Cold Duck Warm Feet

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The last time I was at Bosque del Apache I noticed a new phenomenon amongst some of the ducks there. I had always wondered if ducks had nerves or any feeling at all in their feet as they could stand on ice or in ice cold water and act as if they didn’t feel any cold whatsoever. How do they do that I would wonder. Finally when my curiosity got the better of me I called on our resident duckologist, Dr. Bils Orange, from our Oslo affiliate, to answer my questions.

The Institute of Regained Knowledge or IRK as it is known throughout the academic world, has affiliate branches in nearly every backward country in the known world, like France ( the Sorbonne calls us ) England (Oxford, we’ve stopped taking their calls because they always call collect) and so on ad nauseam. We have a wealth of talent that we can draw from to get the information we need instantaneously. The Worldwide Headquarters of our media Empire sits like a fat, but ugly, spider in the exact center of this web of information, controlling its flow and deciding with all possible fairness and at what price, who gets this information. We may run the show but we glory in it. It is a little known fact that what we know as the world-wide web was actually invented here (regardless what Al Gore says)  at the Institute of Regained Knowledge, or IRK, back in 1926 way before the introduction of the computer. We’re very proud of that.

It turns out that the answer to my question was something I never could have imagined. Ducks have been fooling us for sometime. They feel the cold, I mean Duh, its ice, what we see as indifference on their part is actually a numbness that spreads up to their little tiny brains and freezes them solid. Recently though some enterprising members of the Duckus Aquaticus, (Latin for birds with flat feet) have begun showing up with the ability to actually stand on that freezing ice and be as warm and toasty as you or I would be standing on the cooktop in our own kitchens. The answer is as simple as it is mysterious but that is usually the case when you make things up, I mean, search for new facts. Ducks feet have secretly been fitted with a new form of thermoplastic outer covering made from the same stuff that didn’t make it onto the last shuttle flight. Where could they have obtained this stuff we asked. We thought maybe Cabela’s but after checking both their print and online catalog found that even they had nothing like this. Finally after an exhaustive search we were told by an unnamed source that this procedure was done at a secret clinic in Mexico. It’s orange, the foot covering not the clinic, it looks like a duck foot, it has those little bumps that ducks have on their feet, and the average or even below average person cannot tell it from a real ducks foot. The properties of this material appear to be nearly mind bending. All the duck has to do is stand on the ice where the sun can shine on it and within moments the solar produced heat begins to flow and literally melts the ice below them. They simply stand there until they melt through the ice and then being in open water they can begin feeding much quicker than the non-footwear wearing ducks can even move, hence their robust and chubby appearance. Dr. Bils Orange is presently taking a crash course in Mayan which he mistaken thought was still spoken widely in Mexico, and will then track down the clinic where this procedure is practiced, find out the straight skinny and we will then spill the beans, I mean, share this information with the world. We need to get our IBM Selectric fixed so that we can publish this startling new information and soon you will see it in major sources of academic excellence everywhere. Meanwhile you, our loyal readers, get a first hand preview of this incredible new finding. That’s it, mystery solved. Chalk up one more successful research project from IRK and we’re on to the next. Watch for us at strange events everywhere.

Secrets Kept Here

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I always had a not so secret fondness for secret places. You know, Toad hall, and places where elves dwell, mossy spots under the bank where you’re sure you’ve seen movement but didn’t see what made it. Having been a voracious reader as a kid I still want to know what General Hornwort’s burrow looked like inside, did he have the ears of his enemies mounted on the walls or maps of his next conquests strewn over the rabbit sized table in the great hall, they just never tell you enough in those stories, so I am constantly on the lookout for those magical places so I can see for myself. This old cottonwood has many secrets to tell and if you sit next to him and are very quiet he will tell you some of them. I did and we spoke of many things, what its like to get old, do things really matter as much as you think they do, is it worth it. He told me some of the answers and I would tell them to you but he asked me not to. After all secrets are secrets, right?

Sadly I am not finding as many of these places as I used to. I don’t know if it is because we’re tearing them down and filling them in or perhaps much more frightening, can it be because you begin to lose your ability to see them as you totter towards old age. I say the hell with that theory. I think it is because I’m not getting out as much as I used to. I plan to change that very soon. So watch for me at a secret place near you.

Cemetery Owl

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This spring I got to spend some quality time in our cemetery. There is an old elm tree in this cemetery that has hosted a family of Great Horned Owls every year for the last 27 years. The nest itself is in a crotch of the tree formed by three great trunks that thrust upward forming a pocket where the nest is placed about twenty feet off the ground and at first glance looks to be the most unlikely of places for a nest. The tree is also located right at the junction of several of the cemetery roads which is one of the most traveled parts of the cemetery. This doesn’t seem to bother the owl parents, I guess after 27 years you’d move if it did. It could be they got a really good deal on their lease and so, why change. Each year the parents produce from one to three owlets and this year there were two. Some of the very early observers of the nest thought they saw a third but if so it didn’t make it. The female lays her eggs a few days apart so that as the owlets develop they are different sizes and the larger one gets to leave the nest first. They don’t go far however, primarily because they can’t really fly yet and still need to be fed. One of the traits that became apparent with the siblings was that after the largest left the nest and the smaller one was alone they seemed to really miss each other, calling back and forth constantly and when the youngest and smallest finally got out of the nest the first thing that happened was a huge family reunion with lots of snuggling, feather arranging, bill clacking and affection. There were lots of oooohs and ahhhhs from the watchers below. It seems we are never too far from our Disney upbringing. Prior to their leaving the nest there were lots of opportunities to photograph the adult and the two chicks but that changed as soon as they were out of the nest. They could now climb up into the branches where newly sprouted leaves partially concealed them and mom didn’t come back to the tree until much later in the day when it was too dark to shoot. So it was kind of bittersweet when they grew to this stage. The image above was the last taken of the smallest owlet. I had stayed later than usual because I had the feeling I wouldn’t be seeing them again or if I did I wouldn’t have the opportunities to photograph them that I had earlier and she made it worthwhile for me, posing, giving me lots of attitude and generally looking very determined. She had been in this nest since late February and it was time to get out. It seems to prove that for every ending there is a beginning. Like Mr. Rodgers used to say “and that’s alright”.

