The man I married is barely recognizable. I mean, who is this man? Oh, he has enough of the same physical resemblance for anyone to know him, with just the usual aging changes. I’m talking about the things he has learned to care about, his preferences, as well as some ‘prefer nots’ if you will. As far as that goes, I’m thinking he would prefer that I not say these things, but then again, he has changed, so maybe I won’t be in too much trouble.
About four, maybe five years ago he was at an auction outside Sedalia, Kentucky where one of my mother’s cousins had raised her family. When he saw this Purple Martin apartment was to be sold, he became interested and had the privilege of meeting and talking to the man who built it. Learning only a minimal amount of Martin care, but with a promise of future contact for more info/support, he decided he couldn’t come home without that big, heavy, permanently-attached-to-an-iron-pole apartment house that I named Dorothy. It reminded me of the Dorothy that was released inside a tornado in the movie “Twister”. So, this man who used to pay absolutely no attention to birds unless it was to shoot them (he was the typical teenager who never had been taught the value of wildlife except for hunting) was now going to play host to a gang of Brazilians. I was impressed.
Six gourds and five Julys later we again are watching another generation of young Purple Martins flying, with approximately 30 pair of adults swooping, gliding, diving, and feeding the young. I had quickly grown accustomed to this man of mine pulling out a chair and just watching, amazed at the show as well as the concert of sounds the Martins make. But tonight was a new twist. All day we knew the babies were on the ground; well at least one or two. Another one could be seen flying outside Dorothy. By the end of the day, only one was still on the ground, and we could see that he wasn’t going to fly. He flopped his way over to a Maple tree and actually tried to climb it. With that much strength, we figured he would eventually learn to fly. Now, this part of raising Martins is not in the literature we’ve read, so assuming he fell out and wasn’t ex-communicated for being a bad bird or something, my husband said, “I can’t go in and leave that bird for something to get it in the night.” I was concerned that it wouldn’t get food, because Martins are fed until they can catch their food in flight. We were threatened by the excited adults flying over us, but have learned that their threats are only carried out against small animals, namely our cat. Said cat has spent the last four days inside because we knew it was about time for the young to leave the nests. They also escorted a Hawk off the property one day. I was then told by this good man that I needed to go pick up the bird and put it higher in the tree and then it might fly, or be assisted by its relatives. That little rascal moved fast! After three tries with my Martin man yelling “pick that bird up and hold on to it!” I finally set him (the bird, that is) upon a metal fence post that was initially used to anchor Dorothy’s pole in cement. See how serious he was about this new hobby? I mean, talk about change, just getting my clothes line posts set in cement almost took an act of Congress. Anyway, as we watched, the little bird never moved. At all. No one came down to help him. And night was drawing near. My Martin man left, drove to the shed and returned on a backhoe. He said, “we’re puttin’ that bird back up on the house so they can feed him. Pick him up, get in the bucket and I’ll lift you up”. That’s about a 15 foot lift. No problem. Again, three times picking up and chasing because I didn’t want to hold tightly and hurt him, so he would escape and fly just above the grass for a few feet, then stop. Third time I was able to get my hold around his whole body, wings and all. I knew from the protest he put up that he had strength and should be flying; we’re supposing he was still too young and just fell out. Again, the whole time, backhoe driver was shouting over the motor, “hang onto that bird!” At last little Martin was placed onto the lower deck of Dorothy, and we backed off. Backhoe driver soon returned and took his post on the patio, watching until at last he said with great satisfaction, “He just got fed!” In a moment, he added, “He just went inside one of the rooms” and with that this father-figure took the bill of his cap, swooped the air, and proclaimed his job done. “I can go in and rest now that that little fellow is safe”, was heard as he walked toward his own house.
Did you picture all those beautiful graceful acrobats filling the sky above us? Strong, able to do what those of the swallow family do, and yet there was that one little somewhat bug-eyed awkward one on the ground; unable to do what those of the swallow family ought to do. The others were busy. They were excited about their new parental responsibilities. They were competing perhaps for nabbing the nearest meal and dropping it off at the proper porthole. To us it seemed the whole bird world had forgotten little Martin. But there was one who would not leave one seemingly insignificant bird on the ground. My man.
Isn’t that the parable of Matthew 18:10-14? “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
As darkness wrapped its muggy blanket around my back, my face was toward the Purple Martin apartments, watching the last ones flying in home. Their yodel-ish chatterings quieting down, the air became still, and heavy with contentment. Their last one was in. And so were we.