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A few words about that bird feeder and how things REALLY work

Hoping for a breath of spring, we left in the middle of March to camp along the stupendous Oregon Coast and spend Easter with my younger brother in Northern California. Daffodils, cherry trees and acacias were in bloom. We enjoyed the aroma and actual visions of spring.

The balmy weather had people out working in their yards. Upon a closer look, we realized that most likely the landscapers were not the landowners. The industrious people were shabbily dressed, brown-skinned Mexicans and Central Americans. Returning through California’s Central Valley, we saw thousands of agricultural laborers in the vast fields. They were shabbily dressed, brown-skinned people. California, blessed with a wonderful climate grows different crops than our cold weather hay and wheat, crops that can only be planted, cared for and harvested by human labor.

Seeing all these people working in the fields reminded me of an upcoming high school reunion. Littleton High School graduating class of 1958 is planning their fiftieth reunion. Last spring I received a telephone call inviting my attendance and requesting my email address. A sometimes sucker for nostalgia and recalling friends who had a hoot at their high school reunion, I was added to the organizers’ address list.

Soon I was inundated with chitchat from folks barely remembered. One email, though, stood out. It came from Sharon in Durango, Colorado. Durango, deriving from Spanish Basque ‘water town,’ is a nice place. Tumbling through town, the Animas River bears the long appellation of El Rio de las Animas Perdidas - River of Lost Souls. The surrounding mountains are the San Juans. Durango is located in La Plata (silver) County. Ruddy is the color of the grand river that gives Colorado it’s name.

The Utes were the first inhabitants of the Animas river valley to meet the Spanish Conquistadors, lead by Juan Maria de Rivera in l765. Franciscan missionaries and Mexican merchants from Santa Fe were traveling on the Old Spanish Trail through Durango to reach Los Angeles as early as 1829. The valley’s first settled farmers were Mexicans. In 1848, the U.S. invaded Mexico and forced the nation to relinquish its northern territories: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and southwest Colorado.

"This is quite interesting," Sharon from Durango wrote as she forwarded the anonymously written "The Bird Feeders, "which appears, verbatim, below.

"I bought a bird feeder and hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food. But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue. Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table... everywhere. Then some of the birds turned mean: They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket. And other birds were boisterous and loud: They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food. After a while, I couldn’t even sit on my own back porch anymore. I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio. Soon, the back yard was like it used to be... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal."

We have fed birds for years, yet have never experienced the problems cited above, so I read on, curious where this misinformation was headed.

"Now let’s see... our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen. Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands. Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families: you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor: your child’s 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn’t speak English: Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to press "one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties. Maybe it’s time for the government to take down the bird feeder."

The first reading left me puzzled why a woman living in Durango, Colorado, hearing the Animas, seeing the San Juans, was angry about bilingual corn flakes. The second reading evoked anger. By the third, the insidious power of "The Bird Feeder" sucked me into its vortex of superiority and snippiness. "Don’t send me anymore racist poop," I emailed, angrily using the cruder word for poop. None of the ‘58 grads shared my outrage, but several were shocked at my vulgar word. Tricked by my outrage, I had bought into the same disrespect, anger and half-truths that "The Bird Feeder" employed.

Thus is the strength of "The Bird Feeder" and a million other anonymous forwarded messages. They are the maul that drives the wedge in deeper and deeper. Another vital dialogue is crippled. Illegal immigration will be a problem until we get a grip on our emotions and let go of our politicians. Mexican and Central American labor is the engine that powers 10 to 15 percent of American-grown food. If you like the present-day gasoline prices, you will love tomorrow’s food prices.

In seeking a solution, we must adhere to the ideals and tenets of our grand Constitution. Then we have to carefully unravel the raggedy blanket of economy and human rights and re weave the yarn in a profoundly new way.

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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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