A long-time blogger as well as a voiceover performer, Bill has many regular readers who enjoy his eclectic and often whimsical scrivenings under his familiar
nom d' plume, "virgilT."
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When I was about two going on three, my folks took me to my first drive-in movie. The feature was Disney's "Song of the South" with the estimable James Baskett as Uncle Remus. My mother told me some years later that when the animated butterflies and birds were swirling and flitting around Uncle Remus, I was enchanted, clapping my hands and babbling along with the music.
I don't babble as much as I used to, but birds and butterflies are still delightful creatures in my world. And recently I've been spending a little time on the front deck of my sister's place out here on the north central Texas plains. This had been quite a remarkable year for the area; four months in a row that rainfall has exceeded averages. In May, in fact, there was so much rain they overcame a four-year drought in three weeks.
The result has been a greening of the prairie such as I can't remember seeing in any of the many times my family came through this area, visiting kinfolk en route to our next duty station. My youthful memories of Texas in general involve very hot dry summers, alleviated only by keeping the shades and curtains drawn in the house and an old water-fed swamp cooler cranking away day and night. I remember there were nights so hot my mother would use the sprinkling bottle from her ironing to dampen my sheets; the gentle waft of an oscillating fan would evaporate the moisture and make the sheets cool enough for me to fall asleep.
But this year has been magnificent. I've never seen this part of the state look greener. And from my vantage point on the front deck, I've been privileged to see the comings and goings of the indigenous birds as they twit from mesquite tree to power line, hurtle to the ground for a grasshopper and soar off to another perch to enjoy their meal.
The mesquites my sister thought so ugly when she first moved here are becoming mature trees. Her inclination was to cut them all down -- this after putting a thorn through her shoe and into her foot about the first day here. My argument was that they're the only thing resembling trees on the property. Instead, I offered to prune them. I did this some five or six years ago...and have just repeated the process, which reveals some now well-developed trunks hidden in the spurious
frazzled growth that's happened in my absence.
I don't know whether the birds were just waiting for the trees to be trimmed, or whether it's my imagination. But once the mesquites were shaped up again, I notice some grackles that seemed to have an ongoing interest in one of them. Sure enough, some careful looking revealed a nest up in the branches of a mesquite...and as I stood below, I could already hear the chicks peeping and demanding to be fed.
A day or two later, it occurred to me that a pair of scissortail flycatchers were doing some pretty fancy aerial acrobatics that usually ended with them in a mesquite across the drive from the grackle's tree. So I began to pay attention to the comings and goings of the avian community. I thought maybe those scissortails might nest up. And then I took note of a couple of mocking birds laying claim to another tree just a little farther up the drive. And there appeared one day, way out on the power line, a male cardinal. He came and went over a period of about a week... and then one day I watched as the female zipped down out of nowhere and claimed a mesquite
well out in the uncut area beyond the trees I'd trimmed.
I kept my fingers crossed and stayed away from those trees for several weeks. But yesterday curiosity overcame me, and I walked out to take a look. The grackle nest is now empty and silent; the chicks have fledged and gone on to live their lives elsewhere. But I was pleased to see I was right about the scissortails; a careful look revealed a leafy clump that had been pulled together and added to and become a nest. Twenty feet farther up the drive I was even more pleased to find I'd been right about the mocking birds as well. There was a sturdy nest to prove they'd found the place acceptable.
I'm not going to go out into the wild uncut area to locate the cardinal's nest; I'm sure it's there because I see both the male and female hustling back and forth all day long to feed their young ones. I won't disturb them.
As much as it tempts me to grab a ladder and lean it up into the mesquites to get a close look at these nests and their inhabitants, I won't do it. I'm afraid I might interrupt the raising-and-feeding routine and cause the parent birds to abandon their chicks or something equally as disastrous.
I take my morning coffee out on the deck these hot days, just as the sun cracks the horizon and before the daily swelter drives my fragile human flesh indoors to the air conditioning. And I look for the appearance of the cottontail rabbit who has built a warren somewhere out near the road in a wild clump of mesquite I have no intention whatever of trimming. Some mornings I see her hopping across or along the drive, intent on her morning errands. It makes me smile.
I don't know why I feel so privileged to be seeing all this, but I do. And of course it's nothing new in the ebb and flow of prairie life. It's been happening like this for aeons. My appreciation may have to do with the realization that I'm sharing a fraction of life and time with these delightful creatures; that like them, I am also part of the great mystery of life on our planet, however tenuous or brief it may be.
And it just may be that in me still lives that innocent two-year old, clapping and singing along with Uncle Remus and the flittering butterflies and birds.
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