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Shell Shocked: The Day the Feds Closed Ding Darling

November 1, 2013
By ART STEVENS (sancapnews@breezenewspapers.com) , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The director of Ding Darling had just had a composure shattering experience. He had just had a phone conversation with the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary had told him that the Federal government was shutting down because the White House and the Congress were unable to agree on a federal budget. And because the Federal government was shutting down, it would be necessary to close Ding

Darling for the duration.

The director of Ding Darling hadn't quite understood what the ramifications for Ding Darling would be if the federal government would shut down.

"Director, that means that no one is to come to work at Ding Darling. You have to place a padlock on the front gate and leave a sign for visitors that makes it clear that the wildlife are on vacation."

The director pondered this for a moment.

"Mr. Secretary, does that mean that our tropical birds will have no one to strut their stuff to?"

The Secretary stifled a sob.

"Yes. I 'm afraid so."

"But how will I explain it to the egrets. They're very vulnerable and sensitive. Their whole being is based on adulation and applause. I'm not sure they can survive several days of no picture taking," the director tried to explain.

"There's nothing I can do," the Secretary explained. "This is a matter well beyond my control. I did try, however, to take up your cause. I met with the president and explained to him that this budget matter will create a furor within our national parks. I tried to tell him that even before this national emergency there was a delicate balance between man and animal."

"I tried to explain that our nation's wildlife would be up in arms at this terrible intrusion into their well being. But the president said that it wasn't his fault, that the Republicans didn't care about nature and wouldn't be satisfied until all alligators were in group therapy. "

The director looked out his office window at Ding Darling and noticed all the visitors roaming through the paths and swamps. It was business as usual. Cameras were flashing. Alligators bared their sharp teeth with a savage pride. There were many "oohs" and "aahs" coming from the northern visitors who hadn't seen a live alligator in their entire lives.

"Mr. Secretary, do you have any idea what this work stoppage will do to the wildlife? It can destroy their fragile egos and psyches. Why, they'd have to fend for themselves, something they haven't had to do since Ding Darling was established. How do I explain it to them?"

The Secretary thought a moment.

"Maybe we can leak this to the media. Maybe we can tell them that the wildlife would be up in arms if Federal employees were locked out. But on second thought, if it's a matter of people getting their social security checks or wandering around Ding Darling, what do you think their

preference would be?"

At that very moment, a roseate spoonbill, a white-eyed Vireo and a green-backed heron appeared on the director's window sill.

"What's going on?" they sang in unison. "We hear something's amiss."

"Mr. Secretary, I have to go," the director whispered. "All hell is breaking loose here. The wildlife have gotten wind of the fact that there may be a work stoppage. I have to get off the phone now to deal with it. Since I have to leave the premises within minutes, I'll call you back from my home -collect."

The director quickly put out a call for all wildlife to assemble on Ding Darling's principal camping grounds and tried to gather his thoughts as to how he was going to describe the situation.

He knew in his heart that whatever the other ramifications of the government shutdown, the effect on Ding Darling's residents could be catastrophic.

 
 

 

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