“Peanut! Is it really you? I thought you were dead”! Then, shocked by the sound of my own costumed voice, my hand jerked up to cover my mouth in surprise and embarrassment.
“That sounds like the opening line at your last High School Reunion, Bucko.” Peanut replied. “And you can take your hand away from your mouth. You’re not allowed to talk AROUND the birds, but you CAN talk TO the birds.”
“But we haven’t seen you since you left here on migration last spring. We looked all over for you. Not a single beep anywhere. Where have you been?”
“That’s the trouble with you costumed people. You’re all about the Beeps. Too many “Road Runner” cartoons when you were kids. My transmitter’s “Eveready Battery Bunny” stopped beating its drum a long time ago. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. And you never gave me one of those fancy satellite or GSM cellular transmitters like you gave the girls. If that’s not sex discrimination, I don’t know what is.”
“If you had learned how to lay eggs, you might have gotten you one.”
“See here, Bucko. I’ve watched you lay your share of eggs and I don’t see one on your leg”!
“I see you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Either have you. Your costume is just as dirty as it always was. Run out of laundry detergent or what”?
Meanwhile, 5-12, aka “Henry” stood passively… listening.
“And what about you”? I asked him. “What have you got to say for yourself? I haven’t seen you since we replaced your transmitter last summer in White River Marsh.”
“Don’t waste your time.” Peanut said. “He doesn’t talk much. The not so strong silent type, I guess. He’s still smarting over his old buddy “Mack the Knife” (4-13) stealing his “babe” 8-14, back in Wisconsin. And wouldn’t you just know it? He flies all the way down here to get away from it all… to forget and heal… and here they are. Right over there… fat, dumb and happy… fishing up a storm. Probably don’t even have a license”!
Foreground left #8-14. Right 4-13. Background 4-14 and 5-12. Photo: B. Pennypacker.
“Yea. Life’s not fair. But like they say, All’s fair in love and war.” I replied, shaking my costumed head.
“Easy for you to say. From what I’ve been seeing in the news lately, you costumed people are a lot better at war than you are at love.”
“It’s a jungle out there.” I said.
“You got that right. And “Mack” over there just happens to have the sharpest beak in the universe. A regular weapon of mass destruction. Man… that thing really hurts”!
“Don’t I know it! He doesn’t give you a bruise. He gives you a tattoo”!
The conversation was suddenly interrupted by the raucous sound of “Mack” and 8-14 alarm calling. They had finally diverted their attentions from their pursuit of pond things long enough to notice Peanut and Henry. With agitation and threat, they began their slow and hostile advance to our position across the marsh.
“Just look at those two, will you.” Peanut said in disgust. “They think they own the place. Who died and made them King and Queen anyway? Why can’t we all just get along?” Then he turned to Henry, “Come on, Henry. Let’s blow this pop stand.” And to me “See you later, alligator.” Peanut always did have a way with words.
“Chow,” I replied as I watched my two old friends take to the air and wing their way west, over the horizon, while “Mack” and 8-14 joined together in a triumphant unison call so loud that it probably could be heard all the way back in Wisconsin.
Back in the blind, I sat looking out over the marsh, thinking of what a difference a year makes. Sure. Things change. But this was really different. I felt like I had just watched the first episode of some “All New” reality TV show. It was all so “Character Driven” and “Real” and it had everything…. love, hate, egos… crabs, snails, fish… mud. And, of course, there was the most essential reality show ingredient of all… conflict. This was going to be a loooooong season.
Now if I could just figure out how those actors squeezed into those whooping crane costumes!