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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: The bird feeder draws as many opportunists and bullies as a political race

FILE - a female junco bird eats niger seed in Omaha, Neb. (Nati Harnik / AP)
FILE - a female junco bird eats niger seed in Omaha, Neb. (Nati Harnik / AP)

One of the swell things about marriage is that you have someone who’ll let you know when your mental faculties fly off the tracks like a jackknifed coal train.

The following evaluation took place on a recent Sunday after I drove to a hardware store for a light fixture and returned home with a birdseed-encrusted wreath made out of suet.

“You paid $14 – for thaaaat?”

My lovely wife, Sherry spoke these words in the same tone she’d use if Martians suddenly landed a flying saucer on the front lawn.

“But, but it’s for our birds,” I tried to explain, not mentioning that my suet wreath, packaged in clear plastic, actually cost over 15 bucks, with tax.

“You and your birds,” she replied with a bewildered shake of her head. “You really have lost your mind, you know.”

The little voice of reason that I always try to ignore told me she had a point. Up until now, the only fowl I’ve ever been wild about came in red-and-white KFC boxes.

Original recipe. Dark meat. Mmmm.

But ever since we moved into our new home with lots of windows, I’ve been, well, increasingly obsessed with the large numbers of birds that frequent our property.

At first I just gawked. You know: Ah, the wonder of nature, and all that crap.

Then, just like your micromanaging boss, I decided to get involved.

I bought a birdfeeder. Then another birdfeeder.

Then another …

Suddenly, I found myself the foster parent to hundreds of hungry dependents. No kidding. These greedy feathered fiends can scarf sunflower seeds faster than Takeru Kobayashi gobbles Nathan’s hotdogs.

Speaking of which, I just opened my third 40-pound bag of black sunflower seeds since November.

And suet?

Before the birdmania took hold, I thought suet was Bob Dunn’s first response whenever he deals with the city.

Surprisingly, no.

Suet, my online sleuthing revealed, is actually a glob of animal fat “mixed with seeds, grains, nuts and fruit that is used as food for backyard and wild birds.”

And get this: Suet “can be shaped into flat cakes, balls, plugs or novelty shapes such as wreaths … ”

I’m pretty sure I had suet cakes at a bad diner once.

But my point is that the wreath is a perfectly acceptable shape in the bird-feeding suet world, thank you very much.

I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering, Doug, have you become part of that growing new trend of binocular brandishing birders?

Bird watching, according to a news report, is one of America’s favorite recreational pastimes. By 2060, the data predicted, some 117 million to 150 million people will be watching birds.

What a bunch of fake news.

Come on. Look at the world we live in. We’ll all be eating each other if we even make it to 2060.

But as for your question, no, I don’t count myself among the bird nerds.

I’m more of a wildlife enabler.

If the cops called me in, I couldn’t pick the flicker out of a sparrow lineup.

I identify birds by my own nonscientific method of size, shape and appetite.

Something like …

DOUG – “Oh, that one’s really hungry.”

SHERRY – “Which one?

DOUG – “That one. You know, that one with the beak.”

SHERRY – “They all have beaks, don’t they?”

All this exposure to nature has been quite educational in some ways. I’ve learned that the Critter Kingdom is every bit as screwed up as our own human world.

Scattered with all the law-abiding birdbrains are sneaky opportunists and arrogant gangsters.

Just like a Spokane Council meeting, in other words.

The sneaky opportunists are squirrels, of course. These furry scoundrels will do anything to steal seeds from my birds.

And by anything, I mean I’ve witnessed a squirrel hanging upside down by a single claw on one toe that was hooked around a branch as it attempted to reeeeeach the prize.

Occasionally, the little buggers will slip and take a hilarious header right smack onto the ground.

It’s lowbrow entertainment, but still funnier than any episode of “2 Broke Girls.”

And just the way mobsters shake down merchants in New York, a gang of wild turkeys showed up in my yard to throw their bulky weight around.

Where did these thugs come from, anyway?

I don’t remember ever seeing any strutting turkeys when I was a kid.

If you wanted to see one you had to clothe yourself in camouflage and sit silently for hours in some godforsaken bird blind. Even then it was a crapshoot whether one of these gobbling brutes would pass by.

Today, wild turkeys are as common in Spokane as potholes. If somebody could teach them how to work a shovel our street woes would be over.

A few turkeys trespassed onto my property a day or two after I hung three birdfeeders and a suet buffet over my kitchen windows.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The big birds started nosing around under the feeders, scrounging for leftovers while leaving inky deposits of vile turkey doo.

In a fit of desperation, I tried to buy them off by hurling slices of Dave’s 21 Grains Organic Wheat bread at them.

“Take it and get out, freeloaders!!” I hollered.

Soon, however, I learned why you should never try to negotiate with terrorists.

More and more turkeys are stopping by now. I’m pretty sure the word is out on the South Hill.

Come to the Clark estate. It’s a turkey breadline.

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