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Our Town – July 2, 2015

| Animals, Birds, Our Town | July 1, 2015

The Soupster unravels a garbage mystery.

Before the strolling Soupster even reached the bend in the road, he heard three things: the treble-triples and quads of bald eagles, the more purposeful caws of ravens and the baritone of the Soupster’s neighbor, Jean-Pierre, spouting loud, angry French.

After retiring from a large bicycle manufacturer in Paris, Jean-Pierre had built a sailboat and headed out to sea. Six years later, with a wife he’d met in Phnom Penh and a son born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Jean-Pierre came ashore in Our Town and declared it “Ze Heaven On Zis Eart’!” The son was married himself now and living Outside. The wife had moved back to Cambodia to be with her family. But to Jean-Pierre, Our Town was still “Heaven on Zis Eart’.”

Well, maybe not today.

Today, Jean-Pierre was in a furious competition with some ravens to return to their rightful place the contents of his trash can before the black birds pulled the items out again. As to who was winning, the scene still rated a toss-up.

In the hemlocks surrounding Jean-Pierre’s trash-strewn driveway, bald eagles watched the action from a dignified distance. Not so the ravens, one of which swooped low enough to knock Jean-Pierre’s cap off. Then the bird glided smoothly to the rim of the can, cackled happily and grabbed a piece of melon peel.

“Yo, Jean-Pierre,” the Soupster called. “You can’t win a battle against those odds. Let me help you.”

The Soupster tipped the scales some in Jean-Pierre’s favor. The ravens may have given the Soupster slack because he truly loved ravens. Or because he was not French. Whatever, they flew back up into the hemlocks and started harassing the eagles.

“What got this stuff all over, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster asked.

“I zink it was ze bear, mon Zoupster,” said Jean-Pierre. “It may have been ze land otter, but I don’t zink so. I zink it was ze bear.”

“Did you keep your trash in your garage until pick-up day like you were supposed to?” asked the Soupster.

“Oui! Yes!” said Jean-Pierre. “Always!”

“Did you put any fish or meat in the can zat might have smelled strong and attracted the bear?”

“Sacre bleu!” Jean-Pierre said. “My freezer needed repair. I thought for just a little while it would be all right. You are right, Zoupster. It was ze smelly fish that attracted ze bear!”

“Not such a “heaven on Earth” if you have to watch your garbage so closely, eh, Jean-Pierre?” the Soupster teased.

“Au contraire, Zoupster!” Jean-Pierre said. “Zis is nature. In nature, zere is always something to capitalize on a mistake zat any creature makes. Nature, she is very efficient, no?”

“Yes,” the Soupster said.

“And, Zoupster,” Jean-Pierre concluded, as the two men hoisted upright the now-filled can. “We are lucky to live right with nature. With nature right on our doorstep. In our driveway. C’est magnifique, no?”

Originally published June 26, 2003

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 1, 2013

Our Town – August 1, 2013

| Animals, Birds, Environment, Our Town | August 1, 2013

The Soupster is unaware of criticism of his trash handling.

The second raven spread its wings and caught the air to slow its descent as it landed atop the roof of the covered unloading area of the Solid Waste Transfer Station on Jarvis Street. It picked a spot close — but not close-threatening — to the first raven who had been sitting on the roof for about five minutes already, studying the trash items spread out below.

“Patience, my tail feathers, I’m going to kill something,” quipped Raven Two in greeting, re-telling the old joke about the hungry vulture complaining to his fellow vultures. “How are you, you old grouch?”

Both ravens cawed and cackled, as a third circled overhead and landed on a nearby hemlock branch. Various other ravens, alone or in groups of two and three, occupied other trees and ledges in the vicinity, deep in their own business.

These were healthy Our Town birds, shiny and waterproof with stiff outer feathers and feathers underneath as soft and thick as fur. They were well fed.

A pickup truck pulled into the station and onto the scale outside the drive-up window of the Transfer Center office building. The window slid open and the human inside the truck and human at the window exchanged sounds that were incomprehensible to the ravens.

“A pickup truck,” noted Raven #1. “Fewer than there used to be, with all the SUVs and hatchbacks humans are buying instead.”

