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Beautiful birds are signs of spring

On St. Patrick's Day the robins came back to our area. The ground was thawed, the earthworms were coming to the surface and these red-breasted birds were converging all over the lawn. With their jerky movements, and heads cocked to one side, they were looking, and finding, their favorite food.

As we watched these harbingers of spring, an old song was echoing in my mind, "When the swallows come back to Capistrano," and it inspired a search for the background of that song. To our dismay, we read that the swallows have almost quit coming to Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. For centuries, they came to this mission on March 19, but are rarely seen now.

There are many theories as to why they don't go there to nest; one is because of planting and growth of trees has contributed to the swallow's failure to return to the mission. These birds are attracted to grasslands and prairies -- the kind of landscape that once surrounded the mission. They now flock to freeway overpasses and the like.

The mission is trying to change that by installing recordings of the bird's mating calls. Professor Charles Brown, who helped install the recordings, says he thinks they will eventually return to Mission San Juan Capistrano, where hordes of people come each March 19, eager to witness the return of the swallows

At any rate, our robins have returned, and on this first day of spring, winter is trying to hold onto the land. The sun came out bright and beautiful, the sky blue and cloudless, but the wind is sharp and cold. It shrieks around the corner of the house, and sets the wind chimes jingling madly. March is fickle and unpredictable, showering us with snowflakes one minute and beaming sunbeams the next.

William's River is calling me, like it does every spring. Memories are tied tightly to that place, going all the way back to Daddy taking us there every year on opening day of trout season. As far back as I can remember, we made our voyage there each spring. Then we took our own children, and soon the grandchildren joined us. Certain memories stand out, such as the time Mike's David fell in the icy stream that flowed by our campsite.

And there was the year that we woke up to snow covering the entire landscape, including the kid's bicycles they had brought in hopes of leisurely bike rides. Other times, it was warm and sunny, with wildflowers covering each side of the road and ramps flourishing on the mountainsides.

It's not just the river calling me, but I hear (or smell) the delicious wild ramp calling my name. Ramps are a debatable subject, and perhaps they are an acquired taste, but my mouth waters when I think of that menu that is eaten on the banks of William's River -- fresh trout fried crisp and brown, potatoes fried in an iron skillet over a campfire, ramps fixed with bacon and eggs, and fluffy biscuits made in a Dutch oven -- what could be better?

We've had some interesting feedback concerning animals, both wild and domestic, and we will share it. My cousin, Bobby (Frank) Samples writes from Florida about a strange animal that lurks around their trailer park. He sees it in the early morning or at twilight, and it never runs -- just walks away.

 It is larger than any housecat, but smaller than a mature wild cat. Its call at night is different from a meow or a scream. He wonders if it could be a hybrid between a housecat and a real bobcat. Any ideas?

 From Don Norman of Normantown comes this story: "My dad once acquired a dozen duck eggs and set them under a hen. She hatched out eight strange children. We lived near Steer Creek, which was a fair-sized stream, and the hen's stepchildren seemed to know the water was there. When they were a week old, we helped escort them to the water.

"The mother hen trotted to and fro trying frantically to call her strange brood back to safety, but it only worked when the babies were really tired. She was one frustrated hen. I don't remember if she ever tried to set again."

Addie Davis of Virginia wrote us a poignant letter. She wrote, "We never had indoor pets, but several years ago we bought Lady, a little-six-week old Shih-Tzu. She was beautiful and intelligent. For four years she was the joy of our existence (along with the grandson we raised.)

"In her fourth year, she got encephalitis of the brain; she had convulsions and was so sick. We took her to two vets, and she died in my husband's lap on our way back to the vet. We both cried like one of our children had died. We buried her right above the house with a tombstone and flowers.

 "I've begged to get another one, but my husband says the pain of losing one is too much at our age. I feel that to love one, and reap that unconditional love that a little dog shows is worth any pain we have to suffer."

 I've always felt that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Criss declared after Chloe came missing that if we didn't find her, he wasn't going to get another dog.  Two weeks later, he went to Jackson County and came back with a six-month-old Jack Russell puppy, named Bandit. In a day or so, we changed his name to "Sparky."

 He has been a revelation. We were used to calm female dogs, and he is a spark all right. At first Minnie was jealous of him, and growled when he got close to me. Now she has not only accepted him, but sleeps peacefully with him. They wrestle and play, and run through the house carrying a favorite stuffed bear between them.

 I am glad that God created animals, not only for our use, but for enjoyment also.            This poem is for you, Scott:

            Treasured Friend

            I lost a treasured friend today

            The little dog that used to lay

            Her gentle head upon my knee

            And share her silent thoughts with me . . .

            She'll come no longer to my call

            Retrieve no more her favorite ball

            A voice far greater than my own

            Has called her to His golden throne.

            Although my eyes are filled with tears,

            I thank Him for the happy years

            He let her spend down here with me

            And for her love and loyalty.

            When it is time for me to go

            And join her there, this much I know . . .

            I shall not fear the transient dark

            For she will greet me with her bark.

                        Author Unknown

@tag:Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.


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