MANY, MANY OF YOU HAVE written to me in recent weeks asking the following question: "Dave, are there any new developments in the field of artificial falcon insemination, and could these developments help improve the American electoral process?"
I am pleased to report that the answer to both questions is "yes." I have received some very exciting information on this subject from alert reader Lance Waller, who sent me an article from the April issue of Smithsonian magazine concerning the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The center is engaged in the preservation of falcons, fierce birds of prey that are named after the Ford Falcon, which holds the proud title of Slowest Car Ever Built. In certain areas of the country you can go to a stoplight and find Falcon drivers who pressed down on their accelerators in 1963 and are STILL WAITING for their cars to move.
Anyway, the scientists at the center are trying to breed falcons, sometimes via artificial insemination, which means they (the scientists) have to get hold of some falcon semen, which you cannot simply pick up in your local supermarket. (Well, okay, you CAN, but it's not fresh.)
So, according to Smithsonian magazine, these scientists obtain the semen via a process so wondrous that you will insist I made it up, but I did not. Here, according to the article, is how it works: First, a falcon handler hand-feeds a baby male falcon, which eventually "regards its handler as another falcon." Then, when the falcon matures, the handler goes into a chamber with it and they engage in a courtship ritual, wherein they bow their heads and make cheeping sounds. "The two of them provide an amazing spectacle," states the article, "man and bird bowing and cheeping, affectionate lovers arousing each other."
Then the handler puts on -- remember, I am not making this up -- "a
nondescript fedora with a rubber dam around the crown to catch the semen." He turns around, and the falcon "flies to the hat and, with much cheeping and fluttering of wings, copulates with it."
The magazine has an actual photograph of this, showing a man with his arms folded, wearing a facial expression that would look somber and dignified, suitable for a portrait painting of a bank president, except that the man is wearing an extremely comical hat, on top of which is this large, wildly excited bird experiencing a Climactic Moment. (The article doesn't say what happens next, but I like to think they smoke tiny cigarettes.)
Anyway, looking at this picture, I couldn't help but think about the American electoral process. You know how your top political figures traditionally demonstrate their qualifications for high government office by putting on virtually any form of cretin headwear that is handed to them? Well, think how it would be if, during the 1992 presidential campaign, some leading presidential contender was making an appearance in Iowa, and some innocent-looking Girl Scout handed him what she claimed was a special ceremonial headdress, and he put it on, and his head suddenly became a highly erotic stimulant for major birds of prey ("In a surprise campaign development that raises delicate legal issues, Rep. Dick Gephardt was carried off today by a large, cheeping flock of lust-crazed, federally protected falcons").
Wouldn't that be wonderful? Wouldn't that transform the
presidential campaign from an endless droning bore into something you'd genuinely look forward to on the TV news? Oh, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But what if the politicians LIKE it? What if they start wearing their hats ALL THE TIME? What if, say, the vice president starts wearing one to formal foreign funerals? Where would he get a hat small enough? Certainly these are large hurdles, but I am certain that, as a nation, we will find a way to overcome
them. But not right now. Right now I have to go. Rex is chirping for me.