Dowd’s Flying Diapers

Birds have wings for one reason: to scatter the output of one of the fastest digestive systems in the animal kingdom. Those who doubt the efficiency of bird plumbing should walk behind a Canada goose for 20 minutes. Nature also gave birds more intelligence than is commonly known, especially the corvids. Send a duck to college—eight years later he’ll graduate as a crow.

Sycamore Shadows inventor T. Alva Dowd, the father of Curly Dowd, had a pet crow named Falstaff. I could also write that Falstaff had a dimwitted pet human named T. Alva Dowd.

By studying his pet crow each day, Alva formed what he termed “Falstaff’s Law,” which states that if one releases a bird in a house, said bird will pick the least desirable spot in said house to soil. In layman’s terms, he’ll hit your coffee cup every time. While pouring a new cup of coffee one morning, Alva thought of a solution: Dowd’s Flying Diapers.

For millennia, birds have lived happily without diapers. Alva thought he knew the reason: they didn’t know what they were missing. The argument has merit. After all, many unmarried people live happily despite having never experienced the bliss of sharing a toilet or visiting in-laws. Showing the finished prototype to Falstaff several days later, Dowd explained its merits: the absorption factor, the comfort, the lightweight construction. While he may have convinced a finch, crows know better. Unable to believe that Dowd would suggest wearing such a ridiculous thing, Falstaff could only answer “caw,” loosely translated as, “Crows don’t wear white, moron. Try it on a pigeon.”

Dowd sewed six diapers and purchased a dozen pigeons.

Understand that with the exception of penguins and emus, removing a diaper from a bird is easy. Loosen the fasteners and the bird flies out of it. Convincing a bird to wear a diaper is another matter. You may imagine the difficulties of putting diapers on a half-dozen pigeons without any elaboration on my part. After three hours of toil, six diaper-clad test pigeons awaited their proving flights while six diaperless control pigeons laughed hysterically.

Dowd’s diapers were nearly weightless. From the beginning, he had recognized that the greatest difficulty would be one of equilibrium. Birds are delicately balanced and the slightest addition of weight will throw them off kilter, which is why they seldom wear hats. Dowd released the birds. After a few quick adjustments, the test pigeons flew normally, close behind the control pigeons. He wrote in his notebook, “Success!”

Do you remember the high-efficiency digestive systems mentioned in the first paragraph? While Dowd celebrated his success, the diapers began to fill. At 0:10:04, the weaker pigeons had difficulty gaining altitude. By 0:14:18, a dejected Dowd watched six pigeons flying inside loops. At 0:18:09, the pigeons could no longer fly. One by one, they plopped to the ground, imploring Dowd to remove the diapers. T. Alva Dowd had reached for the sky and failed.

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