Magic feather

Oddly, I collect weird organic materials from animals. Cat whiskers, deer antlers, bird feathers. I find these things to be magical. I even saved some dreadlocks from my long-time kitty companion Spooky. I like sea shells too but I don’t have a lot of them because I feel like that’s common, even cliche.

I keep these things, maybe in case I ever need to make a potion.

On Tuesday I spent a good part of the day digging in my backyard, fighting with 30-year-old tree roots and heavy, wet clay while trying to expose the entire manifold to my underground sprinkler system.

Actually I spent the better part of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and today breaking my back digging up and repairing that aging sprinkler system, which has leaks in several locations, and then burying it again.

But at the end of the afternoon on Tuesday, as I was putting shovels away in the garage, I heard the distinct warble warble warble of a dove that had, unseen by me, come in through the open garage door and was now up in the rafters. Actually, there were two of them up there.

Ever since we put feeders in the yard we have a variety of birds and squirrels that come and go and a dule of pudgy doves are among them.

Once I started looking up in the rafters for the cooing dove, one smart dove bolted out through the garage door, wings whistling as he darted across the street, while a second one just tried to fly toward the light coming in through the whirlybird vent in the roof.

Now, this fat and fragile little bugger was stuck in the spinning roof vent and terrified trying to force his fat self though the way-too-small slots in the vent. That was never going to happen and the more he tried the more likely it was that he would shredded by the spinning aluminum blades of the roof vent.

I knew it was a matter of time before a gust of wind would accelerate the spinning and at high velocity would lop his tiny head off splattering dove blood all over the Christmas decorations and boxes and boxes of black and white prints that are essentially outtakes from years spent in a newspaper darkroom in the 1980s.

I knew I had to rescue him, pretty much now.

I also knew that the only ladder I had was a 6-foot step ladder that even if I stood on the absolute top of I’d still be 3-4 feet short of being able to reach into the whirlybird. And even if I could reach it there was not much chance I’d be able to grab the panicked peeper. Plus there was always a possibility of leaving my fingers in there as well.

But, hero that I am, I managed to get my 64-year-old ass on the top step of the ladder and wrap my arms over the 2x4s that make the trusses that hold up the roof. From there I swung my legs, gymnast-like (think Kurt Thomas on the parallel bars) over the lower braces and hoisted myself up to where I could stand, straddling two sections of the truss.

Then, since the wind had died down, I managed to stop the spinning of the vent with one gloved hand and, while balancing on two 2x4s, 12 feet above the concrete garage floor, reach up into the vent with the other gloved hand.

If you’ve ever had a budgie or other pet bird then you know the feeling when you present your hand, horizontally to the birds breast. They’ll usually just hop on. That’s what pet birds do.

Much to my amazement, this little dove just stepped down and right onto my hand.

For a minute.

As soon as I began to lower my hand with the little peeper on it, he decided he’d rather take his chances back up in the whirlybird.

I knew I was going to have to more aggressively just grab his fat ass and on the first try I got hold of his tail and started to lower him out of that predicament. Once I got him to about my shoulder level he freaked and left me with all his tail feathers as he made his way to another part of the garage, lighting on another rafter.

At least he was out of the danger of that buzz saw of a roof vent.

Then, it only took one try. Safely reaching up from the garage floor with a broom he hopped on the bristles and after lowering him further he saw the wide-open garage door and, wings whistling, bolted in the same direction his partner had earlier.

Clearly, he could still fly but I’m not sure how well he could change direction.

And he left me that gift of his tail feathers.