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Tuesday, Aug. 10, 1999


Goodbye yuckie duckies, hello hollering herons

Have you been shopping lately? The price of rubber ducks is outrageous. While remodeling my bathroom, I paid over 1,000 yen for a mother duck and three chicks for my bathtub. And they were pink! I think someone's been tampering with the rubber duckie formula because within minutes of tubbing with these pink yuckie duckies, they were belly up. I don't think this is a good example for children who may be led to believe that all ducks die in bathtubs. Not true. As a matter of fact, more ducks die on dinner plates.

I think ducks are good role models for children because ducks have a PG rating. We all know that ducks don't have sex. They fertilize. I think this is a good idea. If humans could do this, we could eliminate a lot of problems. Teenage fertilization would be much easier to deal with than teenage pregnancy, and the closest thing to evidence in a sexual harassment lawsuit would be: Your Honor, he was gazing at my eggs! The females are naturally feminist ducks because they can decide whether to let a male fertilize the eggs or not. That's truly prochoice. I also admire ducks because they don't sweat, and they're waterproof.

We used to have ducks here on Shiraishi Island. Every now and then, we'd awake to a squawking duck paddling around the port outside our window. If a duck ventured from the pond over to the sea, he often couldn't remember how to get back and would squawk until someone helped him.

One day, the ducks were gone. I heard they had become a nuisance and were taken away to a duck retirement home -- the park on the mainland. I hear they have a pond and as much moldy bread as their hearts desire.

For a while, the only other big birds on the island were "aosagi." They're white herons that nest in colonies in the tops of trees. The problem with aosagi is that they just can't seem to get along with each other. They scream at the tops of their lungs all night long. They're so loud that they sometimes wake us up at night. I wonder what they're arguing about:

Mrs. Aosagi: "You lying sack of feathers -- get out of the nest!"

Mr. Aosagi: "Now Lydia, you're exaggerating. I wasn't 'gazing' at Hilda's eggs, I only glanced at them."

But at least we don't have crows. I have been informed by Rudy Schmidt, a reader in Nara Prefecture, that where he lives farmers scare away crows with artillery explosions. According to Rudy, these timed explosions, called "tori-odoshi," occur from 4:40 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Rudy finds it hard to concentrate on his work among all the explosions. Perhaps we need to reinvent the scarecrow: one with a semiautomatic weapon that could eliminate the crows altogether. I suppose that would be cruelty to animals though. Short of bringing in American cowboys to lasso the crows, there's not a lot we can do. But artillery explosions? Has anyone seen if rap music will scare the crows away? OK, maybe having to listen to explosions is more tolerable.

Perhaps there is an answer though. In the United States, overpopulation of suburban Canadian geese has become a huge problem. Apparently, the geese are attracted to green lawns and golf courses. I suspect they're seeking out retirement homes. But the geese have become such a nuisance that people are now trying to scare them away with sheep dogs. Couldn't sheep dogs scare away crows too? If so, get ready for a "shiipu dogu buumu" in Japan.

I miss our former duck residents. The yuckie duckies in my bathtub aren't much solace either. But recently, the Buddhist priest on our island showed me five eggs he was incubating. Our island would soon have five beautiful white swans! When they hatched, however, they turned out to be geese.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com

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