Thursday, February 17, 2011

Enslaved by Ducks

I'll admit it. I probably wouldn't have picked up Bob Tarte's Enslaved by Ducks, but when a friend gave it to my husband for his birthday, I decided to read it. I found myself howling at the antics Bob and his wife experienced as they acquired bird after bird.

The growth of the menagerie comes about almost by accident. When Bob and his wife Linda move to a farmhouse in Michigan, it seems logical that they will have a pet. Where I would probably start with a dog or cat, they started with a bunny they name Binky, who transformed their house into an "indoor petting zoo." Other rabbits follow, each with its own personality, which Tate describes in howlingly funny detail.

Next comes the first of the birds. Chester, the canary, is innocuous enough, but when Bob and Linda add Ollie, a tyrannical pocket parrot that demands constant attention when anyone is in the same room with him, I wondered if they had lost their minds.

Not to be outdone, more birds arrive: ducks, both domestic and wild, geese and turkeys. Even a flock of abandoned starlings that have to be dropper-fed every two hours around the clock. With each new addition, Tarte tells us how they find and decide to adopt the bird, how it fit or didn't fit with other birds in the growing flock, which birds needed to be isolated so that they wouldn't fall prey to jealous brethren, etc.

I wasn't sure I would finish the book, but I found myself wondering what new and probably sociopathic beast would move into the Tarte Michigan farmhouse next. As I neared the end, I remembered an interview in the Washington Post a few years ago. A high-powered lawyer in Washington, D.C. decided to buy a mini-farm out near the Blue Ridge Mountains and raise pygmy goats, the farthest thing from his daily work tasks at a political action committee. When asked why, he said (in today's parlance), "I never get a tweet from the pasture."

Alas, Tarte and his wife get different kinds of tweets all day long from the flock living in their house. Better them than me. I'll stick with one cat, thank you very much.

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