My Son, the Manatee

Is it ever too late to become the caring parent you thought you could be? To find out, one man went in search of his adopted manatee—only to discover the many injustices that humankind has heaped upon these hapless marine mammals. And when Junior is fat, slow, and endangered, family values are nothing more than an easy way to break your heart.

Outside

Outside    

    
Before heading down to Florida, I figured I should talk to Jimmy Buffet. I'd noticed he cofounded the Save the Manatee Club in 1981 with then-Governor Bob Graham, and I hoped he'd have a word or two to pass on to Brutus. But his publicist's response struck me like a whirring propeller: "Jimmy is not available to participate," she said. "He is only making himself available for national television programs." Undeterred, I had her submit some questions for Jimmy anyway. "Do you have any message you might want to give Brutus or any of the other manatees you're helping to save?" I asked, and "Do you know anyone who might have been a manatee in a former life?" The publicist got back to me a few days later and said Jimmy wasn't answering the questions, not even the one about how he might begin a song about manatees. Hell, even I could do that:

Nibblin' on eel grass,
Watchin' some mare's ass,
All of those big boats loaded with Bud.
Swimmin' to warm springs, listenin' to props zing,
See our backs—
They're covered with blood.
Wasted away again in Manateeville,
Searchin' for our lost celebrity friend.
Some people claim that he'll bring us to fame,
But we know, this is surely our end.


 

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