A story by Gavin Keenan
Dizzy from an overdose of what passes for news these days; terrorism, endless war, social upheaval, political blandness, “The Donald’s” mouth, Kim Kardashian’s butt (Old news I know, but cheeky nonetheless) vanishing species, etc., etc., one could reasonably conclude that our world is headed to hell in a handbasket. And it is with this in mind, as well as an incurable silly streak, that I call for all of us to embrace a cause that may serve to unite our fractured democracy before it’s all too late.
This of course is the plight of Plastic Pink Flamingos.
What, you ask? Has this man gone round the bend, lost his gourd, entered a parallel universe? Who cares about those silly plastic lawn ornaments that inhabit trailer parks from Maine to Arkansas?
Now hold the phone for just a second here. Plastic Pink Flamingos have been with us since they were invented in 1958 by Worcester Mass native Don Featherstone while he was artist in residence at Union Products in Fitchburg. It worked out pretty well for him; he later became the company president and won an Ig Nobel Prize for his contribution to humankind. (It must be true, I read it in Wikipedia). Unfortunately, Mr. Featherstone passed away this June at the still too-early age of 79. (I read his obit in The Globe, so it really must be true), leaving the fate of these artificial avian artifacts in grave doubt. Indeed, unless properly protected, they may soon wind up on the endangered species list of plastic animals.
As a lover of nature and all of Gods creatures, you may find it odd that I, feeder of birds, planter of plants, mower of grass, would embrace the cause of this lowly, laminated, lawn lounger. You are not alone in this belief. My beloved expressed the same doubts when she observed two of the crimson creatures feeding in our backyard.
“Where did they come from?” She asked, with that certain edge to her voice that I have come to find so endearing.
“I think that they migrated here from Essex,” I replied sheepishly.
“Well, they can just migrate right back,” came her retort.
“All sales are final, I’m afraid. No returns. Besides, I’m sure they will grow on you.”
I then began a recitation of the many benefits of having such birds in our backyard. “They don’t eat much,” I assured her. “And besides, they won’t mess on the lawn like the turkeys do, or crow before dawn like, you know, the crows.”
Unconvinced, my beloved turned away to engage in something far more pressing- ironing my madras shorts. I turned back to the kitchen window to admire the newly molded members of our backyard menagerie. Indeed, they are a couple of beauties. I purchased a male and female from a breeder on John Wise Avenue in Essex. You may recall that Essex was once famed for not only shipbuilding and clams, but was also for poultry and eggs. Hardy’s Hatchery and Fisher’s Poultry Farm may have passed into the ether of yesteryear, but Plastic Pink Flamingos seem to be flourishing in the old Chebacco Parish.
Formed from extruded Grade A plastic, and tastefully colorized in tie-dye tones of variegated pink; they gracefully balance atop weather resistant aluminum rods, allowing for 360 degree rotation in the gentle summer breeze. The pair prefers to linger beneath an erect plant hanger, which in leaner months serves as a bird feeding station. They compliment the trio of American Flag-waving garden gnomes resting comfortably (As gnomes are apt to do) in the shade of a Maple Tree.
Dipping their ebony beaks toward the ground in search of Plastic Flamingo food, the pink pair initially confused and frightened the family of Woodchucks living rent-free beneath the garden shed. Eventually, the Woodchucks adapted to this new reality-as all species must to survive, and returned to their old habits of eating our rose buds, chomping on lawn clover, and crapping wherever they please. The twice a day visit by the flock of Meleagris gallopavo, Eastern Turkeys – allegedly wild, was never interrupted. In fact, the Turkeys seemed intrigued by these new inhabitants of the old Apple Yard, and sought vociferous communications with them from the onset. Such a cacophony hasn’t been heard since H. Ross Perot debated Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Just to reassure the doubters among you, I am no bleeding hart when it comes to Pink Flamingos. And I would agree with those who find that too many Plastic Pink Flamingos in one place both tasteless and probably a violation of some Zoning By-Law. But given the choice between the all-too common Barn Star, Amish Hex Sign, solar powered bird bath, ceramic poodle, or Plastic Pink Flamingo, I’ll go with the bird every time. I hope that Mr. Featherstone’s creation lives among us for many generations to come. For I would hate to see Plastic Pink Flamingo suffer a fate similar to that of the Pet Rock.