Foul Feathered Fowl

Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds brings back memories every once in a while. I remember watching it with my brothers and sisters at a wee age and not sleeping for a week. Big brother teased the crap out of the rest of us for a long time afterwards by gluing chicken feathers from the coop onto an old blanket, wrapping it over his head, and chasing us right into the river, more than once.

One year, Mom thought she had to have a pet parrot. When she brought home the bird and all the accessories, Dad about hit the roof, saying her feathered friend was more comfortable and ate better than he did. Us kids made side bets for two months as Tom the Cat sat for hours watching Pete the Parrot being pampered by Mom.

Dad about flipped out the morning he sat down for coffee and Pete greeted him by saying “Good morning, Grumpy” on mom’s cue. All six of us kids hightailed it to the barn in a hurry, but the house never did explode.

Not too long after that, Mom awoke to Pete’s “Good morning, Wilbur” at Dad’s hand signal, and that’s the last we saw of the bird. Dad whistled when he walked for a long time after that.

A couple months back, after watching a show on the Discovery Channel about parrots and how entertaining they are to have around, I brought the idea up to Ed’s coffee cup one morning. His cup didn’t give a flat-out “no,” so my cup and I placed the idea on our “maybe to-do” list.

That very afternoon was when the black birds showed up. It was a nice, sunny day for a change, and the miserable wind that had been howling for a week had settled down, so the chirping of birds was a welcome sound.

Going about my chores around the farm, I was headed to the house when Ed pulled up, done in the field for the day. A ways away, he just stood by the pickup, staring at me. His mouth was moving, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand or hear a word he was saying. After he pointed up, I looked and saw what was going on and was totally amazed at the thousands of black birds in the trees all around us.

Wow, you could have tossed a small rock and hit one – that’s how thick they were!

As I watched in disbelief, Ed tooted his horn, and it was like a black cloud swirling around in a symmetrical pattern. Quickly grabbing my camera from the house, I took a few pictures. I knew they wouldn’t turn out, but wasn’t that what a person was supposed to do when you saw something cool? Getting the heebie-jeebies for a few seconds as Alfred and his movie came into my mind, I shook it off and we went in for supper.

Hearing a bunch of horn-honking the next morning, I looked out the window to see Ed’s fist in the air and a whole lot of bird poop on his pickup. I guessed the birds were still hanging around and decided inside would be a good place to be for a while as that Hitchcock movie was sneaking up on me again.

A couple days later, I woke up to some heavy-duty shotgun blasts. I guess Ed had had enough, as his black pickup was now kind of grayish-white.

Circling around him in the air, the birds seemed to be taunting him, and boy, was it working. As I told my coffee cup in no uncertain terms that we would not be getting a parrot, I spotted the shotgun flying up in the air towards the blackbirds, followed by the empty shell casings.

The blackbirds hung around for about a week, with each nightfall, and their quiet that followed, most welcome. They left as abruptly as they had come, Ed washed his pickup, and life was back to as normal as it could be.

“Quack… quack, quack…,” and then a hundred more quacks were the sounds we awakened to a few days later. Cool – the wood ducks were migrating through. I had never seen so many in one place before, much less right out in our trees. The photos came out pretty good on those buggers, and I was happy as all get-out as punch with my Kodak moment.

Funny thing about wood ducks… they quack all day and all night, not stopping for one or even a few hundred shotgun blasts. Ed gave up on washing his pickup, and I shredded any and all of my old Disney movies that included “Donald” in the title.

Back again to semi-normalcy a couple weeks later, I found the V pattern of northbound snow geese a welcome and beautiful sight… until they landed in the field next to our farm. Their honks drowned out Ed’s horn honks by a mile. This time it was my goose that was cooked, though, when the whole dang flock spooked and flew over the yard as I was pulling in with my car. Goose poop sticks like glue, and it seemed they all let loose at the same time as they continued on their northern hike!

In for the evening and listening to the nice, loud wind outside, Ed was channel-surfing the “oldies station” when it appeared – the creepy sideways shadow of Mr. Hitchcock himself. If there had been any shotgun shells left…

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