If you have been reading this blog for a long time, or have perused some older stories, you might recall one of the very first posts I did. That post was about Perry the Pigeon, a hapless bird that my children rescued from the our old dog Toby’s Jaws Of Death, to allow him (or her) to die a lingering but much more peaceful death in a cardboard box in our dining room. I know what you are thinking right now, so I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – in my defense, I thought it was a dove.
Anyway, here we are, about a year and a half later, and we happen upon another poor wounded feathered friend. This one was running on the ground with the cats chasing him, and Annabelle went absolutely berserk. “MOM!!! We have to save him! We have to save the pigeon!!”
I was packing the horse trailer for the five-day show that I was preparing to embark upon the next morning and I didn’t have much time or patience for a half-dead bird right then. Nonetheless, I didn’t have the stomach to watch the dog or the cats maul him to death right in front of me either, so I dutifully removed the bird who was now not-so-gently cradled in Winston’s Jaws of Death and locked Winston in the kennel. The bird fell to the ground and ran for safety under the truck. Annabelle quickly retrieved a broom to begin the rescue.
It wasn’t an easy task. Each time she would get the pigeon within arm’s length she would put the broom down to grab him and he would run back to safety. My little blond zoo-keeper nearly killed the wounded fowl with the broom trying to scoop him out to where she could reach him, and in the end I think the capture only finally succeeded due to the bird’s progressive shock and the additional trauma imparted by the broom.
Once she had her hands on him she looked him over with concern, saying “I think he’ll be all right mom. Let’s put him in the cage and when he gets better we can turn him loose.”
It was somewhat surprising that Annabelle was so intent on saving the bird, since they are a verifiable scourge on the small barn that houses our horses. Grumpy in particular spends a lot of his time standing in his shelter, and he is always covered in pigeon poop when we catch him. It is disgusting. If the poop is dry the clean-up is not too bad – a little scrub with the curry comb and brush and he’s good to go. If it is not dry……well that’s another story altogether.
The pigeons also poop in the water tank, the feed bins, pretty much everywhere the horses are. I think I can safely say that there is not a farmer or horseman anywhere who will say they think a pigeon should be saved from execution, but as I previously stated it was also impossible to stand by and watch a helpless bird be tormented to death right before our eyes.
So there we were.
I seemed apparent to me that the pigeon had been shot; probably by our very own dear Grandpa Vernon, and it was obvious that he had a broken wing and possibly some other fractured bones as well (the pigeon, not Grandpa Vernon). It was also apparent to me that unless I stopped what I was doing (organizing the overstuffed space in our small trailer tack room for the hundredth time this show season) I would not be able to concentrate on my task anyway.
I went to the garage and retrieved the large wire dog kennel where we had kept Winston when he was a puppy and carried it to the covered back porch next to the bunny cage. The kids ran into the house and got a bowl of water, and I rummaged under the buffet in the dining room until I found the bag of cracked corn we had purchased for the last pigeon rescue (which had of course gone unused due to the rapid demise of the intended diner). In almost no time we had the pigeon all set up.
He huddled miserably in the drafty cage, looking very traumatized and not all that happy to be rescued after all.
Annabelle was worried that the pigeon would be cold, so as a final touch I went into the tack room and brought out a heavy horse blanket and draped it over his cage. At about this point Batman, who had been watching more than participating in the activities, announced that we should name this bird Perry, since after all the other Perry was dead now and by the way did I remember when we buried him? I told him that I did, in fact remember burying the original Perry, and then I went back to work.
The kids checked on the bird several times before bedtime, the last few checks with a flashlight shown brightly into the cage that had to have almost scared the poor thing to death right then and there. The next morning all was still well; Perry had survived the night.
Fast forward about 8 hours. After an emotionally grueling morning at the vet wondering if my injured horse could be shown in the first leg (no pun intended) of the competition that day (yes, she could in the end) I had just finished the reining portion of my competition and was walking to Freckles’ stall when I received a phone call from the children’s school. Was there a family emergency that they needed to know about since the children had not been picked up from school?
I took a deep breath, and said surely their father was on the way. Then I called Desperate Hubby. I had just called him thirty minutes prior to make sure that he remembered he was picking up the kids.
