Cover illo by Kevin Duncan

EDITORIAL

Something different in this editorial. -- For that matter, I'm also announcing a difference in our schedule. From quarterly, we go to three times annually -- February, June and October. Now, I'm going astray to tell everybody about a strange occurrence.

Clipper

How can you get attached to an animal in only a coupla weeks?

It started when my daughter, Diane, crossed the Hathaway Bridge and saw, on the other side of the bridge, a pelican that seemed to be injured. Now, Diane has always had a way with wild animals; when she was little, she was always bringing in birds with broken wings, squirrels that had been shot with a BB gun but escaped, anything. They always let her handle them, treat them, feed them and then release them when they were well.

Anyway, being Diane, she went to the other side of the bridge (it had a divider down the middle) turned around and came back. No one else had stopped, but they began to pull over when they saw her getting out of her truck. (I should mention that 'truck' is too imprecise; she owns a Ford Diesel pick-up that is four-wheel drive, super power, with another seat in the back with PLENTY of room Even with my long legs, I can sit it the back quite comfortably. You see, she is an antique dealer and sometimes needs something big to carry heavy loads -- which it does quite well.)

So several people were around in moments. The pelican, of course, went straight to Diane. People took pictures as she picked the bird up. Its foot seemed slightly injured, but there was only one other thing Diane found out: By feeling its breast, she could tell it was malnourished -- and young.

"Probably got clipped by a car," one bystander volunteered.

Diane nodded. "But it's young and starving," she said. Picking the pelican up, she put it on the front seat of her truck. "Got separated from his flock before he learned to fish. I'll feed him."

She went to a bait shop, but it had no live bait -- only frozen. Diane bought a bag and brought the young pelican home. She put some of the frozen fish in hot water. The pelican, sitting on the tiled floor, watched. We have a parrot and a cockatoo, but the pelican refused their food. Having fed pelicans slices of bread, I tried one. The pelican spit it out.

There was another problem. When the fish was thawed, the pelican took it immediately -- but tried to swallow it the wrong way, and it got stuck! Diane opened his beak and reached down his throat and pulled it out, tried it again.

This time it went down right, and -- after swallowing it -- the pelican pecked at her. Gently. Diane said that was the way young pelicans begged for food. It would cause the mother pelican to regurgitate into the young one's beak.

She fed it another one. It got stuck.

Well, after getting it well-fed, Diane put the bird outside.

It wouldn't leave.

. . .Oh, I should also mention that the cockatoo, Blanco (nicknamed 'Boo-Boo') screamed. It was a warning scream Boo-Boo uses when she sees something dangerous. After the pelican was in the kitchen for awhile, she calmed down. Sorta. Her crest feathers were sticking up, another 'danger' signal of hers.

That night, Diane gave the pelican another fish. This one didn't get stuck.

The next day, the pelican flew away. . .and came back, that afternoon.

Meanwhile, Diane had mentioned the pelican to some guys she knows -- engineers at the local Navy base. They said they wanted her to bring it to them, and said -- since it was clipped by a car -- that its name was Clipper.

Then the cold snap started. It was a Saturday, so Diane couldn't take Clipper to the engineers. She fed it, and put pine needles in a box to make a nest to help it keep warm.

Clipper didn't like it.

"I can't keep him in the house," Diane said. "It's a wild animal, and it needs to take care of itself, not depend on me."

The temp dropped below freezing, but Clipper made it thru the night.

The next morning, Diane fed him a fish and he flew away. In a coupla hours,, he was back -- this time on MY back porch, squatting on my latest copy of the fanzine, Trap Door! I wrote Robert Lichtman and told him his fanzine had a unique occurence; I doubted that any other fanzine ever had a pelican perch on it!

Why was Trap Door on my table? Well, I smoke and, at Diane's suggestion, smoke outdoors. I used to leave whatever I was reading on the table by the ashtray for when I returned for another puff.

No more!

So I go out to take a puff. (I make one pack of cigs last from three to five days -- but I imagine I'm doing myself no favor; since I keep relighting a cig, sometimes five times for the same one, I'd guess that the burnt, burnt and reburnt nicotine is far more deadly than if I just smoke five cigs instead of one.) Well, Clipper comes pecking when I walk out, but I don't have a fish for him. When I take out a cig, he stands there, beak pointed at me expectantly. I keep telling him he doesn't really want it.

I also took a photo of Diane with Clipper, but he was standing in front of her and blended to much with her right leg, so I'm not gonna use it.

So how did I become so attached to Clipper? Partly, of course, from concern about him making it thru the freezing temperatures. Every morning, first thing I'd do is make sure he had survived the night.

. . .Well, first thing I'd do after turning on my computer, that is.

Every morning, there he was. Sometimes, begging at my door.

When I went outside, there he'd be -- begging for a cigarette, if nothing else. Then he'd fly away again -- sometimes to beg at a yard near us, more often to fly around the bay. Dunno what he was doing, but we kept hoping he'd learn now to fish and fend for himself!

But we're afraid we've made him lazy.

Yeah, yeah; that's why you're not 'sposed to feed wild animals -- but JEEZ -- what were we gonna do? He'd have been a victim of the bridge traffic if Diane hadn't saved him!

Diane told a friend of hers, a fellow antique dealer, about the offer by the engineers. He said, "No way! I'll help pay for the baitfish if you'll just keep Clipper there."

The cold snap kept stretching out. I suggested Diane could take an extension cord and put a lightbulb in it, leaving it outside for heat for Clipper. Sensibly, she said he had to survive on his own.

One afternoon, Clipper sat on the dock and wouldn't get up -- wouldn't even take a fish when Diane offered it! Knowing this was serious, Diane took him to a local vet. Either they'll fix him and turn him over to Wildlife, or he'll die.

We don't know.

We're afraid to know!

Instead, we hope he'll live and, eventually, find his way back.

We hope.

Goodbye, Clipper!


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