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Published April 24. 2010 09:00AM

There are turkey vultures - also called buzzards - in our pine forest. They sit up in the tall longleaf pine trees and watch for little critters to eat. I've seen them swoop down and capture a baby squirrel and carry it off. They also like road kill, but the vultures are so big that they can't stay on the road very long or they themselves would be road kill. I surely wouldn't want to hit one of them with my car - it would leave a large dent.

Did you know that, when it's hot, turkey vultures poop on their legs to keep cool? Their poop is almost entirely liquid and it produces a cooling effect as it evaporates. As gross as that seems, it is another of nature's wondrous ways. Remember the 'Friends" episode when Monica is bitten by a jellyfish and Chandler pees on her leg? Apparently, the ingredients in our urine act as a balm and quiet the stinging sensation. Another example of a natural remedy.

So, Dr. Smith, is this column all about poop and pee or do you have a higher purpose? Of course I do. The turkey vulture poop item set my mind thinking about ways that we humans poop on ourselves - figuratively, of course. Even though we may be trying to do good, we can end up being covered in our own excrement - so to speak.

Take me, for instance. I volunteered to help monitor a testing program at a local school. I spent three half-days in a classroom and helped the teacher distribute materials and patrol the aisles while the kiddos took the tests. For my efforts, I received a bacterial infection in my throat and bronchial tubes that had me down and out for over a month. My immunity to youthful diseases has apparently diminished in the 12 years I've been retired.

Another example - when we clean our enclosed porch, we also remove all of the plants and blue glass collection. We are so proud of ourselves. Then, of course, the plant stands need repainting and the rug needs cleaning and the windows need washing and - by the time we're finished, we're wondering how such a simple job can turn into a major renovation.

One of my friends decided to donate items to a local non-profit organization. She called the group and asked if they could pick up the items. No - their truck was out of commission. So, in addition to packing them up and transporting them to the location, she also had to find a place to park nearby. To add insult to injury, once she got the items inside the shop, the woman behind the desk asked her to complete a long form that took a while to do. When she went back outside, she had a parking ticket on her windshield.

I guess the major focus of this column is to remind you, dear reader, that life sometimes seems as though we're pooping on our own legs. As Robert Burns once said - "The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley" - and the translation goes something like this - "Just when you think you did the right thing, it comes back to bite you." I think Robbie Burns probably watched a lot of turkey vultures in Scotland.


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