Our backyard is teeming with wildlife. While sprawl and new construction keep eliminating wildlife habitat nearby, directly behind my house is unbuildable land, followed by a city easement followed by wetlands in the woods. There will always be habitat for wildlife behind my house.
Because no other human can really do anything with this area behind the house, I call all those acres “our backyard.” Until the deer, turkeys, raccoons, opossums, bears, owls, squirrels, armadillos, bigfeet and violent chipmunks get organized and take some legal action to claim the land, I’m claiming it.
I’m doing right by them. The deer and turkey seem pretty happy with the food I throw down the hill. No animals, though, are as happy as the birds. With all the trees, bird houses and bird feeders in the backyard, it is practically a bird sanctuary. From chipping sparrows and chickadees to nuthatches and more cardinals than St. Louis, word is getting around that Margaritahill is where you go for a good meal if you have feathers. That’s fine for the birds, but it was a little awkward when Dr. John strutted up to the back porch in his big feathered hat asking “What y’all fine folks got fo dinna on such a night?”
“Sorry,” I said “Right place, wrong time unless you like sunflower seeds.”
On Saturday morning, my wife gasped as she looked out the kitchen window and saw a mourning dove lying motionless on the ground under a group of three different bird feeders. She was horrified.
Now, it wasn’t so long ago that I had a grill covered with dead doves that I basted as they smelled delicious, and she had no problem with that. One of our birds actually accused me of attempted genocide that day. But, now, one dove no longer teeming with life is a tragedy.
“What do you think happened?” she asked in horror.
“I think it died.”
“I know that, idiot! I mean how.”
“I dunno. Want me to go out there and draw a little chalk outline around it and go all Columbo on the situation?”
“Well, at least bury it somewhere, and do it respectfully. Don’t just chuck it somewhere.”
I resented the implication that I might not treat the bird respectfully. I know how to handle these delicate situations because I learned the procedures from Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” when Aunt Edna died.
The other birds, though, had no respect for this late mourning dove as they went about their normal business of fluttering around and gorging themselves on bird seed. I mean, if some old dude collapses and dies right in front of the vegetable section of the all-you-can-eat buffet food bar, I’m not just gonna step over him to get some green beans. I’ll show my respects by going around and doubling up on the roast beef or something until somebody scoops him up with a shovel.
As I toted the bird carcass to a proper burial location, my wife watched from the window to make sure that I handled the situation respectfully. I dug a proper hole, lightly dropped the bird into it and even sang a little song before covering it up.
“What were you doing out there?!” she demanded as soon as I came back into the house. “I saw you out there flapping your arms like you were mocking the bird!”
“I was singing, thank you!”
“Then why were you flapping your arms?”
“Because the only bird song I really know is ‘The Bird’ by The Time.”
Then I proceeded to demonstrate. “You know: America, have you heard? There’s a brand new dance, and it’s called the bird.”
“Don’t ever do that again,” she said.
“What? Handle a bird funeral?”
“No. Never. Dance. Again.”
Get more from Chris Johnson at KudzuKid.com.