Some animal stories to tell 2016.01.20


First of all, let’s finish last week’s column. The text was cut off before the end, resulting in a curious, yet unsatisfying, ending to By the Way.

Here it is in its entirety:

“Strange things sometimes happen when I leave home. I went downstairs one night to do a little work at the Observer office after dinner. Soon I heard Ben’s voice coming down through the ceiling, rather desperately calling for me.

Then I heard Colleen stating firmly: “He’s not in the toilet, Ben.”


I have an animal story to tell, but here I am once again at noon on deadline day without a complete column. This is painful business. I have some space to fill.

In 1996, I wrote about the latest fad in Mongolia that resulted in the disappearance of stray dogs. They disappeared and later reappeared as fur coats.

We wear clothing made from sheep, fox, cows, raccoon, etc., so why not from dogs?

My information came from an article in the Detroit Free Press which included a photo of three young Mongolian women showing off their canine coats.

One of them reminded me of the dog that ran often through our yard, leaving behind traces of his visit. 

The one in the middle didn’t resemble any dog I’ve seen in Morenci. It must have been an Asian variety that we don’t have around here. Both of those coats were quite attractive.

Ah, but the one of the left. I don’t think the lady paid too much for that one. It must have come from a discount store rather than the luxury counters that are offering these lovely dog pelts.

That one on the left looked just like Sam, the mongrel dog of my childhood. Large black and white areas with some orange thrown in. I could almost see the scar from where he was run over on North Street.

Next there was mention of a newspaper in Springfield, Mass., that made a dreadful error: a front page photo of biology students dissecting cats.

Nearly 170 readers complained and three of them went with ultimate newspaper insult: They canceled their subscriptions.

The newspaper editor thought it was rather peculiar that no one complained about an earlier photo showing dead Rwandan refugees, but as he put it, “Editors are used to dealing with the incongruities of newspaper readers.”


All right, now I can move onto the story that I wanted to tell.

What is it about Morenci’s Rural Urban Insurance and birds?

Last summer a goldfinch moved into the insurance office for three days before finally flying back out the front door. Owner Joe Farquhar hung a bird feeder filled with thistle seed outside his door in an attempt to have the bird visit the area again—outside, preferably—but it was never seen again.

Last Thursday Joe was on the phone with his wife, Kris, when he suddenly yelled into the phone. A loud noise startled him, then he saw a hawk sprawled on the sidewalk.

Joe figured it was dead, but Kris suggested giving it a little time. Sure enough, it finally regained consciousness and stood on the sidewalk, almost resembling a penguin.

Joe was concerned that no customer was going to walk in with a hawk blocking the door so he went out with a broom to nudge it away. 

That’s when Chris Brasher walked by on an errand. The bird was still there on her return so she suddenly started cawing like a crow. The hawk took off immediately.

Chris later thought about how odd that episode must have seemed to Joe, so she called and explained that her husband, Dave, has talked in the past about how much hawks hate crows.

Just another day in the life of Joe Farquhar, apparently, although he does have some birdseed for sale.