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Bears, grouse and government officials

Tom Boyd

It’s an early Christmas for me this year.I’m getting gifts, of a sort.Ruffled feathers are showing up my mailbox.Squeaky wheels are filling up my answering machine.Bricks are being thrown through my e-mail windows.Good, I say.Stir it up, I say.Ruffle as many feathers as possible, and pluck a few if the time is right.On Santa’s list of who’s been naughty, nice and controversial, I’ve been all three. And if cause has anything to do with effect, it’s no surprise I’ve picked up a few enemies.Entire species, in fact, are out to get me.First it was the bears.Bears are generally very nice people, but they get downright grumpy when you try to take their favorite source of food away. Write a few columns about removing the heaping, dripping trash cans from the street and WHAMO, all of a sudden bears don’t like me anymore.I’m trying to save lives, I explain. Bears get killed for eating trash. No, no, they say. Apparently they’ll accept the risk in trade for dining on moldy peach cobbler and a few half-empty beer cans.Then there are the humans. Most notably, the brand of human they call, “government officials.”We can’t afford bear-proof trashcans, they say. I’m asking too much, we can’t spend all that money just to keep bears off the street. I’ve gone to far, they say.Well, the real problem is I didn’t go far enough.New solution to the human/trash problem: Every time a “problem human” leaves his/her dripping refuse out more than three times, we’ll call the DOHC (Division of Human Control) and have the dangerous creatures shot. Or we can lure them into a nice restaurant, dart ’em with a tranquilizer, tag the ear and helicopter the guy to the nearest inner city.No, no, I take it back.That’s no way to treat a living creature.But bears and humans aside, it’s the grouse that have really been hurt in this whole fiasco.Poor creatures, I must admit I feel a bit sorry for them; all that time hiding in the undergrowth, staying motionless in hopes that their camouflage can save them from toothed bears and toothless humans.Then I come along and crack a few jokes.I must admit, the grouse are right. Just because I’ve seen drunk circus clowns look more graceful in the air than they do, it doesn’t mean I have a right to pick on the little guys. Many grouse have the sense to make a clean getaway, fly high up into a thick tree before the dog nose even knows they were there. Others, of course, think bobbing their head up and down on top of a nearby rock will confuse and distract any predators.Who knows?But I’ve learned my lesson. From here on out, I promise not to make fun of bears, grouse, foxes, moose, hedgehogs, doves, banana slugs, horny toads, elk, birds of prey, flightless birds, the entire class of reptiles, tadpoles, frogs and any other assorted amphibians, trout, hammerhead sharks, very small shrimp, fish, mammals in general, and basically any other sentient or otherwise living creature.Except government officials.As the stumbling, urban equivalent of the blue grouse, the government official is simply too tempting a prey, too succulent a meal.And, since we all need a vice, I’ll say mine is ruffling feathers.Tom Boyd is a lifelong Vail resident and freelance writer. His work appears regularly in The Vail Trail and the Rocky Mountain News, among other publications. He can be reached at (970) 390-1585 or tomboyd@vail.net.


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