Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 13, 2014

Dan Graves: Genus Floridanus

By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — While the Midwest suffered a record breaking winter of snow and cold, we, like rats abandoning a sinking ship, packed the wagon, hitched the mules and headed south, joining the rest of the scrabbling horde known as snow birds on their annual migration.

For years, I’ve been aware of this species but have never had a desire to join them. I visualized them as a flock of wimps who are using a few winter months in the tropics as an excuse to avoid their responsibility of shoveling the driveway and replacing frozen water pipes, just as the rest of us have to do. After all, isn’t that the accepted fate of all who live in the snow belt? Why should a select few be allowed to shirk their duties while the rest of us perform our sworn duty of whining and cursing Mother Nature as the radiators on our vehicles freeze solid.

So, as a public duty to those of us who normally remain in our frigid prison, Judy and I decided to follow those traitors and study their movements in their winter habitat. To distinguish between the native species of birds and these migratory snow bird types, it is necessary to describe its chosen habitat and physical characteristics.

Genus: Elderus Winter Hightailius:

Description: Normally characterized as being somewhat advanced in age, often between 65 and 105 years. Incapable of flight except by commercial airlines, the species travels by a number of means, the most popular being large motorized homes and goose-necked trailers (unrelated to the species, Canadian Goose) or by automobile. If travelling by automobile, advanced living arrangements are made in condominiums usually found along either eastern or western shorelines of the chosen state.

For those with trailers or motor homes, special parks are available. These parks go by rather fancy names, such as Sea View Manor, Pelican Landing, or Sea Gull Haven. Those utilizing the condo’s pay exorbitant monthly prices, sometimes exceeding the annual income of the average New York cab driver. These are the birds who have their Ferrari’s and Porsche’s shipped to their destinations as primary forms of local transportation. Studies have been conducted to determine why those who prefer trailer parks will purchase motor homes for $250,000 and yet scoff at spending $5000 monthly on beach side condos.

The trailer park residents bring along with them or purchase various forms of transportation to be used for daily routines such as grocery shopping and visiting neighbors. Such transportation is normally two-wheeled bicycles or the more popular three-wheeled variety. Occasionally, the well-heeled trailer park snow bird can be seen on motorized vehicles such as electric carts and gas powered scooters.

Due to the somewhat crowded conditions of some trailer parks, traffic jams involving bicycles and carts can occur. Much like the penguin gatherings in polar regions, snow birds adapt well to these conditions and tolerate crowded conditions as part of the necessity of escaping frigid winter climes.

Beaches are a favorite gathering spot for the species. Many can be seen frolicking in the waves and searching for shells along the water’s edge. Unfortunately, some lose their inhibitions of being seen in less than formal dress on the beach scene. Numerous types of skimpy beach wear that wouldn’t be worn in their native habitat for fear of scandal are on display. The sight of an 80-year-old gentleman wearing a Speedo can be somewhat unsettling to the uninitiated or the prudish. But, since they are among their own kind and since they expect to not see any familiar faces when they return to their natural habitat, they have no reservations in their dress code. Fortunately, most local laws prohibit nudity on the beaches.

Favorite winter pastimes include shuffle board, bingo, and bocci ball. Since traffic on the roads surrounding some trailer parks is chaotic due to the number of migratory birds, making it impossible to leave the area, park management arranges various forms of entertainment for its residents. These can be pitch-ins, golf outings, aerobic exercises in a swimming pool, and talent nights featuring resident performers.

In some instances, the quality of such performances cause other residents to either retire to their trailers or threaten to leave. Others indulge in fishing the surrounding waters. Due to the variety of strange species of local fish, many snow birds are unaware of the fact that some fish are capable of biting back and come unprepared to cope with something equipped with teeth. Subsequently, some bring back memories of the one they wish had got away. Non-permanent resident fishermen find it difficult to interact with the local bird population due to these bird’s tendency to compete for the catch. Quite often, as the catch is pulled from the water a pelican attempts to snatch the fish. This results in the fisherman yelling obscenities and trying to avoid having a large ugly bird hooked to his line. Too often, such contests result in the fisherman giving up in disgust and wishing for a shotgun.

In spite of the kudos and drawbacks, there is an old saying: Once a snow bird, always a snowbird. So, year after year this species will continue its migration to warmer climates and forego the need to shovel off the driveway and scrape ice off the windshield in exchange for shuffle board, bingo and fish-snatching pelicans. Evolution of the species is an ongoing process.