Monday, March 4, 2013

Bird With A Broken Neck: Key West 2001

This was about a month or more after the terrorist attacks of nine eleven and Fru and I and our two daughters went to Key West. Fru's father and his wife flew down (on a near empty plane) from Illinois and met us there. We stayed at the Casa Marina, which is an old hotel on the Atlantic side of the island (north or east or northeast--like New Orleans, I always get my compass points turned around on the island). I think it may have been one of Flagler's luxury hotels . . .So, we had a nice room on the second or third floor, though the window looked out on a lower roof and the air conditioning hardware upon it, as well as the street and the palms etc etc...But on that roof were some pigeons. No big deal, the grey/white birds were hanging out like pigeons do all over the world, whether Queens or St. Peter's Square or downtown Flagstaff or the Casa Marina roof in Key West. But, I noticed that first day, there was one pigeon that  just sat on the roof edge with its head bowed down. Okay. Didn't think much of it. But, But, when we returned to the room much later that first day, that same pigeon was there in the same position.

We stayed two, maybe three nights. Had fun. The girls were young then--not little but very young--Fru and I were young though we didn't know it. Yet each time I looked out the window that pigeon was there with his head bent down and I came to realize that his neck was broken. he couldn't fly or eat or do much of anything. He was just sitting there, in the shade, in the hot sun, in the night, waiting to die. Starving to death. Okay. What can I do?I'm no bird surgeon--bird bone doctor specializing in pigeons. We were ready to leave, drive back up to Fort lauderdale with Fru's father and step-mother in tow. Bye bye.

but I haven't forgotten it. It's not like I dwell or am overtly disturbed by the memory of the pigeon with the broken neck waiting to die, but it still comes to me now and then. Always--as you might imagine--in an unfavorable light. Subtly unsettling. Nature is tough and cruel and doesn't play favorites. So it goes, as Vonnegut would say. Still . . . My own father had died that year and I've always had a soft spot for animals, for suffering. I don't know. Not a big deal, really.

The reason why I thought of it was that I was walking my dog today in the cold of Clark Park here in this town--where I currently live--and I saw two big black crows playing with something and then I saw that that something was a smaller bird. One crow was carrying it around by its foot. I couldn't figure it out--the crow carried it and dropped it and nudged it around then carried it again and dropped it and son on. I went to investigate and as I neared the crow tried to fly away with the bird--a starling, obviously still alive--but it was too heavy and he/she dropped it. I went to it while the crows sat in the leafless tree above me and cawed. The starling (and I have no affection for starlings, really--more affection for crows) was crying and moving but could not walk. I had gloves on and I picked it up and it cried and its heart beat faster than a bird's usually beats and it tried to grip my fingers with its claws. Its neck was broken. It could not fly. I carried it a ways, away from the tree and the crows--though the crows watched and flew/followed me--but I didn't know what I was going to do with it. I though the humane thing would be to kill it. I made sure that it was too injured to live and I placed it on the ground at the base of another tree and I went and got a stick which I broke; took up the heavy end and took it back to the bird which was flapping and rolling on the frozen ground and in the leftover snow. The crows were watching. But, I couldn't do it. Wasn't going to smash its little birdbrains in. So, what's to be done? . . . Leave it for the crows.

Nature really is cruel.

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