A new chapeau for dad


Oh, yes, I will admit there have been times when I’ve turned this column over to a household pet.

Not the cat, I assure you, though she’d like more time at the keyboard if I’d relinquish it. Only who can interpret her writings? Frequently, just lines of one letter or symbol repeated until I move, or pull, her away (without bites — IF I’m lucky. Very lucky).

Minor and Major — and probably Buddy as well — have all been permitted to have their say and see it in print. The final say remains mine.

But a bird? No way! Not even a household bird at that. I had to draw the line somewhere and it was at birds. Fish too. Birds stay outside (happily, I presume): at the feeders or beneath them or in the trees nearby. Their songs warm my heart, some more than others. Some are simply better singers than others but, as in church, we welcome them all. “Make a joyful noise” and all that.

Rules need exceptions, don’t they? Allow me then to make one on this day for the perky Red-bellied Woodpecker. He can dictate (to a point) but I get to do the writing.

A frequent visitor year ’round (off and on) today he arrived sporting a new chapeau. Red and black it perched atop his bright red head, higher and rather puffy, so easy to notice.

Eyeing all the other returning males in their bright spring finery, his (a topknot?) was a step beyond any of the others. He obviously knew it.

“Humph! My red is certainly redder than the cardinal. That little purple finch can’t hold a candle to me. And the orioles? Well, they can be pretty splashy but orange. I get the red.

“People are the funny birds. I see the bright and sometimes large — very large — hats that appear around this same season. All colors of course (what do you expect from a people?) though I can’t think of any shade that I or one of my birdy friends can’t match. Big brims more often than not. Perhaps they need to be protected from the sun. Or the rain. Or, in ’18, even the snow. And then they plop all sorts of doodads on top. Often it’s a flower that would never be seen in anyone’s garden.

“I’ve heard my ancestors — the great, great and then some — telling horror stories of birds being killed by the thousands so their feathers could be stripped to decorate these hats. Horror stories!

“Funny thing is that, with people, it’s the women who want to make an appearance. Don’t they understand our rules? Why would any self-respecting male fancy up to a lady bird? It’s we boys who need to put on the show, to do the wooing. . . Oh? . . .well, yes, if you say so. That’s really too bad.

“We’re the ones who got it right, of course. Don’t believe me? Just look at how many more birds there are than people. And much more attractive . . . were you to ask.

“Forgive me. I’ve got to take a few moments to preen. It isn’t a topknot exactly but you’ve got to admit my feathers are ruffled. Three bunches sticking straight up as much as any self-respecting hair could do. My feathers aren’t all that long, you know. Three — four — decent tufts though.

“Black, maybe touches of white, like rubber bands (oh! what do I know of them!) at the base of each. Is that what holds them up?

“Here, let me move my head, the better for you to observe. Like it?

“I’m told it won’t last. I can’t put MY bonnet in a box to save for next year. That’s sad — so enjoy it while you can.”

The word’s out that it’s just a phase of the molting process. This dapper man will soon look like his counterpart.

But wasn’t it fun — to be one bird among millions — just for a day?

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.


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