Monday, February 2, 2015


Here's a story.  It's a bit long, mainly because an incident on Sunday brought back a memory of a similar experience from my past, all of which will take me a bit of time to explain.  Following the neural pathways in my mind can be slightly daunting, even for me, but here goes...

Last Summer I bought a really cool, cobalt blue birdbath.  It was twice as big as the old bath, even large enough for the resident hawk.

There were a few nights last week where the temps dropped to freezing, though during the day it was unseasonably and wretchedly too hot.  I think the extremes in temperature were too much for the ceramic.  I woke up Wednesday, opened the blinds that look out over the back deck...and the entire basin was lying in a perfectly shattered ring around the pedestal base.  Crap.  I really liked that birdbath.

Thursday morning.  Barely the crack of dawn and the blue jays are shrill and squawking, causing a bloody ruckus outside my bedroom window--which also overlooks the back garden.  I get out of bed, thinking maybe it's the hawk or a cat that has them so upset. There are at least ten blue jays in the tree that shades the bath and every single one of them is pissed. They're early morning bathers. There is no bath.

I tap on the window, they fly off.  Back in bed, snuggling under the duvet.  The noise starts up again. I was in and out of bed at least four times. Later, I went to all the garden centers in the area, hoping to replace the bath, but nothing will be available until March. Eventually, the birds will figure out that the bath is gone and will go away. Right?

So far?  No.

Yesterday, fourth day in a row that I'm being bullied by blue jays, I get up and march outside. Window tapping apparently has no effect on them at all. I wave my arms and shout, they fly off.  I stand on the deck, early morning light just coming over the mountains...and suddenly, out of the ether, I have a deja vu moment.  I've done this before...

Seattle, couple decades past. I'm in my most excellent garret--top floor of an old Queen Anne house. My bedroom windows overlook the back garden area where there are three little parking spots, flower beds, an enormous chestnut tree, a small fence and the next door neighbor's house.

It's dawn on a Saturday morning.  I was out late with friends the night before, haven't been asleep for long when the first crow begins to caw, then another and another, until my head is going to explode if they don't shut up.  I go out onto my back porch, which is really just a large landing to the three flights of stairs down to the backyard.  The chestnut tree is full of crows.  Like it's a frigging crow convention.  And every one of them is screeching and cawing and making such a noise it's ear-splitting.  I wave my arms and hop up and down like a lunatic.  Nothing.

In my pajamas, I go down the stairs and rummage in the flower beds until I find a rock.  I throw it. Nothing. I lob dirt clods, sticks, more rocks.  These are some hardcore birds. They don't even flinch. I give up, but there's no way I can sleep, so I went back to bed and contemplated the murder of crows.

A neural pathway even further back.  I grew up in a neighborhood where the only kids my age were boys.  I was always more a tomboy than a girly girl anyway, so hanging with the guys was easy.  One of my talents: I could out shoot all of them with my slingshot.

I'm thinking about that slingshot while the crows are driving me nuts. Somewhere in my stuff, deep in a box, stashed in the basement of the house, I have a slingshot.  My brother gave it to me for Christmas one year after I'd told him I used to be a really good shot. We're (more or less) adults by then, so I laughed at the gift, we spent half the day shooting rocks at cans, but over time the slingshot fell deeper into the abyss of things in storage and was forgotten.

It took some digging, but by afternoon I have the slingshot in hand.  I walk my little dog Danny around the neighborhood, collecting perfect-sized stones for my ammo.  I'm ready.

Before the dawn has even begun to lighten the sky, the first crow wakes me up.  I wait. Maybe it's just one and it will go away.  But no.  Within a few minutes, it's again the crow convention.  I throw off the covers, grab the sling and my stones and race out onto the back landing.  The tree is filled with birds.  The noise is staggering.

Now, before you think I'm a blood-thirsty bird killer, dear readers, I should explain that I had no intention of actually hitting a bird.  A stone at full velocity could seriously wound and/or kill. That's not what I want.  I just want them to go away, find another tree.  Let. Me. Sleep.

Weigh the perfect stone in my hand.  Check the pull on the slingshot.  Load the stone, cock my head, narrow my eyes and let it fly, my focus on a branch about midway up the tree.  I'm anticipating the whack as it hits, can't wait to see the startled birds rising in a cloud of black, flying off into the distance...preferably toward Canada.

I make the shot of a lifetime. I couldn't duplicate it in a million years. The damn stone misses the branch, misses every leaf and twig, misses every bird and dangling chestnut pod...and flies straight through the neighbor's kitchen window.

For about five seconds RUN was my first response.  Then their lights came on and I knew I would have to take the blame.  And pay for the window.  I threw a jacket on over my pajamas, put on shoes and went next door.  I didn't really know the older couple, but I knocked, introduced myself and then confessed that I'd really only been been trying to get rid of the crows, not break windows. They were very nice, and the old guy even admired my shooting.

A few minutes later I was home, climbing the stairs, when the sun began rising over the mountains...and I realized it was quiet.

I started to laugh.  It was going to cost me $250 to replace the broken window, but at least the crows were gone.

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