Mourning Has Broken

June 18, 2014

When I was a kid, my Grandma Olive told me that mourning doves only favored houses where people were about to die. (She also believed that the moon had a light switch.) I believed her, of course. And since I heard a lot of mourning doves, I waited around for people to expire, and I was not disappointed.

But one superstitious woman’s certainty is in fact a sexy cry. “Coo-COO-coo-coo-coo” translates to “Why don’t we do it in the yard?” in the dove world. So when Dovestoyevsky appeared on top of my metal clothes pole, above the finch feeder and the hummingbird watering hole, I watched for his main squeeze and some dove porn.

Instead, Dovestoyevsky watched me. By the hour. He would land exactly on the top of the t-shaped pole between the feeders and stare up at my office window. I began to imitate the bird, cocking my head, thrusting my neck back and forth. He never seemed to feed. Thistle seed isn’t on a dove’s diet, and though he watched the hummingbirds intently, he wasn’t curious about sugar water.

I looked him up online and discovered that mourning doves can fly at 55 miles an hour. Some people call them turtle doves even though there is nothing turtle-y about them. They mate for life and can have up to five clutches of two babies each per season. Mourning doves are the closest relatives to the extinct passenger pigeons. Scientists are experimenting with cloning passenger pigeon DNA with that of doves. 700,000 doves are shot for food annually.

So Dovestoyevsky was a lone sentry for a week or more. He flew at the window twice that I know of and bounced off. He saw Scout the cat and wasn’t particularly upset. He seemed to get that glass equals barrier.

A few days ago I was napping in the bedroom. I heard a choir of, “Coo-Coo-coo-coo-coo’s.” I got up gingerly—broken foot—and went to the office . . . and there, on the clothes pole and the ground were seven mourning doves. They were scarfing up thistle seed from the grass—doves gorge on seeds by storing them in their crops and eating later—which clumsy chickadees had dropped. Scout jumped up on my desk and chattered her teeth and trembled. Dovestoyevsky’ cocktail party was a clear success.  It’s too early to tell if he got lucky.

I have never picked up a woman in a bar. Never. Well, not counting Debbie the chemist. And Debbie the dancer. And Debbie the nurse. I’ve been in show business since I was a teenager; women and girls always came to me. Now that I’m living alone and writing, my “coo-Coo-coo-coo-coo” is more like “cuckoo.”

If you know what I mean.

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