“What’s up with that?” said Raven #2.

“But isn’t a bed full of fresh groceries in a pickup parked in an empty lot just about the sweetest thing in Creation?” said Bird One.

“And we should know!” quipped Bird Two who cawed loudly, along with One, for a solid six seconds. This caused the raven in the hemlock to circle around and then land back in the same hemlock.

“Trash, in general, is disappointing these days,” said Raven One. “These humans are composting so much of what we used to find delicious about trash.”

“The bears have ruined it,” said Raven Two. “With bear proofing, we can’t even get the trash cans open half the time, even if the wind has knocked them over for us.”

Both birds watched as the Soupster drove up in his hatchback. He had a rickety wooden chair and a shovel with a broken handle to discard. The Soupster had just been to the grocery store and the “eagle-eyed” ravens could see three grocery bags lined up tantalizingly in the cargo area. The second bag in had green grapes at the top, Raven Two’s favorite. While not as big a fan, Raven One wouldn’t throw a green grape out of its beak.The grapes taunted both birds from behind shatter-proof glass.

The Soupster got out of the hatchback to toss the shovel and chair into the refuse pile, leaving his door ajar. Raven Two almost swooped down to make a grab for the grapes, but calculated the theft would be impossible.

Raven One looked down at the out-of-reach grapes and a trash pile with no food matter in it. It motioned toward the two dozen other ravens in the trees surrounding them. “An unkindness, as far as I’m concerned” it said sarcastically. “An unkindness.”

 

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 6, 2010

Our Town – May 6, 2010

| Animals, Birds, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | May 6, 2010

The Soupster awoke to the sound of birds – early birds. He heard a number of cars pull into the neighborhood and park in the street. The engines stopped and car doors creaked open. Next came the cawing of excited squawks and warbling calls, as the early birds recognized each other and descended on their destination.

“Lydia’s Moving Sale!” The Soupster’s eyes popped open and he leaped from his bed.

His beloved long-time neighbor, Lydia, was re-locating to Hawaii to be with her son and his family. They had already remodeled the lanai into an apartment. Lydia’s daughter-in-law had come into a sizable inheritance, so her son had closed up his not-so-successful Our Town nautical pest extermination business (“Swimming Rats Our Specialty”). Having misjudged their opportunities in the 49th State, the son and the wife decided to give the 50th  a whirl.

The Soupster quickly donned his clothes – grateful for the new 21st Century rule that American and European men no longer need to comb their hair. He hurried over to Lydia’s.

His neighbor’s modest home was overrun with early birds. But of course! For Lydia had had the temerity to put an ad in the previous evening’s newspaper: “Aloha Moving Sale! Everything must go! Items free or you set the price. 9am-1pm. No early birds.”

Nothing inflamed an early bird’s lust for cheap but serviceable household items like those last three words. “No early birds?” he thought. “Really, Lydia?” He looked at his watch. It was just past 8:30.

At the front door, Lydia was negotiating with one of the early birds, who held a DVD player and a lamp. The early bird held cash, but Lydia pushed his hand back. “It’s okay to take them for free,” she insisted.

“I’m sure you could use the money,” said the bird, placing a $50 bill in her hand and hurrying out the door.

“It’s been like this,” said Lydia, acknowledging the Soupster. “I tell them they can have the stuff for free. I must look pitiful or something, because they keep forcing me to take money.”

“Why don’t you want to take money?”

“I feel like I should pay them,” said Lydia. “To take this stuff away. You know how much you accumulate in 30 years? I was going to take everything to the White Elephant store, but do you know how many trips that would have made? This way the buyers come right to me. Cuts out the middleman.”

Lydia turned her attention to a bird holding a sewing basket, a Mr. Coffee and two tin buckets. More early birds arrived as the Soupster surveyed the scene. Lydia’s household was being demolished peck by peck, as surely as ravens worrying a dead salmon.

But Lydia seemed happy, the Soupster surmised. “Hey Lydia, what are you going to spend all this unexpected money on?” he asked.

“Oh, it all goes to the White E.,” said Lydia. “Do you know how much trouble this is saving me? By cutting out the middleman?”

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Would you like to create an Our Town?

The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.

If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

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