Zen and Everclear

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We are fast approaching the holiday weekend and you know what that means. Holidays are free days for the staff here at the World Headquarters of our Media Empire and that means trouble. Yep, it starts with the staff realizing they can pretty much do whatever they can get away with and with the response time we have from local law enforcement there’s no point in dialing 911. It is left to us to handle the problem on our own. It is the primary reason we had the Projects , I mean staff housing, painted drunk tank pink. It hasn’t helped all that much. When we you get a crew stuffed to the gills with 190 proof Everclear, logic and common sense completely leave the building. We have a no-alcohol policy here on the compound , I mean campus, but that hasn’t stopped these people one bit, they are able to make this elixir of the devil out of old grapefruit skins, shoe polish, rusty nails, the odd bottle of warfarin stolen from my med locker, dozens and dozens of packets of artificial sweetener spirited from the mess hall, lard, anti-freeze, and huge quantities of cheatgrass gathered from the surrounding countryside when they should have been completing their research. This is a dangerous mixture and has led to the occasional death and maiming of the unwary as well as creating an expense we never budgeted for. That is the providing of escort dogs for the dozens of temporarily blind staffers that have accumulated over the previous holiday periods from drinking this stuff. I, for one, am sick of it and I intend to hold a staff meeting about this and other problems right after the holiday is over. We should be getting the new crop of dogs by then, and most of the missing will have been located and led back to the Projects, I mean staff housing.

This seems to be a problem that is rampant in America today, the out of control drunken researcher problem, I mean. I have tried to talk to other directors of World Headquarters of Media production around the world about this situation but it appears we are unique in the field due to the fact that we invested in razor wire early in our construction and have a captive band of researchers as it were, whereas other facilities see their researchers stagger and drift off into the soiled tapestry of life outside of their hallowed walls and are not seen again. Our program has proved to be the successful model as we do get research done because our researchers have to produce or they don’t get fed.

To try and deflect some of the criticism we have gotten in the past regarding our alleged callousness and insensitivity to our indentured servants, I mean researchers, we have begun a new program in an attempt to protect our phony baloney jobs, I mean our reputation. Every Friday before a holiday weekend we will run a photo especially picked for its calming zen-like attributes. It is our hope that those still sober staffers that see it will be so struck with it’s beauty that they will decide to put aside their desire to get butt-dragging, projectile vomiting, murderously drunk and storm the Big House, I mean the World Headquarters of our Media Empire. This image, the first of many, was taken from the observation deck here at the headquarters and is looking west towards Rocky Mountain National Park through the late afternoon mist forming in the foothills . This should calm even the most devious, conniving, wretched bunch, I mean, unruly staffers, but just in case we have placed our bank of stun guns on full charge and purposely not fed the dogs this morning. Have a great weekend and a safe and sober holiday.

Just Two Guys

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“Whoa, Dude, that was some winter. Did you think we were going to make it?”

“No man, I thought we were toast there in February. You ever been that cold?”

“Un Unh Dude, I felt like condensed lichen pellets.”

“You know man, this spring sun makes me feel kinda twitchy, I can’t stop chewing my cud”

“Dude Don’t sweat it, chewing your cud is normal. I saw old Cracked Horn chewing his cud and he’s a full curl.”

“Yeah man but I’m chewing it as fast as I can all the time. That can’t be normal.”

“Just mellow out dude. How many kids you got now?”

“In this herd? Eleven man, but I got three on the way. Four, if Ms. Cloven Hoof is carrying twins like last year. How about you?”

“I’m not doing so hot dude, I went up against old Cracked Horn again. I still got ringing in my ears and I have to be really careful when I’m up on the face of High Step cuz my left eye is still fuzzy.”

“The trick with Cracked Horn man, is you got to watch him, just before he hits you he lifts his muzzle up too high and if you step off to the right and drop your horn you can catch him right across his nose. He usually stops for awhile after that. That’s how come I might be having twins with Ms. Cloven hoof.”

“Dude, I have never noticed that! He’s going down this fall.”

“Watch it man, here he comes. Probably going to tell us how he beat that ram from the Snowlot herd again. I am SO sick of that story.”

“Hey Cracked, how’s it going? Lay down and chew the cud for awhile.”

Hummingbird’s Lament

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I’ve been told by some of the other birds that aren’t quite as mean as the rest that soon I’ll be able to go up to the feeder and get some of that red stuff everybody talks about. The birds that go up there now are really, really, mean and will fly into you and whack you hard with their beaks and push you so that you fly into the wall. Even if your mom comes to help you they’ll still shove you and even start shoving her too. I don’t like that. When I’m big and go by the feeder I’m going to let all the other birds come too especially if they’re smaller. Except for my brother maybe, he tried to shove me out of the nest and whenever mom would bring home something really good to eat like spider mites or sap from a pine tree, he’d take it all. He’s up at the feeder right now. When I get up there I’m going to push him out of the way and bend his beak and if he tries to get rough I’ll fly into him so hard he’ll just go to a different feeder. And I’ll do it every time I see him from now on. Just as soon as I get bigger.