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Seats at the Table

She watches me. I tap on the window, and she watches me. I pound on the window, and she watches me. She's not thin; she's just developed an insatiable craving for the black sunflower I put out on a plate on top of the propane tank for the larger feeder birds. I suspect she's been coming here every day while I'm at work. It's the only explanation for the daily seed annihilation, short of huge flocks of monster birds routinely ravaging the feeding station, erasing every trace of sunflower and capsizing the plate unceremoniously onto the ground. But one day at noon, shortly after the time I would normally leave for work, I catch her in the act. And she has brought last spring's fawn with her to share in the windfall.

I can't manage to get too upset about the pilferage. There's something irresistible in the image of mother and offspring trotting up the driveway, turning in to the yard, and striding guardedly to the plate of plenty just outside my kitchen window. Having licked the plate clean, they circle the house, methodically cleaning up every dropped morsel under each hanging feeder as well. I find myself both wishing for some way to dissuade them from the costly avian treat, and grateful that they have not yet seen fit to come crashing through a window in the attempt to fully empty one of the hanging feeders.

I decide to make what I consider to be a very generous compromise of rolled corn in lieu of the sunflower. I place a large tub with the offering in their path to the propane tank, hoping to satisfy their hunger before reaching the precious seed. It doesn't work. They have developed too great a taste for the sunflower. It is not until I stop filling the plate for the birds that the doe and fawn consider their new option. Within a couple of days, they have imposed upon me a rigid schedule of feedings at midday and dusk. In return, they allow me to open a window and snap pictures while dogs whisper half-hearted growls and muffled woofs beside me.

It amazes me how little fear they exhibit. Even when the dogs surprise them in the yard, they seldom run farther than my sentries insist. But several days in a row of midday interruptions have convinced them to put off feeding until after dark. Sometimes I hear them move off as I walk out with their evening meal. Sometimes they wait impatiently just beyond the aged windbreak and stamp and snort if barn chores run long and the meal is unacceptably late.

Today they come and bring a third companion, and I wonder ... how large a dinner table to seat us all?

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