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Ol’ Robbo was parked in his favorite comfy chair in front of the fire in the Port Swiller Manor library late this afternoon, rereading C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, when he suddenly became aware that Bella, the eldest of the household cats, was fooling about with something with more than her usual energy.

At first I thought she was just on a catnip high and was playing with one of her toys.  After a moment, though, I noticed that whatever she was batting around appeared to be able to move under its own steam.  Furthermore, as she repeatedly pounced on it, it seemed to make a high, squeaky noise.

“Ah,” I thought to myself, “a mouse.  Well, that’s her job, isn’t it.”  I registered a note to dispose of the corpse once she was done playing it and went back to my book.

(Incidentally, in terms of pure, anthropomorphic cruelty, there is nothing, nothing, in nature to match a cat dealing with its prey.   I know they don’t have any such actual thoughts, but they sure as hell look as if they’re enjoying torturing their victims.)

carolina-wren-wikipediaHowever, as she continued to chase the thing about, I suddenly became aware that it wasn’t a mouse, but in fact was a bird.  A Carolina wren, to be exact.  How the heck it got into the house, I still don’t know, but there it was.

Ol’ Robbo loves wrens, both for their stubby appearance and also for their bold demeanor.  He couldn’t let this one succumb.  So, after shooing Bella away, he set about to catch it and put it outside himself.

This proved…..difficult.  Some years ago, a bat managed to make its way into Robbo’s bedroom.  Opening a window and whisking it out with the aid of a tennis racket was really fairly easy, because bats prefer open air and this one spent all its time swooping around near the ceiling.  Wrens, on the other hand, are denizens of the ground and of brush.  This one displayed such character trait by repeatedly getting under sofas and chairs and hiding behind various kitchen appliances.

Eventually, however, I managed to lay hands on the thing and to take it back outside.  Upon release, it made straight for the hedge, where I hope it is now bedded down for some much needed rest.

Bella was…displeased.

UPDATE:  I’ve seen the male in and out of the feeder today but not the female (which was the one that got in).  I hope the poor thing didn’t succumb to shock.

UPDATE DEUX:  Saw her this afternoon at the feeder looking none the worse for wear.  Huzzay!

calm vixensGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

A solid seven or eight inches of global warming here yesterday, meaning a four day weekend for the gels.  (Well, and for me, too.)  I am patting myself on the back that I got out and shoveled the Port Swiller Manor driveway last evening when the temperature was still in the upper 20’s, rayther than waiting for this morning when it’s in the lower teens.

My apologies for harping on this topic (if you read the posts below, you’ll know that it is dear to the Port Swiller family), but the resistance to the closure of Sweet Briar College is growing exponentially.  Mrs. R has been on teh electronics with her fellow alums more or less non-stop and they’re all positively furious.  Latest I’ve heard is that we’re lawyering up, and that there are plans in the works for each alum class to adopt a residential dorm and shower its inmates with support and outreach.   I wouldn’t expect any friends of the decanter who don’t have some connection with the school to consider ponying up some coin for the campaign, but I would ask that you all at least sign the petition and tell your friends about it.   Making as big a to-do as possible about all this is positively critical.

There are basically three goals here.

1.  Stop the closing.  If the thing goes through, restarting the school would be well-nigh unpossible.   On the other hand, getting the board to reconsider has precedence.

2.  Find out just what the hell happened.  The “whither all-female colleges in the 21st Century?” talk I’ve seen bandied about is a perfectly legitimate question, but in this instance I continue to believe it’s being used as so much eyewash to cover what seems to be a case of gross mismanagement.   How did the school get into such a financial hole? To whom does it owe all these millions?  Why wasn’t anyone tipped off to this earlier?  Last financials I saw (for FY2012 and FY2013) showed the school more or less breaking even.  Nobody thought we were riding high, but (again) nobody knew how deep in the doodoo we were.  Also, the interim president, Jim Jones, was thought to be just a seat-warmer until a permanent replacement could be brought in.  Seems now he was really a hatchet-man.  On further digging, it also has been discovered that he comes with a lot of baggage.

3.  Fix the problem.  Other girls’ schools in the area seem to have managed it using some form of limited or open male acceptance.  Hollins has a coed grad program while maintaining an all-girl undergrad base.  Its endowment is nearly half again larger than SBC’s and it has no debt.  I’m sure there is some way to manage.  (Stringing up the current board on lamp-posts would, of course, be just a first step.)

Somebody here mentioned the size of the college labor force in one of the earlier posts.  This is actually an important point, too.  SBC is the largest employer in Amherst County – there’s not much else there.  Many families have worked there literally for generations.  A lot of them live in on-campus housing, too.  If the school goes, all that goes with it and these people will be out on the streets.

One positive note:  I am amazed and excited at how rapid and energetic the response from the SBC community and alumnae has been, and am increasingly optimistic that we may be able to turn this thing.  Vixen power, bay bee!



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March 2015