Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Enslaved by Ducks

Years ago, when I bought my first bird-feeder, Jeff had argued against it. I had been hinting around that I wanted to buy one for quite a while. But each time I brought it up, Jeff would just say no. He didn't have anything particularly against birds or the feeding of them, but he was a little concerned that like my mother I would go a bit overboard in the care and feeding of them. My mother doesn't just feed the birds, she prepares grand buffets for them. But I finally bought my feeder and now Jeff can recognize many of the unique birds that visit our yard. I consider it a success.

Currently I'm happy with my one feeder and its constant visitors. But I could see myself tipping over into overfeeding, overcare. Similar to Bob Tarte's hilarious memoir Enslaved by Ducks, I could easily see animals taking over my life. I'd read Enslaved by Ducks years ago on a whim and had fallen in love with Bob's household. With parrots, doves, rabbits, cats, ducks, turkeys, geese... all running around his house, I found myself laughing at the chaos and energy that I had grown up with. We often had cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, and some poor injured bird in the house. Bob's story takes that to an extreme. These creatures were not just in his life, they had taken over his life.

This past weekend I sat down with Bob's next book Fowl Weather. I was again transported into that wonderful menagerie where animals of any kind find a home. But this is a book that offers equal parts poignancy and humor. Bob mixes stories of his father's death and mother's growing forgetfulness with the antics of his household animals. He talks about his fights with his Muscovy ducks in the same story as the death of his beloved parrot. The story of how one of his parrots bit the bunny's tail off is intermixed with stories of his mother's constantly mislaid/hidden purse, a growing sign of her Alzheimer's. And it's a very personal set of stories. Through all of them, the animals seem to provide a balm for the chaos of Bob's life, even when they contribute to them. The stories show off the craziness of keeping forty animals, some of which hate each other. But it also shows how animals can be more than just pets. They can be saviors. I love to read stories of animals lovers. I can't imagine a more wonderful house for animals to end up at. Read Enslaved by Ducks for humor, read Fowl Weather for compassion.

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