Feathered friends getting fat

Friday, February 1, 2008 | 4:00 p.m. CST; updated 6:03 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — When I was growing up, I never understood how people could pack up and go away to Florida for the winter.

How could you go away? There was too much to do here. How could you think of leaving?

Now I’m older and wiser. Or maybe my hide’s thinner after all these years, which is why I chill at the drop of a glove.

Go to Florida for a few weeks? The idea gets better and better as the thermometer slides lower and lower.

But how to swing this?

There’s the little matter of the job. I have students expecting me here. And I don’t think Mizzou is opening any editing classes in St. Croix, although really the university should.

I could leave a to-do list for my students and collect the papers when I returned and video-conference with them while I was gone. This probably would not be good for their morale.

I could always take the kids with me. This would probably be very good for morale. We could take our laptops to the beach. I’d risk a little sun poisoning for the sake of education. But I’d have to keep track of all the young-uns and ... and ... this idea is getting worse by the syllable.

There is always Plan of Last Resort: Win Powerball and take the rest of the winter off.

This is why I buy a ticket — and invest in good long underwear.

* * *

As the weather turns colder, your livestock needs more feed to keep warm. The only animals I’m feeding out of doors are the wild birds in my yard. Dozens of finches, a few cardinals and two monstrously fat blue jays have been draining the birdfeeder. When the temperature kisses 60, the birds eat half a feeder of sunflower seed in a day. But if the temperature is in the 30s or lower, my birdies inhale an entire feeder.

The bag says I’m feeding black oil sunflower seeds. Throw in the suet in a hanging cage, and I’m beginning to worry about the cholesterol numbers for my little feathered pals. Yes, they exercise, but still ...

The big-bottomed blue jays alone must have some serious LDL isssues. And if one of the jays collapses and drops from the feeder with a heart attack, no one is going to swoop down and perform CPR. No, it’s bye, bye, birdie.

I’ve been trying to talk to the flock about my concerns, but I’m having a hard time getting their attention. They just fly off the handle. And the feeder. And the branches. And I’m left talking to myself.

I’ve thought about buying a little bird defibrillator to hang in the trees. Something you could rig up to shock anything from a hummingbird to a turkey buzzard. But something tells me the birds wouldn’t use it. They’d rather see the money go to seed.

It’s like that old saying goes, “You can lead a bird to a defibrillator, but you can’t make him stop stuffing his beak and use the paddles to shock an enormous, overbearing blue jay back to life just so he can crowd his rescuer out at the feeder again.”

Really, that’s what the birdies say.

Mary Lawrence teaches editing at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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