll never run out.
might as well be the grease bin, there at some 24-hour joint by the side of the highway. or in the bowels of the city. a sling-em-up, serve-em-up someplace that fuels the folk who deliver the papers, haul out the garbage, criss-cross the country with tables and chairs and wires and widgets. and, of course, always, the cops and the hangers-on at the cop shop. you need buckets of grease when you’re feeding the hungry, the growling, all through the day and the night.
but my all-day diner takes a snooze in the dark. my all-day diner feeds all the chirps in the ’hood. and they go to bed when the night comes. tuck beaks under wings, hum lullabies.
those dozers don’t stir till the dawn. and that’s when i’m at it again. me and the all-day buffet.
i’ve just opened back up for the winter. slowed things down a bit in the summer. didn’t shovel quite so much seed till just now, when the mercury dipped, yes it did, to the wee little lines in the 20s. (that’s all i could make out through the window, where at last–it took only five years–my thermometer hangs; couldn’t get more precise of a reading what with all of the shmutz there on the glass. or maybe it’s only my eyes.)
it feels like old home week, out there at the counter. out where i rustle up grits and sunflower flapjacks for all of my friends. they’re flapping their wings, depositing feathers all over the grass. might be their idea of a tip. sort of a thank you for all of the trouble i go to. scooping the gruel, dumping it out in all the contraptions hung just for them.
all the chains and the hooks, the slides and the wee little holes hung for one purpose: to keep out the fat wily squirrels.
oh, they find their way anyway.
there was one, chowing away, just yesterday noon. i’d looked out the window and there were no birds. only the squirrel. elbows up on the counter, paying no mind that the words on the box promised: no squirrels allowed.
dang. maybe that squirrel can’t read.
so, of course, i put in a call to my very old friend, t.j., the bird man. squawked into the phone: “i’ve got a problem.” no hullo. no how are you. just pure distress.
polite one, he is, he didn’t mind. got right to the source of squawking.
“well, you know, a squirrel has nothing to do all day but plot how to vex you.”
oh, swell. now i have squirrels who are not only hungry, but vexing as well.
so it goes in the seed-flinging business. if i’d wanted no headaches i’d never have put out my shingle. or all of my feeders.
there’s nearly always a nuisance at most every diner. the jack nicholson sort of a character who can’t take his tuna without angling his way through the order. my squirrels are my nicholsons.
ah, but my birds are my devoted, my faithful, my tried and my true. they come year after year. and when they’re around i am whistling. i hear them just now, chirping away.
every once in a while there’s a squawk. the old jay making a fuss. over the eggs, maybe. maybe he wanted them over easy and i overed them a little too hard.
all in all, though, there’s hardly a ruffle of feathers. i sling out the seed. they fill up my limbs with their flutters and all of their chatter. i’ve a whole civilization just out my window. and it’s mine for the price of the seed.
i’ve gotten to know them over the years. the mamas and papas. and all of the youngins. i am soft for the red birds. not so keen on the blue jays (i find them quite stingy and mean, despite the hue of their feathers). the sparrows i love for their humility, pure and simple. a more unadorned bird i’d be hard-pressed to find. and they strut not in pairs, like the show-offy citizens, but come in a flock of 20 to 30. they even take turns, demonstrate manners.
i don’t think i’m wrong, by the way, to think this a two-way acquaintance. i’m fairly certain they know me as well, know i’m the kook who calls out “good morning,” when i step out to flip the seed flapjacks.
my guru, and my guide in these things, ol’ t.j., tells me there’s even a bird, a red-breasted nuthatch, who will nibble right out of my hand. i can stand there, i can, he suggests, like some modern-day frank of assissi. all i need are shelled peanuts and patience. the peanuts i pick up today. and i promise a story, with pictures, if i manage to muster the patience.
not a bad way to limp through the winter. matter of fact, it’s as close as i get to heaven here on the earth. and, unlike the jay, i am not stingy. i do want to spread this here glory.
so i beseech you: if you do nothing at all this long winter, i urge you to open a diner. we could have us a nationwide chain.
all you do is you hook up some seed. maybe a trough. or a wild-eyed contraption to keep out all of the nicholsons. i mean squirrels.
if you want i can give you the number for t.j. fact, here it is: 847-729-4688. he’ll do birds at a distance.
just tell him the squawker, she sent you.
anyone else got the seed slinging? anyone willing to try the nuthatch pose of serenity? sign up if you’re game. and do tell if you’ve got tricks of your own.