Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Blue Jay

Riding my bicycle toward Byrd Park to play Frisbee-golf, I steered around a dead blue jay on the street. Predictably, it tugged at my heart strings -- I’m partial to blue jays. Have been forever, well, at least since Buster was a puppy in the summer of 1958.

When I found Buster chasing a blue jay around the grape vines, I grabbed his food bowl and threw it over the bird. Even with squawking blue jays diving at us, it wasn’t easy to convince the puppy to give up his concern for what was going on under his bowl being held against my torso.

Still, I managed to get up the back porch steps and into the kitchen without Buster doing any more damage. The little blue jay was holding one of its wings funny. Which brought out the best and the worst of me, I suppose.

Because I had rescued the bird, naturally, I had to take care of it. So, my grandfather built a cage about three feet tall using some leftover screen from re-screening some windows. He said it had to be temporary, until the bird healed, because a wild creature couldn’t be kept like a pet.

Nonetheless, for the week I had that blue jay I thought it was learning tricks. Out of its cage, it started to flap around and fly a little bit while I was training it. It would land on my shoulder ... sometimes. It would hop around on the table and eat the treats it liked.

My grandfather told me I had to let the bird go, because it was ready to fend for itself. Finally, we agreed to do it the next day.

On the Saturday morning the blue jay was to get its freedom, I woke up early to watch the cartoons on TV and found my pupil dead in its cage. The blue jay had bashed its head in. No doubt, it had been trying to fly inside its cage. I can still remember how my eyes burned as I cried. It was a bitter lesson.

The bird was buried under the plum tree in the back yard.

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