Words cannot express my delight when I saw that The Herald recently had added a "conservative cockatiel" to its stable of letter writers.
For too long, Mojo, a canine of questionable ancestry but one whose political leanings clearly are Yellow Dog Democrat, has had the newspaper's animal punditry pulpit to himself.
Huck, the wordy bird, had an impressive first flight, I think. Clearly, Mojo and his owner, York County Democratic Chairman Jim Watkins, are well matched by their ideological opposites from Fort Mill, Huck the cockatiel, and scribe Tom Downs.
It dawned on me that The Herald could have hit on something here that would help reverse the newspaper industry's declining fortunes.
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Critics of the DNM (damn news media) long have claimed that newspapers are fit only for lining the bottom of birdcages. If our animal friends could be persuaded to contribute letters on a regular basis, I thought, the news media soon might be winging back toward glory days.
I first thought about enlisting some of the squirrels that scamper around my bird feeder every day, but all they do is chant incessantly, "No taxes on acorns! No taxes on acorns!" I dismissed them as Ron Paul Libertarians, with nothing to contribute to the quality of political debate.
Raccoons were my next thought (many live in the neighborhood), but I gave that up after remembering that they roam at night only. I had no intention of sitting in the dark, helping them find the shift key on my laptop keyboard. Besides, they remind me of state legislators -- no doubt because they wear masks and are always looking for a handout.
Finches are an astute lot, and I was close to recruiting some as commentators when trouble struck.
To make sure they were up on current events, I was showing a recent copy of The Herald to a small flock of house finches when one saw a tantalizing headline: "Marked-up birds become sexier, exude testosterone."
Well, nothing would satisfy them until I read the entire story aloud. It seems some busy-body scientists had discovered that if they painted male barn swallows with bright colors, the made-up birds not only developed higher levels of testosterone but also got more chicks, so to speak.
I foolishly thought that by explaining the article to my birds, we could segue into composing a letter about the folly of colleges spending public money tarting up New Jersey barn swallows. What ensued was a horrendous round of screeching and wing flapping.
The male finches wouldn't rest until I borrowed a tube of my wife's reddest lipstick and rubbed a liberal dose on their heads and wings. This upset the female house finches, a drab lot anyway, who were furious that the boys were now even prettier.
Then, the male American goldfinches wanted makeovers; it was all that I could do to convince them that the yellow highlighter we had would wash off the first time they jumped in the birdbath.
The wrens and chickadees were my next recruiting target. Surely, these industrious little birds would be more interested in substantive issues than their flighty friends.
Imagine my disappointment when all they wanted to chirp about the three new birdhouses I erected in the back yard last week. It had taken me half a day, using a post-hole digger on a 95-degree-plus day, to get them up. I was in no mood to hear their complaints.
A house wren whined that the entry hole was too small for him to enter with a beak full of twigs; the chickadees were mad because they couldn't find enough moss to make soft nests for their soon-to-arrive offspring.
"That's enough," I shouted. "I put up the largest public housing project this yard has seen in years, and all I hear are complaints. I'm tired of listening to you ingrate liberals."
It went down hill from there.
Finally, I just gave on the idea of turning my animal friends into political commentators and decided to go to the mall to buy some colorful shirts and snazzy trousers.
Hey, if it works for the birds...