Pretty in Pink

I have to admit, as a child of the frost belt, my personal experience with flamingos is a bit limited. I once sketched a flock of them at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, and learned there that captive flamingos need to take dietary supplements to replace a pigment found in brine shrimp in the wild, otherwise their plumage fades to white and they disappear in Minnesota snow storms (all right, I made the last part up). But for the most part, my experience with the birds is limited, as is probably yours, to croquet matches in Alice in Wonderland, and of course the plastic lawn flamingo, invented in 1951.

For such a recent invention, the lawn flamingo has accumulated a substantial folklore and artistic expression. They're second only to lawn gnomes in kidnapping and travel pranks; the UW-Madison student government (under the Pail-and-Shovel Party administration) once spent a substantial fraction of the year's student fees covering the campus with the darn things. I've even seen a front-yard nativity scene featuring pink flamingos in the neighborhood around Club Mud. (The "angel" is spray-painted white--or missing dietary supplements--and dangles from a tree branch. A large plastic egg nestles in the manger.) Pink flamingos are fun.

Which is why we paint them on bowls, mugs, pitchers, dessert plates and occasionally pie dishes.

Croquet, anyone?