Rules are rules, even for birds

June 01, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

If the avian flu ever hits Hagerstown, we might as well activate the ole "do not resuscitate" orders posthaste, because birds have taken over our property.

We like birds OK, I guess, although we did not go out of our way to create a bird sanctuary. It just turns out that Da Birds and us happen to like the same things - trees, statuary, berry-producing shrubs, bug-rich gardens, water features. We got bird baths because they were ornamental; who knew birds actually used the things? If you get a sundial with Roman numerals, you don't expect to see dudes in togas sitting around it.

While I have no particular anti-bird agenda, I do like them to know that rules are rules. There are people things and there are bird things, and I oppose any of the so-called twain-meetings.

So, when I returned recently from the Great White (literally, unfortunately) North to discover the strawberries ripening and the birds licking their chops, I hauled out the estimated 17 square acres of bird netting I keep in the shed for just such occasions.


It deters most of the species, but we have a couple of particularly lawless robins who clearly have problems with authority.

We were sitting on the back porch over the weekend, when the Sentry in High Heels noted matter-of-factly that "a bird just got under your net."

Not a man to allow contempt of court on the part of a robin, I used my gazelle-like speed to lumber off in the direction of the strawberry patch.

I need to stop here and mention that what should have been one pretty much standard bird eviction was complicated by the presence of the dog named Jake Biscuit, who also was outside at the time.

There has never been a fight that he hasn't wanted to be fully involved in, and without thinking I poured fuel on the fire by yelling, "Get him, boy."

In matters of war, Jake is a dog that doesn't have to be told twice. Sensing the excitement of the moment, he threw back his ears and pawed the ground with a fierceness, advancing on the quarry at a speed that was, regretfully, much greater than my own.

By this time, the bird had discovered that he was the subject of a writ of habeas chirpus, and was making every effort to rediscover the slit in the net through which the B&E had been facilitated. He didn't find it. Instead, he became hopelessly tangled and panicked, flapping and cheeping furiously, and cursing the man who invented mesh.

Maybe you have been in a situation where events are unfolding faster than you would like them to, and you only have time to express your worst fears in half a fleeting thought before the world comes crashing down.

This is what happened here, and as I watched Jake streaking toward the netted strawberry cage, I clearly remember thinking to myself:

"Say, that dog wouldn't be stupid enough to ..."

Well, of course, investing in intelligence futures with Jake won't make many millionaires. The animal did indeed launch himself with full force at the flapping and fussing bird-tornado, which obviously he did not get because obviously a dog is just as subject to the rules of bird-net physics as is a robin.

In an instant, the population of frantically entangled life forms on my property had doubled.

And it was about to triple, since my presence was required in the nylon fray to try to sort things all out. And right in the middle of all the nets and dogs and birds and fits and screeches and howls and yips and fur and feathers and claws and beaks whirling about me in blenderlike ferocity, it did - I admit it - flash across my mind that just two scant days ago I had been sitting atop a mountain in a shining sun and cool breeze with a view of lakes and mountains that went on forever with nary a sound or trouble on the radar.

Welcome home, I guess.

The event played itself out. All parties, I believe, would admit that mistakes were made. But no one was killed or wounded. I trudged back to the porch, awaiting what I knew would be some sarcastic witticism from the grandstand.

But Andrea said not a word concerning what she had just witnessed. I was kind of itching to know, but didn't want to ask. Did she see my humiliation as funny? Ridiculous? Pathetic? I didn't know. I still don't.

Her expression blank as a refrigerator door, she simply remained quiet and continued to gaze calmly over the yard, as if nothing odd or unusual had occurred at all.

Sadly, perhaps it hadn't.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 23240, or via e-mail at

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