My sixteen-year-old granddaughter visited us last week for her spring break. She flew in on a steel silver bird from Tulsa on Monday, and we met her at DFW. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, except in pictures on Facebook and text, but there she was, pulling her rolling suitcase, wearing the obligatory backpack, holding her iPhone, and wearing a pair of Doc Marten boots. She was quite a beautiful sight to behold. I ask my wife to tell me that a sixteen-year-old would rather spend a week with their grandfather than go to South Padre or Corpus and whoop it up on the beach? She assures me she is not a mirage, and some grandchildren are geared that way. I must be a lucky old guy to garner such love and respect from one so young.
Her brother, my oldest grandson, came over from that fancy eastern city, Dallas, and had Mexican food with us. Once back at home, we played loud rock guitars for a while, and I was shocked that he might be the next young Eric Clapton or at least Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. His sister plays a different guitar style and declines to join the loud fracas; Joni Mitchell and classical finger-picking are more to her styling. As loud as it was, having my two oldest grandchildren together for a while was an unexpected joy. I’ve learned, at my age, to take moments as they unfold. The loud music from my Fender amp loosened a dental filling or two, but I survived it without more hearing loss than usual. I will ask my grandson If I might accompany him on his first tour as a roadie or guitar tuner. If CDs or vinyl albums are there, I can sell them at a table near the venue entrance.
They both lead busy lives, as all young folks do these days. Their social life on the cell phone takes up much of their time, but that is the norm now. I told the two that I would be a better person and much more relaxed if I didn’t own one of the foul little machines. How ancient I must seem to them; going to bed at 9 PM and arising at 6 AM, unheard of in their universe.
Retiring requires searching for tasks to keep your mind sharp and your body supple. My wife and I have a shared morning routine, feeding our visiting hordes of wild birds each morning after our cup of java. We have three feeders and a bird bath, and it didn’t take long for the word to get out that our side yard is the happening place in our rural community. Starting with one feeder last year and a bag of seed every month, we are now up to two bags a week and sometimes more. I feel that there is a sign written in bird language somewhere in a tree that gives directions to our yard. I fear the little invaders have trained us well.
My granddaughter was amused by the antics of the little Avians. Their busy stage is close to our bay window, so we have front-row seats all day. She pointed out that the drama around the feeders is akin to the survival programs on television, or perhaps like our government dimwits in Washington. Big birds always win out over the little birds; it’s the natural pecking order in their world; and ours. I think she is onto something, and how weird that a teenager should recognize the similarities. Still, she is bordering on Oppenheimer’s intelligence and is into more things at school than I can remember. Ahhhh- to be young again, and not in the ancient 1960s.
Brown and black Sparrows are the small fries, so they get to the feeders early before the chaos ensues; Finches, Buntings, Juncos, and Titmouse come in next, then the pushy Cardinals arrive and start throwing their weight around. The Wood Pecker and Blue jays sneak in for a peanut, then depart. The few White Wing Dove that came last year has now grown into a flock of twenty or more, and they move in and take over the show. Feathers and seed fly, and the little birds retreat to the ground to grab what they can. It’s pretty chaotic. A feral cat or two tried to move in for a few easy kills, but my accurate rock-chunking abilities dispersed them in a few days. No cats were harmed, but the small stones gave their buttocks an ouchy or two just to let them know they were not welcome to kill my small feathered friends. These days, the escalating war between the birds is becoming worrisome. Perhaps I can draw on my inner Henry Kissinger spirit and negotiate a truce, but I doubt any of the small Avians will be interested in listening to my gobbly-goop. So be it; let the battles continue.
I sat down to my coffee a few mornings after she arrived, and my perch is also by the bay window where the bird’s antics occur. I found a note from my granddaughter written on post-it paper that summed it up quite well. It read, “The Doves are the supreme consumer of the seed. Much like the British and tea, the Doves do not play. Birds are under Dove dictatorship.”
That sums it up quite nicely. Unfortunately, as the bird feeder goes, so does the country.
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