“Fake fruit” society

Wading birds were the Everglades’s original rally cry,

Or rather squawk.

(They make a rather inelegant sound).


Plume hunters had decimated most of the major rookeries back at the turn of the century, which is sad enough but all the more so in that it was done in the name of “fashion:”

Hats topped with snowy egrets and other plumage had become all the craze among socialites and debutants up north.

(Quite a sophisticated bunch!)

Park land enforcement officers (the first of the Everglades) and statute-wielding legislatures lumbered to their rescue, but what eventually saved the day came as quick (and unexpected) as a “drop of the hat:”

Or rather, a change in fashion, ever so fickle, followed by a drop in demand.

(Isn’t everything market driven?)


I vaguely remember discovering such a hat, or one similar in nature, in my grandparent’s row house in East Baltimore … Highland town to be exact.

The bowl of “fake fruit” was one thing (one of my prouder moments as a child was convincing my brother the fake peach was real: he bit it – we both got punished),

But a “dead bird” on a hat was something different entire. (That poor bird!),

In a word – disturbing.

The fur jacket in the same closet was of course reserved for exquisite “nights on the town,” draped in a mink scarf, which my brother and I were alarmed to find still had a “face” on it (and a rather scary one at that) – and “no,” to answer your question (although it took some experimentation to find out) – Pepper our cat didn’t like the mink (and especially the face) one bit.

It was all topped off with a hat of fur which matched the jacket, and stylishly complimented the scarf.

This wasn’t so much an issue of keeping warm, rather it was a matter of social graces, better known as politeness and silently understood as “being respectable.”

The fur was uttered in the same hushed whispers of vanity as was the household silver and china collections (and possibly the LPs):

It was an essential and well protected part of the family heirloom.

While I can’t bring back that mink, I am happy to report that live minks are running free in the Everglades (although not as common as the otters), and that wading birds are foraging and nesting in the Everglades – at least some of them – in numbers that haven’t been seen since the 1940s.

The funny thing about that is that the “super colonies” of birds were supposed to follow the water, not the other way around:

Restoration water is still years away. (see article)

The trick apparently is that this spring’s record drydown killed back a bunch of the big predator fish that feed on the bird’s food base and are in turn too big to be eaten.

That die-off left the shallows wide open for a feathery feeding frenzy.


It still doesn’t relieve us from getting the water right …

The weather (like “fashion”) is fickle you know!

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