Stella Cretek
Dem Bones

Flamingo Flap

By - May 18th, 2009 07:26 am
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flamingosWhat is it that makes folks tick over ticky-tacs and knickknacks filling the nooks and crannies of their yards? Does it involve a compulsion to personalize, or is it a deep desire to dwell in fantasyland alongside a concrete Snow White and her Seven Dwarves?

While Snow White has debatably been around since the Middle Ages, flamingos roamed the earth 47 million years prior to the moment we crawled up and out of the primordial slime. And yet both are lawn fodder, especially the latter.

I’m here to flap about how the bird from the family Phoenicopteridae, revered by ancient Egyptians, ended up replicated in plastic and forthwith found itself stuck into numerous American lawns.

Just so you know, the real ones aren’t really “atomic pink,” they’re white. The pink comes from the algae they consume. And here’s a fact: they excrete salt through their nostrils. There’s a fun fact for the bubbler.

So how did they make their way into mainstream American decorating? Allegedly it was postcards hauled home (to New Jersey?) from 1920s-chic Miami Beach that started the whole thing. Flamingos on vacation postcards were proof-positive that your family deserved more than the crowded shore where regular folks flocked. Miami was a whole other world: glamorous, mysterious, expensive.

But whose idea was it to produce all those tacky plastic faux flamingo lawn ornaments? We actually know the answer: a guy aptly named Featherstone. In 1956, this art student was hired by the Union Plastics Company of Massachusetts (the same state that developed Marshmallow Fluff), to sculpt a lawn flamingo to replace an earlier version that allegedly was flat and featureless. Featherstone’s revised bird flew off the shelves by the millions. Featherstone went on to feather his own nest by eventually rising to a vice president post at Union Plastics. His name embellishes the rump of current pink models, which are hot sellers again in the early 21st century, with annual figures estimated at 250,000. That’s a lot of plastic birds.

But it isn’t always smooth flying. Lawn ornament admirers are fickle, which is to say, they might, at any moment, scuttle the flamingos they formerly worshipped and replace them with resin mushrooms, gnomes in conical hats, or (popular in Wisconsin), the Virgin Mary in a cast iron bathtub. Surely she deserves better. I wonder what Jesus would say.

bigredbeastieFrankly, I’ve always hated plastic flamingos. They’re even more disgusting arranged in marching flocks. Beasties, those hideous humps of fiberglass that Milwaukeeans fall for each and every summer, seem to have become almost obsolete, though now and then, if you look sharp, you can spot them peeking from gardens and lofty perches in various venues.

I must say the Egyptians had the right idea when they cut out the tiny tongues of Phoenicopteridae and served them (pickled) as a kind of modish ancient appetizer. This may have had something to do with the fact that they are extremely noisy birds. If the tongue offends, cut it out. At the height of the aforementioned Beastie mania, at least one of the artsy disasters was seen floating down the Milwaukee River, bound for extinction.

This is the first of a multi-part series on why people feel compelled to put stuff in their yards.

Categories: Dem Bones, VITAL

0 thoughts on “Dem Bones: Flamingo Flap”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a fitting send off–bon voyage Beastie! Too funny, I love it.

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