Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: October 2012

By Dennis Hinkamp

The buzz at the bar.
—by Dennis Hinkamp

We never planned on being bar owners. We just thought opening one on a seasonal basis would be a manageable and entertaining contribution to our otherwise sedate neighborhood. So starting in about June each year we set up the bar stools, stock tiny barrels with sweet beverage and wait for the customers to start to arrive.

This year per usual, they started showing up thirsty and appreciative. Sure, there were exotic flowers to pursue in the wilderness, but our easy-access self-serve bar seemed like a restful place to meet fellow travelers. Everything was going fine as the festively dressed patrons started to arrive. There was much buzzing, diving and the usual aerial courtship dances. There was the occasional fat Oriole that looked like he had lost his way but even strangers like this were generally just politely ignored rather than kicked out.

Then the Rufous gang started rolling into town; not all at once but just one at a time. We had never seen these flashy guys before so we welcomed the avian diversity. It turns out, these guys are greedy, belligerent, persistent drunks.

It’s not unusual for a tough guy to wander into a bar, pick a fight and then never be heard from again; not so for the Rufous. It seemed like the first one just came in to size up the opposition. Having proved the black chins and broad tails were easily bullied, he came back with friends, uncles and wives in tow. Pretty soon it was like a biker bar with macho chest-thumping and roaring around the parking lot chasing off all hummingbirds not of their clan.

It didn’t matter how many satellite bars we put up, the Rufous kept expanding their gang to cover all the entrances to the bar. On a good day an occasional black chin was allowed to slam down a quick shot of juice, but he was then quickly escorted out the door by the Rufous bouncer. On a bad day, the aerial dogfights sometimes resembled Top Gun. This went on for two months.

Then came the alien invaders. Every bullying dictatorship has its downfall and this has been the Arab Spring for the Rufous. It wasn’t an internal uprising from the downtrodden masses but rather an unexpected hoard of outsiders that attacked like the invaders from every malevolent alien movie. The bees started sneaking by the Rufous doormen a couple at a time and nobody seemed to mind such a tiny intruder; then a few more and a few more until the bar was three deep with the little buzzers. The bees were like alcoholics who had just been cut off by other bars and now they desperately tried to get into the feeders that weren’t made for their anatomy.

Buzz and bluster as they might, the Rufous were not up to the risk of death by a hundred stings. The black chins and broad tails seem to have headed elsewhere while the bees remain undeterred, their faces pushed up against the window of the bar.

I guess the drought, like Prohibition, has driven the thirsty to desperate measures. Our neighborhood bar became so popular, we had to close it.

Dennis Hinkamp of course made sure all wildlife was of legal age. Photo by Brian Wyndam

This article was originally published on September 28, 2012.