Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Bird in the Garage: Urbandale 1975

I can't recall exactly how old I was when I found the baby bird. I know I wasn't 13 or 14, must have been 16 or so. Not sure. The bird was a robin, small and newly hatched, found on the ground below the maple tree that grew in our front yard. I did not try to return the bird to its nest--I saw no nest. Instead, I put it in a shoebox with nestlike materials and put the shoebox in the garage.
For the next several weeks I fed the bird. I fed it bread and raw hamburger and insect-like stuff. It grew and feathered up and responded to my feeding of it. My father knew the bird was in the garage--which was a detached garage, half-old and wooden--and my sister came out to see the bird a few times. It was early summer by then. The bird was growing but it did not come out of the box. I did not handle it.
At some point I decided it was time for the bird to learn to fly, or some such. I took the box off the shelf and carried it out of the garage. When I finally took the bird out of the box itself, I saw that it had deformed legs. It could not stand on its own. It could not fly.
"Maybe that will teach you to let nature take its course," I recall my father telling me, intimating that I should have left the bird alone, that its mother no doubt had pushed it from the nest.
The next day, I ground up two aspirin and mixed them in with the raw hamburger. I carried the meal out to the garage and the shoebox. I fed the aspirin and hamburger to the baby robin, the bird eating it just as it had eaten all the meals I'd been feeding it. I can't recall if I stayed or walked away.
I buried it in the garden.

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