He had not answered his phone the first time. This time he did.
He was minutes away, he said, and I went to unsaddle Freckles with a sick feeling about how emotionally traumatized the kids would be by the experience of being abandoned at school. After a time I called his phone to see how things were going. Annabelle was not at all traumatized, but she was very excited to tell me how much trouble her father was in for picking them up late.
Then she put Batman on the phone. He didn’t seem very interested in talking about being picked up late, but he said he had some sad news. “Mom, Perry the Pigeon passed away today while we were at school.” I said I was sorry, and Batman replied “Oh, it’s all right mom. We are burying him right now. We got rocks and made a little cross and everything.” He seemed pretty happy about the whole project.
When I got home I saw the results of their handiwork.
It was pretty well done I thought. Annabelle had (more or less phonetically) written Perry the Pigeon on a few of the rocks, and they had even put a few wilting marigolds on for color. I was proud of them.
Somehow over the next week (I really have no idea how) Batman got it into his mind the remaining pigeons in the barn should be disposed of. He has always been enamored with the whole idea and enterprise of hunting, so maybe realizing that there was game waiting right there in the barn just became too much for him, or maybe thinking about the fact that Perry had been shot gave him the idea, but all week-long he hounded DH to go kill a bird. It’s all he talked about.
The next Saturday, while Annabelle and I were at the very last horse show of the year, Desperate Hubby and Batman spent most of the day building a kick-proof pen so Freckles could come home to our place for some R&R. It was a cold, miserable day with drizzling rain and a breeze that cut right through you, and DH was more than ready to go in the house when the pen was finished.
But no. Batman had been promised a pigeon hunt, and nobody in the house would rest until he got one, so DH wearily loaded his pellet gun and headed outside. Apparently, though, the type of ammunition the boys used that day was not adequate, and the pigeons all escaped unscathed.
Batman was beside himself.
DH promised they would try again the next day, with a different kind of bird shot that was more suited to the close-range accuracy demanded by a successful pigeon extermination. Batman was not happy with the delay, but eventually accepted that there would be no further hunting that afternoon and set about organizing his camouflage clothes for the hunt.
Sunday morning dawned cold but relatively sunny. I was outside happily watching Freckles roll in the sand and prance about making the most of her freedom from stall life, when here came DH and Batman. With a gun.
They walked inside the barn (empty of horses at the moment thank you very much) and immediately blasted a bird. The pigeon’s death was pretty much instantaneous, but it still kind of grossed me out. Batman raced toward the pigeon, but Winston beat him to it. Batman screamed in frustration “DON’T LET WINSTON EAT MY BIRD!!!” I called Winston over and he let me pry the dead (but dripping blood) fowl from his jaws. Batman picked it up from where it fell to the ground, looking the carcass over in fascination.
“What do you think I should do with it, mom?” “Throw it in the dumpster,” DH and I both answered simultaneously.
“I can’t do that,” Batman said. “I’m gonna bury it. Over next to the second Perry.”
After I locked Winston up once again to secure the safety of his dead bird, Batman got the shovel and started digging, the dead bird laying next to him on the ground.
He dug and he dug. I walked over to check on him at one point and he informed me that he had named the bird.
He named the bird Hunter because he had been killed by them hunting him. Made sense I guess. Hunter was going to be buried next to Perry because he was Perry’s big brother.
Batman further informed me that Hunter would need a very deep hole, otherwise the cats would dig him back up. It took him quite a while, but eventually Hunter was interred with proper ceremony, and Batman carefully filled in the hole, patting the dirt as smooth as he could on top.
When the hole was completely filled and tamped down, Batman gathered up a whole bunch of rocks to cover it for further protection against digging. It was our very own little pigeon graveyard.
But that’s not the end of the story. You see, there were still more pigeons in the barn.
The next day after school, Batman donned full camo gear again (you must wear camo when hunting pigeons because then they can’t see you) and headed out to the barn to “scout” for birds for when daddy arrived home. A side note on camo that I just have to pass along…..Batman also informed me that he often would go out in the yard in his camo gear and stand very very still. Winston would come over to where he was and sniff and sniff, because of course he could smell Batman but he could not see him. This information was delivered with a seriousness that can only be pulled off by a kindergartener who actually believes it.
