A Whale of a Tale

One of my daughter Emma’s best friends is named Virgil.

He’s a duck.

We have a big lake in our back yard and Virgil lives back there with his little ducky family and a bunch of other duck families, and birds, and fish, and small animals, and whatever the hell else lives by the lake. Sorry I couldn’t be more specific on our backyard wild life, but I’m not exactly Amazon Tom, The Animal Expert.

Emma likes to go out there and feed the ducks, and Virgil really seems to like her. She even says they talk about stuff. He follows her around and eats out of her hand, and it’s really cute I suppose, if you’re into that shit, which I am not. I’ve watched the movie Outbreak one too many times, and I tend to worry that Virgil’s duck patient zero and he’s gonna spread the duck flu to everyone, and Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo are gonna show up in duck proof haz mat suits and quarantine everyone while Virgil goes on some crazy pecking spree, infecting the whole city.

Stupid ducks.

Anyway, I don’t tell any of this to Emma because I don’t want to ruin her friendship with Virgil. The sacrifices we make for our kids, right?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the animal kingdom, there’s this whole big controversy about Sea World and this Blackfish movie.

The movie is about this one Killer Whale who still performs at the Orlando Sea World, named Tillikum, who has killed a couple people that were in the water with him, and how Sea World’s treatment of the whales contributed to his behavior that lead to these tragedies.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Killer Whales. Ever since the one in the 70s movie Orca, bit Bo Derek’s leg off and mind fucked Richard Harris out on that iceberg because he killed her calf, I was hooked.

Just kidding. I wasn’t hooked. I was like five or six when I saw that movie and I was scared shitless of those maneating Oreos of the sea. What finally changed my scared, impressionable mind was going to Sea World with my Dad and learning about those beautiful, highly intelligent, and magnificent creatures. I was a young kid and loved seeing Shamu perform, and hearing all about him. Something I probably never would have had the chance to see live if it wasn’t for Sea World. Totally changed my mind on Killer Whales.

Now that I’m older, I really do understand the point of the Blackfish movie, but I think they jumped the gun a bit by going after Sea World so hard without actually granting equal time to their ideas on a tangible solution to the whales in captivity issue. It’s not so easy just to release these big guys and girls into the ocean.

Seeing both sides of the story on this issue, and not being anywhere near an expert on the matter, I decided to ask someone who had first hand experience with wild life, and animals living in their natural habitats vs. heavily interacting with humans.

I asked Virgil his opinion.

I waited till Emma was inside one afternoon, putting lipstick on the dogs, and I went out to see Virgil. Being a responsible parent, I didn’t want her to have to hear such a heavy conversation.

“So, Verge” I asked, “You seen this Blackfish movie yet?”

“Yeah, I checked it out the other night” he said, “Pretty good flick. My wife’s sister’s cousin, Ed actually had a cameo in it. He was down from Canada and wanted to check out the sea otter show. Those little bastards are great! So anyway, he sees the sea otters, then goes flying over the whale tank and you can see him in the movie.”

“No shit. That’s pretty cool. He was probably pretty stoked, huh?”

“Nah, not really. About three seconds after the film cut, the fuckin’ whale jumps outta the water, does one of those loopity loop somersault things, and plucks Ed right out of the air.”

“Yikes, man. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s cool, dude. He was kinda a dick anyway.”

“So Listen, Verge…what’s your opinion, being from the wild and all?”

“Well, Tom, I’ve seen both sides to an extent. The first half of my life, we grew up in the woods. Had to totally fend for ourselves. Get our own food, didn’t have any type of health plan, had to dodge buck shot from a bunch of guys dressed like Rambo. It was tough, man. But we were free. Totally. No other feeling like that in the world!”

“True,” I said “but you were never held captive, how can you know the difference?”

“You’re right. I was never held captive, but once we left the woods and came out here by the humans, things changed. Given the chance, you guys try to make everything your pets. You’re not just satisfied with dogs and cats, and gerbils and shit…you guys want snakes, and monkeys, and ducks, and birds as pets. Birds! One of the only creatures with the God given ability to fly, and you fuckers want to put it in a shitty little cage and say shit like Polly want a cracker. You guys hear them doing their little chirping and you think it’s so cute. You know what they’re saying? I have wings motherfucker! Let me out of this cage!”

“Wow, dude. I didn’t even think of it that way”

“And most people don’t. It just happens. You start feeding the wild animals, and we get used to it. Nobody wants to turn down a free meal! Next thing you know, we’re overweight and lazy, we rely on you and we don’t wanna do all the animal stuff we were born to do. Shit. I’m so used to getting fed by your kid, I’m about to come in the house and watch Doc McStuffins with her.”

“Um, no your not, Virgil.”

“Ok, no, I’m not, but you know what I mean. We’re animals and we can fend for our selves. I’m not sayin’ don’t help us if we’re hurt or something, but don’t try and domesticate us and make us show ponies either. Sea World does a great job helping animals out and teaching people…that stuff is so important. Just kinda sucks that they turned Killer Whales into a brand. Kids these days see a Killer Whale on TV, in the wild and they call it Shamu. It’s like what happened with Kleenex. There used to be only one, then it got to the point where every snot rag is called a Kleenex…the brand becomes more popular then the product, if you know what I mean.”

I was floored by what Virgil had said, “That’s heavy, Verge. So should we boycott Sea World?”

“I don’t think so. Nobody’s perfect. Boycotting them will also take away from all the rescue and rehab efforts they do for injured animals too. It’s a shame that the whales can’t be in the wild, but I think most of them there are only used to living in tanks. It’s bittersweet, but I do think they have a purpose. People are learning about them at Sea World, and every time those whales perform, they’re endearing themselves to people, which is great, because maybe one day some kid who fell in love with those whales, watching the Shamu show, will be the one to come up with a solution to get those guys back into the wild.”

“That’s awesome, Verge! You’re a smart duck!”

“Thanks, man.”

“So what do you think of all those bands backing out of playing there?”

“Let me put it to you this way…Willie Nelson is a a drug addict, The singer in Heart is obese, the one guy in Barenaked Ladies had cancer, Martina McBride sang a hit song about domestic abuse, and this is the cause they all choose to rally behind? Maybe all you humans should stop spending so much time and effort trying to save us animals and try a little harder to save yourselves.”

“Thanks for the talk, Virgil. Here, want some expired bread?”


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