Guest Columnist

The gap between dead birds and designer duds

U.S. first lady Melania Trump arrives in Accra, Ghana on Oct. 2, 2018. (Francis Kokoroko/Reuters)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump arrives in Accra, Ghana on Oct. 2, 2018. (Francis Kokoroko/Reuters)

We are in to the sweet blue sadness that is autumn and the walnut trees in the deep hollow behind my house have lost their leaves. Green walnuts are still hanging in the leafless trees, looking like something from a fabulist painting by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, half-remembered objects soon to fall.

A small black and white bird lies dead on my drive and I can only hope her death is not an omen portending something dire in my future. Other species do not have elaborate, macabre rituals when they die, thus their bodies are not buried and we get to see what death looks like, albeit on a smaller scale. Poets and ancient voices might help with the meaning of death, but I’m not convinced it matters.

On a happier note I received a two-page letter from Melania. You know Melania, no need for a last name, like Cher, Sting, or Pinocchio. She was asking me to send money and to sign a PRESIDENTIAL PLEDGE OF SUPPORT that includes phrases like, “As a dedicated American who shares your positive vision for our great country, I wholeheartedly applaud all that you have done …” Oh, and by signing I’m also pledging that I will stand against the mainstream media, a fine group who have allowed me to be a member of their ranks off and on for 40 years.

Not sure how I came to be friends with Melania but, alas, I cannot in good conscience sign such a pledge to support her husband. But maybe I’ll write back and let her know that, despite my reluctance to sign much of anything, I like the way she looks in designer dresses. We don’t really know high fashion out here. Despite my best efforts women are still wearing horizontal stripes and, frankly, it has been a while since I’ve seen a woman in Iowa sporting the latest Chanel or Dior outfits, stylized cloth costing more than most make in a year.

The other night a pack of coyotes moved quickly through the hollow behind my house, yipping, howling, and barking, and then suddenly the cacophony stopped, like someone had flipped a switch, and the poetry of all that is wild among us quieted. It sounded like a hundred of them but was more likely a half-dozen. They remind me in no uncertain terms that I am not alone.

The harvest moon has moved on until next year and sitting on a tractor mowing the meadows in the hollow will happen less often, for which I am grateful. I don’t know if my friend Melania has ever been on a tractor, or whether she has ever moved heavy snow from a long lane, or if she knows anything about turkey buzzards, coyote, turkeys, eagles, deer, hawks, or any of the creatures I encounter every day, but it doesn’t matter.

Hers is a world of privilege, dinner parties, first-class travel, and fancy clothes. I wish her happiness. Mine is a world of everyday people, Taco Tuesdays, bus trips to Branson or Wrigley Field, and flannel shirts. As I write this my pets are lounging contentedly in front of the fire and later, when the rain stops, I’ll go out and toss the dead bird in to the woods.

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• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book, “The Iowa State Fair,” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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