SkyMall Monday: Wild Lawn Ornaments

I keep myself safely secluded in the SkyMall Monday headquarters. It’s built inside a mountain, under several hundred feet of granite, in a secure and secret location. This protects me from the fearsome animals that I now assume rule the Earth. While I fear all wildlife and assume that they are out to get me (and/or my Lucky Charms), I do enjoy their decorative properties. But how can I take advantage of the aesthetic qualities of our furry, feathered and scaled friends without being bitten, constricted or dry humped? Taxidermy is expensive and requires first killing animals before they have a chance to kill me. That seems not only difficult but likely to involve unseemly people who peddle in taxidermy and will most certainly make me uncomfortable. That leaves only one viable option for harnessing the majestic beauty of creatures both real, imagined and extinct: lawn ornaments. Lawn ornaments tell everyone in your neighborhood that you’re classy and bored. But where can I satiate my appetite for animal lawn ornaments? Who would have such a buffet of faux-fauna? Who could possibly…oh, come on, you know the answer to these questions. It’s SkyMall’s time to shine! Leave your tranquilizer darts and nets at home. You won’t need them on this safari. Simply pack your imagination and obliviousness to your tacky sense of style. We’re hunting wild lawn ornaments.SkyMall product descriptions in italics followed by my thoughts on these fine works of “art.”

T-Rex Dinosaur Sculpture
Visitors will admire your creative garden style as T-Rex makes a Mesozoic statement! And you won’t understand their Cenozoic response. Nerd joke. Look it up.

Brown Bear Garden SculptureOur realistically sculpted, 3-1/2-foot-long mischievous Brown Bear is sculpted 360 degrees to be admired from all sides while lumbering through your garden. I like to admire bears from the backside. Yep, I like bear back.

Raccoon Garden Sculpture They can be a nuisance–but posed in this adorable pile-up of three, raccoons can also be among Mother Nature’s most endearing creatures. Who doesn’t want to cuddle with some raccoons. Why not create a realistic scene and scatter some garbage around them. And get a dozen or so shots in your stomach for the pretend rabies. Adorable!

Garden Deer Sculpture“The privilege of a visit from a majestic six-point buck isn’t confined to the tradition of grand European landscapes! The quintessential garden piece, our amazingly accurate investment in garden art stands four-feet-long and over a yard tall, complete with an enviable rack of antlers. A visit from a buck is a privilege not a right. You have to earn it by covering yourself in fake deer urine and sitting in a tree all day. Also, there is no lawn ornament more quintessential than a giant deer. And if you envy antlers, you can always get some of your own. But if you envy antlers, well, you have issues, man. Serious, serious issues.

The Regal PeacockAlmost a full yard of metallic gold and iridescent blue plumage shines in an expansive panorama in this classic English garden piece. Our artisans have hand-painted each feather of this highly textural work in the peacock’s royal palette. I have no joke here. Just high praise for the lofty prose used by one bold and highfalutin SkyMall employee. No plumage is as alluring as his wordsmithing.

Dragon of Falkenburg CastleYour neighbors will steer clear when they see this intricately sculpted, more than two-foot-long dragon stretched out in your flower bed. This lifelike sculpture is complete with scales, wings and a treacherous tail. Yeah, blame the dragon for keeping your neighbors away. That’s the ticket. Also, who knows what a lifelike dragon would look like? Who here has seen a dragon? Quick show of hands. Anyone? In the back there? No? OK, moving on.

Musical Raccoon MaestroGreet passing garden visitors with a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song,” and you’ll get a standing ovation every time. This cute conductor is wearing an appropriately formal black-tie-and-tails outfit and has a motion-activated sound chip for surprising and delighting his audiences. I’d prefer a casually dressed squirrel that plays Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride.”

See, you don’t need to venture to the wilds of Africa or Wal-Mart to have animal encounters. You can assemble your own menagerie that will show your neighbors that you are fashionable, sophisticated and not at all lonely. Be it raccoons, a deer or an extinct predator, you will be the undisputed beastmaster of your trailer park.

As for me, I’ll stay in my bunker. My mountain fortress has no lawn to ruin with ornaments.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Only in Alaska: Living – and traveling – in bear country

Bears: everybody fears them, everybody wants to photograph them from behind a tour bus window. In my neighborhood, black bears constantly get into garbage cans – when people express disappointment at not having seen any bears on their vacation, I encourage them to hang out on my street on garbage day.

Alaska has plenty of bears, and if you follow a few rules you’re unlikely to ever encounter a bear in the wild.There are really only two types that you might encounter casually: the black bear and the brown (or grizzly) bear. I often meet tourists who are too timid to venture on even a basic nature walk after I warn them that they need to be bear-aware. This attitude is unfortunate, because they don’t realize two things:

1. Bears in Alaska don’t just hang out in the woods, so you’re not necessarily “safe” by staying in town. Though urban bear encounters are generally confined to the fringes of town, last year a grizzly wandered down a popular greenbelt into downtown Anchorage, the state’s largest city.

2. If you follow the right procedures, you’re unlikely to encounter a bear in the wild.

Here are a few tips for avoiding bears, and what to do should you encounter one:

  • The best rule, the holy grail of all rules, is to make noise. I’m a trail runner, an activity that is the third-most dangerous in bear country (just behind getting between a sow and her cubs or a bear and its kill) since it involves moving (slightly, in my case) fast and quietly. I used to carry bear spray (and we’ll get to that) but now I just yell. As my friend told me, “if you run into a bear, you weren’t making enough noise.”
  • On a related note, in my opinion you should forget bear bells unless you’re putting them on your dog’s collar. They don’t make very much noise and give you a false sense of security. Better to sing, yell or clap your hands.
  • Learn to identify a black bear and a brown bear – your response should you run into one will differ depending on the bear. Despite their common names, color is not always the best indicator of a type of bear, so shape and size are important. Black bears are smaller than brown, and are flat between the shoulder blades while grizzlies have a large hump.Black bears also have a straight profile, while grizzlies have a dished-out shape.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Don’t run – you’ll never outrun a bear and you don’t want to encourage it to chase you. Stay calm, talk to the bear to let it know you’re there, and raise your arms to make yourself look bigger. If the bear stands on two legs, it’s just trying to get a better look at you.
  • Don’t climb a tree – bears are better at it than you.
  • Don’t give it food. It might come back for more.
  • Throw something on the ground to try to distract it – a camera or book.

If you’re charged/attacked by a bear:

  • If it’a a black bear, it’s likely bluffing. I’ve had several friends charged by black bears, and each time the bear veered at the last second.
  • You can use bear (pepper) spray on a black bear, but I’ve read that pepper spray only annoys brown bears, which is why I don’t carry it any more.
  • If attacked by a black bear, fight back! Punch it in the nose, kick it, whatever.
  • If attacked by a brown bear, play dead. Cover your neck and head. Typically a brown bear will stop attacking once it doesn’t feel threatened any more.

Remember, bear encounters are not that common, and shouldn’t keep you from enjoying Alaska’s trails. Simply making a lot of noise will reduce your chances significantly.

Come up and visit!