Anyway, the pigeons were in the barn and, apparently since he was invisible, Batman did not scare them away. When DH drove down the long driveway on Monday after the first day of a week-long corporate audit by the Department of Finance, I was pretty sure that hunting pigeons was the last thing on his mind. Nonetheless, he had (imprudently) promised Batman that they would try to kill “a pigeon a day” until they were all gone, and he made good on his word.
This time DH, Batman and Annabelle all gathered in the truck parked next to the barn as the sun started to set, waiting with loaded pellet gun for their prey to come home to roost. I myself was pretty good on my pigeon massacre quota for the week, so I went in the house and poured myself a glass of wine.
After about half an hour the truck drove slowly up the lane toward the house, and Annabelle burst in the garage door wild with excitement.
“Mom! We got another bird and this time daddy had to shoot it three times before it would die!” she yelled breathlessly. I was in the kitchen and I turned from the stove to ask “Where is your brother?”
“Outside, burying the pigeon.”
I walked out the back door. It was nearly dark but I could (barely) make out the tiny form of Batman and his shovel in the shadowy pigeon graveyard. Batman was happy to see me. “Mom! This pigeon was really hard to kill! He ran around and daddy had to shoot him and shoot him. I am naming him…..Tougher – because he was tougher to kill!”
I had to coax my baby boy to hurry up the burying, since it was getting dark and a slow drizzle of rain was falling. He completed his task in a somewhat shorter amount of time than his earlier burials, and he did not have adequate light or opportunity to get as many rocks for this grave.
But he got it done.
A few white feathers lay in the dirt around the gravesite, remnants of Batman’s generous decision to let the cats play with Tougher (they “beated him up”, he told me) while his final resting place was being prepared.
Batman did cajole DH into one more bird hunt this week. When they headed outside this time I asked Batman what he was going to name this pigeon if he got one. He looked a little disgusted with me. “Mom,” he said in a voice dripping with exaggerated patience, “I can’t name him until I kill him.”
Unfortunately, the pigeons are getting a little smarter and this time the boys were unsuccessful. DH convinced Batman that it is probably better to let the flock get settled back in before trying for another kill, so he has mostly let the subject go.
On Wednesday morning I got a call from school. The secretary told me that Batman was at the office, and though he wouldn’t really say what was wrong, his teacher had said he just didn’t seem right, and maybe he needed to come home. I ran over to pick him up, certain that he had fallen ill with the same cruddy sickness that had kept his sister out of commission nearly the entire previous week.
He gave me a shy little smile when he saw me, and I hugged him before we walked out to the car. Once he got home the first order of business was to polish off the cold lunch that we had uncharacteristically prepared for his lunch bag since he normally eats hot lunch at school. Then I sat him down and turned on the cartoon channel, telling him that I needed to get back to my desk to work on an article I was writing. I wrapped him in a warm blanket and went back to work.
Ten minutes later he came into my office and asked me for some paper. He was going to do a project of his own. This is not at all out of the ordinary for Batman, and I handed him several sheets of paper out of my printer tray without asking any questions.
Fifteen minutes later he came back, eyes glowing. “Look! I made a pigeon spotting scope with my camo duct tape!” He had rolled up the paper I had given him into a tube and covered every inch of it with camo tape. It did look quite a bit like a real spotting scope.
“Can I get dressed in my camo clothes and go out to look for pigeons?”
“Absolutely not!” I told him. “You are sick. When you are home sick you have to stay in the house.” “But I will wear two coats.” “No. You can’t go outside. If you come home sick from school and people see you outside we could get in trouble. You absolutely cannot go outside. You can play whatever you want in the house, but you have to stay inside.”
Batman looked at me for a long time. He sort of halfway rolled his eyes, and then he said “Just take me back then.”
“What?” I wasn’t sure I had heard him right.
“Just take me back. If I can’t go outside and look for pigeons I don’t want to miss any more recesses. Please take me back.”
So I did.
DH has promised Batman that he will take him “real” hunting this weekend, for pheasants. Even Winston gets to go along.
It is still to be determined if we will cook the pheasants for dinner or name and bury them.