Posted 08-11-2004 at 03:31:29
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Part I...The Rescue
I sat and looked at the little white spot at the base of the fence for longer than I like to think about. I even asked Fred.
“What is that out there, a piece of paper?” He leaned over and peered out the window.
“Maybe part of a feed bag.” He replied. “Something the wind blew up.”
“Are you sure? It’s not moving when the wind blows, but it is moving. I’m not so sure that it’s just paper.”
He stepped back and looked at me.
“Are you suggesting that I go out there and check?” He was in boxers, shirtless and barefooted.
Well, ‘course I was, but I wasn’t going to come out and say that. The races were on.
“No. You’re probably right. It’s probably just a piece of paper.” I said.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t sure exactly when the little white thing in the fence caught my eye, but it was fairly early. It was far enough away that I couldn’t make out any details, but close enough that every time I glanced out the window my eye was drawn to it. Finally at about three p.m. I sighed and went and put on my boots. I had to find out what it was that was stuck in the fence. My ‘little voice’ was telling me that closer inspection was required.
I walked out back in no particular hurry. I was almost sure that it was a wasted trip, but the closer I got, the more I began to realize that I was on to something.
It was what we call a cowbird, or cattle egret. Maybe half-grown; about a foot tall At some point he had seen something on the opposite side of the goat wire that interested him, had tried to walk through the fence and had become wedged; one wing one side, and one on the other.
“Well, your not too bright, are you?” I asked. He responded to the sound of my voice by writhing around frantically trying to free himself, and I made a mental note to keep editorial comments to a minimum.
I bent down and surveyed the situation. The wire was so deeply imbedded in his feathers that it was difficult to tell where fence ended and bird began. It was clear that the only way to free him was going to be with a pair of wire cutters and Fred was going to kick my butt for cutting the fence to release a dumb bird. Especially since we were over run with cowbirds. But that didn’t stop me from going after the wire cutters anyway. I couldn’t just go in the house and leave the bird stuck in the fence. It would only be a matter of time before the dogs found it, and I shuddered to think what would happen. Now that I’d discovered him, it was my beholden duty to do something about the situation.
I would like to say that the bird somehow knew that I was trying to rescue him and calmly waited while I tested the wires, trying to determine which one would be the best to cut, but that would be an outright lie. He set about trying to kill me. Every time I reached down there he speared me with his sharp little beak. It didn’t really hurt, and after a time I got pretty good at anticipating his actions, but it kind of ticked me off. Here I was squatting in the weeds, sweat running down my back, swatting at flies, my hands so slippery from perspiration that I could barely hang on to the wire cutters, and he was making it ten times harder by fighting me every step of the way.
I cursed him, and his ancestry, the sun, the flies and the dull wire cutters, and finally I just held my breath reached down there and snipped. By pure luck, I cut the one wire that would free him and rapidly set about pulling him out. I guess he’d worn himself out as he let me handle him without pecking at me, and it was only a few seconds before he was cradled gently in my hands.
I was on top of the world. I was holding a beautiful creature in my hands that to date, I’d only seen from a distance. He was so white, that the sun bouncing off his back literally hurt my eyes. If he weighed anything at all, it would be impossible for me to guess how much, as he was so light that I had to keep checking to make sure that I was still holding him. His neck, under a layer of feathers was as slender as a pencil, and felt as fragile as a paper soda straw. The little beady eye that was closest to me was black as a seed bead and fastened on me, watching my every move with intense interest.
“Well,” I said, “now that we’ve overcome the hard part, it’s time for you to come in and meet the family. Meantime we’ll check you over and see if there’s any permanent damage.”
((Next...Part II...The Release)