Birds: Frog Gravy 74
Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.
KCIW PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary near Louisville,KY, Spring, 2009
I am off to see my birds. They have their nests built, for the most part, and now they are mating and having chicks.
A dove pair lives near the library. Another lives near the grave of Columbus Dorsey, the young man who is buried outside the Horticulture greenhouses. This dove couple had a chick, that was beaten to death with a broom, by an inmate. I interrupted the beating and tried to save the baby dove, but I could not, and so I left it near its nest and near the grave of young Columbus, where it died.
The other baby dove, the one that a guard stomped to death on the ball field, remains at rest underneath the tree where it the officer killed it.
The robins are here, and so it is Spring, because robins have returned from winter migration. Robins are stout birds that keep to themselves and hunt worms; they are not interested in scraps or bread. This morning, when I was in Horticulture class and we were digging and planting in an area between the chapel and the dining hall, the robins watched us dig, from a vantage point near the chapel. When we finished, the robins moved in, rooted through the freshly dug soil, and stuffed themselves sick with earthworms. Amazing that they could even get themselves up off of the ground after their worm bacchanal. On occasion, I see the blue halves of robin eggs, after the chicks have hatched.
Starlings, along with crows (and seagulls), are the birds that Alfred Hitchcock featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. Starlings were introduced to this country and they are generally hated. Starlings are accomplished mimics and vocalists; they answer me specifically. The people who hate starlings describe them as ugly, but I believe they are beautiful, with their glossy coats and their mercurial flock formations that at times make the sky seem fluid. A starling flock can have tens of thousands of members. They do not care for crumbs, but they do enjoy hot dogs and bologna when I have it.
Bluebirds are shy, and they often encounter difficulty with competition with sparrows for nesting space. There is a way to offer bluebird housing that is specific to bluebirds. (Perhaps someone can share their experience.) Bluebirds are not interested in scraps and crumbs, but their presence is uplifting.
Sparrows are regular customers for crumbs. They are loyal and entertaining. When a sparrow once became entangled in some string, Officer Carbey untangled it from the bird’s foot. The bird was quiet during this procedure, and I think it knew that the officer was trying to help. There are, it turns out, a good many kind-hearted officers working in the prison system.
There are many other birds here: swallows, chimney swifts, mockingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, and even the occasional heron.
I spot a baby bird that has fallen from a nest just outside of Ridgeview Dormitory. I pick it up. It is a hatchling that is so small I can cup it in my hand. Its eyes are not open, and it has no feathers, so I cannot identify what kind of bird it is. I place it back into the nest above the area where I found it.
The next day the tiny, naked creature is back on the ground. I assume that something is wrong with it and that it has been forced out of the nest due to its weakness. I decide to keep it warm, and I decide not to tell anyone, not even my roommate, for fear it that a guard or inmate will find out and stomp or beat it to death. The bird cranes its neck and makes a peeping sound that is barely audible. It raises its naked wing knobs. I make a warm place for it, hide it in my room, and offer it some sugar water. The bird dies the next day, but at least I know it was warm and as comfortable as it could be.
I decide that someday, somehow, I want to make a life with birds, and have a sanctuary.
note: a PeWee is a small bird. I never saw one while I was at PeWee.
[cross posted at froggravy.wordpress.com]