Grit Blogs > My Bad Sheep

Welcome to the Undertaker Cafe - May We Take Your Order?

We have ‘natural undertakers’ here in Cow Country: a voluntary clean-up crew that appears miraculously, with no phone call required, to provide nearly-instantaneous free pick-up services to those in need (or dead). In fact, it’s almost frightening how quickly the Undertakers instinctively know when their services are required. It’s like they have culinary ESP.

No, I’m not talkin’ the Department of Public Works or even Smart ‘n Final (…a local grocery chain which I believed obviously advertised a mortuary until one day a friend explained why the place was always SO BUSY…).

I’m talkin’ vultures.


Photo by Dmitri Markine Photography, 

Here in Cow Country we have turkey vultures (only). One size fits all. Florida’s truly blessed to have both black and turkey vultures (…actually, I’m not sure my elderly mother-in-law views these dual vultures as a ‘blessing’, necessarily). And in Africa, they have African White-Backed, Bearded, Cape and Hooded vultures, amongst others. An over-abundance, actually, if you ask me. (What can I say: it’s like a party invitation from Death: die, and they will come.)

Our turkey vultures aren’t just offering altruistic clean-up services either. Over the years they have been accused of neatly bringing down power lines in their ongoing efforts to mimic the casual wire-sitting postures of birds less bulky than they (i.e. hawks, owls, crows and on down the bird line). (Note: The Peanut Gallery has the same issues when he attempts to translate The Barkolounger Position into a non-recliner chair in anyone else’s house ‘cept his own – which is why he hates leaving home, these days). In fact, this phenomenon has become such a rural plague that an Anti-Vulture Movement sprang up amongst the local dissidents around our small town, with farmers laying in wait with shotguns, united in the effort to (1) legally Bring Something Down and (2) Protect the Grid.

 This latter thought was inspired by Actual Events when my newly-60-year-old friend hosted his own birthday celebration, only to have the party ‘crashed’ by a complimentary contingent of some 5 vultures who happily settled on the dead snag outside his window and, in full view of the celebrants, commenced to roost and too-obviously ponder upon the possibility of 60 being the last viable day in SOMEBODY’S life. (They were a HIT. Especially when the human contingent broke into a spontaneous segue into the musical ditty ‘Six Feet Under’ after proffering the traditional birthday song to an increasingly sullen birthday boy intent on getting out his shotgun and making short work of the party crashers.)

Our local Undertakers are actually miracle workers. Accidentally smack Mr. Possum on the main road when his quick quest for a snack directly conflicts with one’s desire to get home before Nature Calls and you’ll find any guilty evidence virtually abolished by mid-morning the next day. (All you have to do is keep your Peanut Gallery from seeing the furry evidence festooned on your front bumper and in true Sherlock fashion, connecting that to the corpus delecti currently under Undertaker disassembly out on Mill Street).

(Personally I questioned the legality of the testosterone-driven urge to ‘Bring Something Down’ and was quite confused about why griddles required protection until SOMEBODY around here pointed out the errors of my thinking. Well, EXCUSE ME: to my way of thinking, Grid Protection more than falls into “services automatically included” in Pacific Gas and Electric Company's monthly utility bill…. )

No matter the interpretative challenges involved, personally I admire our country’s natural Undertakers, believe the National Bird should have been the Vulture (…a choice which would’ve so aptly fit the political temperament of modern times – no matter WHICH party we’re talkin’ about), and also maintain that vulture flocks should serve as THE rental of choice for birthday parties for the over-50 crowd, rivaling the Bouncy Houses of youth.

 Entire deer have been known to vanish under the direction of five Undertakers in the Back 40 in a mere two days’ time.

And as a side note: it’s amazing how a hypochondriac’s litany of possibly fatal ailments vanishes immediately when The Undertakers show up for a personal inspection. I’ve never seen The Peanut Gallery so lively as when that deer in the Back 40 was being disassembled. His health returned for virtually weeks before the ‘possibly life-threatening’ ailments began to creep back onto the ‘honeydew’ list as reasons for hitting the barky lounger versus the gardening chores.

It all neatly adds to the Undertakers’ multifaceted skills as a cleanup service, a party surprise for those over 50, and a kick-in-the-pants wake-up call to better health for those inclined to muse on the darker possibilities of aches and pains.

No other city employee can claim so many diverse talents on a single job app – and best of all, they work for FREE.

Or perhaps, for donations.


The Vulture: More Regal Than the Eagle??