It's time for our popular feature, Deceased Animals In The News. Our big story this week, as you have no doubt guessed, concerns the federal government's program to give away frozen oil-soaked semidecomposed animal carcasses.
But first we need to issue the following Safety Advisory: Do NOT go outside.
We base this advisory on a news item spotted by alert reader Katherine Keane in a newspaper called (really) the Tillamook, Ore., Headlight-Herald. The item is headlined: EXPLANATION OFFERED FOR FISH FOUND ON LAWN. It states that a woman in Lincoln City, Ore., went outside one morning and found "a number" of deceased fish on her lawn. So she went back inside and drank a quart of whiskey.
No, that's what WE would do. What she did was notify state wildlife officials, who determined that the fish were Pacific sand lances. An official said that what probably happened was a cormorant, gull or pelican swooped down onto the Pacific Ocean and scooped up more fish than it could digest, so as it flew over the woman's lawn, it did what we always do when we snork down too many Pacific sand lances at a wedding or bar mitzvah, namely, ralph them up.
This item alone is not cause for alarm. According to the surgeon general, the odds are that fewer than 17,000 Americans will be killed during this fiscal year by barfed fish falling at 120 mph, and most of these will be people with very large, easy-to-hit heads, such as George Steinbrenner. We can live with that.
But what DOES alarm us is another news item, clipped by alert reader June Rimmey from the Centre Daily Times of State College, Pa. The item, headlined COW PARTS ON ROOF, states: "Parts of a cow were found Tuesday morning on the roof of the Arts Building on the Penn State Campus, according to Penn State police. The parts were arranged in a pattern. Police have no suspects."
Without suggesting that the fine men and women of the Penn State police have guacamole dip for brains, we wish to point out that what happened is obvious to anyone who has been following national events. Clearly a cormorant, gull or pelican _ and by the way, "Cormorant, Gull & Pelican" would be an excellent name for a law firm _ strayed approximately 2,500 miles from the Pacific Ocean, flew over a Pennsylvania dairy farm, mistook a cow for a Pacific sand lance (the two are virtually indistinguishable from the air), swooped down and scooped up the cow (a cormorant, being a member of the ant family, can lift 850 times its own weight), soared to 2,000 feet, realized it had bitten off more than it could chew and woofed on the Arts Building.
We don't yet know who arranged the cow parts into a pattern. Our guess would be art students. But the point is that the size of the deceased animals falling from American skies is definitely trending upward, and it could be months before the federal government can do anything about it. The government is busy right now with the frozen oil-soaked semidecomposed animal carcass giveaway program.
We found out about this program thanks to alert reader Jeremy Kniffin, who sent us the Aug. 11, 1992, issue of the Federal Register, which states that the government is making available to the public, for a limited time, the carcasses of thousands of birds and mammals that became deceased in 1989 when the Exxon oil tanker Valdez failed to observe a "YIELD TO REEF" sign. The carcasses were used as evidence in the Exxon litigation. The government plans to burn them, but is first making them available to "qualified applicants" who might want them for "scientific, educational or public display purposes."
These are not your top-of-the-line carcasses. The Federal Register says they've been stored in large freezers, which have failed several times, so the carcasses have tended to rot and clump together in a frozen, oily mass.
We called Anchorage, Alaska, and spoke to the person in charge of the carcasses, Karen Oakley, of the Fish and Wildlife Service. You know how sometimes you stick a leftover tuna casserole in the back of your refrigerator and forget about it for two years, and then you finally take it out, and it looks like a young version of the thing that's always trying to eat Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies? Multiply that by a billion and you have the situation Ms. Oakley is dealing with. The Leftovers From Hell.
"It's pretty gross," she told us.
She said she has received three formal applications for carcasses. We asked her who on earth would want these things, and she said it was basically the scientific community. We should have suspected this. The scientific community is always engaging in bizarre activities involving frozen carcasses, subatomic particles, etc., instead of concentrating on practical goals that would benefit mankind, such as training cormorants to distinguish between Pacific sand lances and cows. Somebody should do something about this. But not us. It's time for our lunch.
1992, Miami Herald