Pied Billed Grebe

Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the Pied Billed Grebe story. ( I actually found pictures of Grebes and was going to link to them but I am on my mother's computer and I am having problems with it so if anyone would like to link to one in the comments you'll have Bunni's eternal thanks.)

My mother comes from rural Pennsylvania. And when I say rural, I mean, RU-RAL. I mean, one of my cousins knows how to hunt deer with a bow and arrow.

Now my mother's brother, who is an outdoorsy guy, lives on the side of a mountain in the middle of rural PA with his outdoorsy kids and an outdoorsy wife.

For reasons unknown whenever my aunt ( my mother's brother's wife) shows up for Thanksgiving dinner she immediately commences to tell my mother and I, who are feverishly cooking, a road kill story.

Now why my aunt thinks I want to hear about a decapitated possum while I am handling ground sausage or stuffing my hands up the nether parts of a turkey is beyond me, but she does. It has become in its own odd way part of the family tradition.

Now I had heard stories of road kill being scooped up and frozen while I was cooking before (She saved it so they could teach the dog to fetch a kill during a hunt) but I was not prepared for this.

The actual story:

I was in the kitchen, red wine in hand, chopping up carrots, cursing my aunt for taking up much needed room when my aunt launches into her yearly road kill story like so:
"Well, I was driving down the road with K***( my cousin) in the car, and I saw this bird on the side of the road. So I pulled over because I thought that maybe it was something I could cook and eat."

Now that my aunt has a "healthy" apetite is well documented. My mother likes to call it "hoof and mouth disease." The woman quite literally can't stop eating, but I had never considered that my aunt would stoop to EATING ROAD KILL. The worst we thought of her was that she constantly fed her kids Mc Donald's.

And no, she wasn't joking, I swear to you she wasn't.

So summoningly all of my acting training I managed to keep a straight face. She continues her narrative:

"So I go up the bird and it turns out it was still alive. So I scooped it up and put it in the back. I took it to the animal preserve and it turns out it was a pied billed grebe. Supposedly they aren't seen often. They can't take off except from water."

Now after someone admits to eyeing road kill for dinner, when I heard the "I scooped it up" I thought the story was going in a VERY different direction. After all my uncle and cousins are hunters and so killing and cleaning some randomly found bird isn't too far off the charts for them. (My uncle hunts pheasant among other animals.) But no, once she discovered it was ALIVE she shifted gears entirely. Even though it would have been healthier to kill the grebe and eat it then to eat a god knows how long it was sitting on the side of the road dead grebe.

So why was it in the middle of the road for a hungry road kill eyein' woman to find?

"Well to grebes pavement often looks like a river. Once it landed it couldn't take off. So your cousin got see a grebe! Isn't that amazing?"

Hell, my cousin almost got to EAT a grebe. And confusing pavement with a river seems like a fairly serious failure on the part of the grebe.

"Anyway, I went back a few weeks later and I visited the grebe. It was swimming in a water dish."

OK, first of all what kind nature preserve was this? And now that she has "rescued" the grebe, she visited with it. Does she think that now she and the grebe have mystically bonded?


Now when something like this happens, you can't just keep it to yourself. Naturally I told all my friends at grad school and my boyfriend. Now most chose to believe it because it was funny to believe it was true. My boyfriend maintained as a NYC girl, I was being snob and actively misinterpreting my aunt's sense of humor UNTIL he came to Thanksgiving the following year.

At dinner, with not only my boyfriend, but his mother at the table, my aunt proceeded to tell the story AGAIN while we were eating.

Afterwards my boyfriend looked at me, "You were right. She really wasn't kidding."

My response, "Hey, they are my family. I do at the very least know when they are joking."

Here ends the lesson.

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