Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tweety Bird

This morning I walked in the fields and heard the sweet call of a meadow lark. I could see it sitting on a box elder sapling a couple feet higher than the surrounding grass. Not far away two fly catchers, king birds I think, were hunting. For a moment there was something powerful in the air and I was swept back forty years in time.

As a boy growing up in the 1960's and 1970's. I put myself among the first of a generation that grew up with TV. Still we got outside quite a bit. My older brother always had something going on that was interesting to me, the pesky little brother. He had books in his room like the "abominable snowman" with accounts of unwary campers being swept up and carried off in their sleeping bags by Bigfoot. He had a book called "Trout fishing In America" by Richard Brautigan that completely confused me.

One spring he had books on crows. And he talked about crows. He said they were smart and that you could even teach them to talk. He and my dad built a big chicken wire cage on legs in our back yard that looked to me like it should hold a leopard.

He located a crow nest and kept track when the babies hatched.Then one day my dad and my brother; and myself, promising to stay out of the way, got into our topless 1946 willys jeep. We drove out hay creek road to the abandoned farm where the farmer used to drive across the creek to get to his house. We drove very slowly through the creek, water threatening to come through the floor boards and up a little road past where the farm house used to stand to a group white pines. In the top was the nest.

We stood below shouting instructions to my brother as he climbed towards the crows nest and the baby crows with a sack in his belt. As he approached the nest the crows dive bombed him and, I thought, nearly knocked him out of the tree. My brother reached in the nest a brought out a baby crow. Like bigfoot he put it in his bag and we headed home. My brother was well read and well intentioned but the crow eventually died and the leopard cage sat sad and empty for a while before it was dismantled.

He probably took the crow too young. It died of a calcium deficiency is what the vet said.

It could have been later the same summer or maybe the next when my sister came home from Reichert'ss(now Reichert Avenue with town homes next to Sunnyside school.) where she took care of horses and hung out with other horsey girls. A barn swallow nest had fallen to the floor of the horse stable.

She saved three of the tiny babies before they were trampled by the horses. Two died right away. We nursed the third using our previous baby bird experience. We took turns running through the grassy fields(Spruce Drive and Lidberg street now) with a net sweeping it back and forth returning with a net filled with grass hoppers and a multitude of other squirming bugs."Tweety" survived and we had a summer filled with bird stories and I had a barn swallow as a brother.

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