by Dan Barton May 2019, Publisher of THE NEW-HARMONY GAZETTE

Beau came zipping out of the high ceiling at his top speed. “WHAM!” He smacked directly into the large east-facing window on the north side of the building facade. I saw him hit. And I think Belle saw it also. He seemed to slide down the pane fluttering onto the sill and I was hoping it had only stunned him, as these collisions sometimes do to our little aerial acrobats. But no, I’m sorry to say, that was Beau’s final gallant attempt to free himself and his Belle from the building’s clutches. I went over and picked him up, still hoping for a heartbeat or a movement from his lungs. Nothing! Stillness! He was gone.

I decided to lay him outside on the top step of the front vestibule. Even then, I thought that if he were just unconscious then the air would refresh him and he’d fly away. But that never happened.

In the meantime, Belle had perched quietly on a hanging lampshade. She was no longer fluttering or chirping. She sat silently all puffed up as though she were cold. I knew she wasn’t cold because the building was warmer than what she was used to outside. “Maybe,” I thought, “birds really can experience grief at the loss of a mate, similar to ourselves and other animal species.” She didn’t move. I put a small shallow tray of water on the window sill of one of the north facing windows. “If she was in some sort of shock,” I was thinking, “the water might do her good.”

At this point, I knew something more drastic on my part had to be done to save this little bird and to get on with my work. “Simple!” says I. “Just get a small birdcage, put bird-feed in the tray that hangs inside it, move it up to her favorite west facing the window and when she goes in to eat, ‘Voila’, slam the cage door.” Nothing to it. I’ll just run down to the new Dollar General, get bird- feed, get bird cage and it’s all said and done. Just like that.

In the meantime as I was getting ready I called Betty Barnett. Betty takes care of 505 Main Street. She does the cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, etc, to let her know that we would be having a bird clean-up matter to deal with when this was all over. Betty said that we could catch birdie in a net and release her, she had two nets and would bring them right away. “Not yet!” I said. I want to try the birdcage idea first, thinking of the difficulty the 20-foot ceilings would cause us in trying to corral that winged torpedo.

Well! No birdcage at D.G., but they did have bird feed and a feeder. On I went to west side Evansville. No luck. The pet store on Franklin Street only had a large generic looking cage that wouldn’t work for my idea, and for only a mere $78.95. Nope, I said, “I’m not paying a $100 bucks for a cheap oversized birdcage.” Back to New Harmony and Betty’s net idea.

We chased that little Carpodacus Mexicanus around that building for a good hour. I had her twice and she made herself small and squeezed through my net. Betty had her once upstairs but she got lost when Betty released the net to get a better hold. Out she flew from Betty’s net. “She’s gone, Dan!” Betty yelled from the mezzanine. “She got out of my net and I think she flew out the door!” “Good!” I yelled back. What a relief. Just to be sure we searched that building from top to bottom, North to South, East to West. Nothing. No Belle. Gone!

Betty went home and I decided that I’d had enough for one day and went home myself. No sense in trying to concentrate after all of that!

Next morning. A new day dawn’s. I go into 505 Main Street from the back door – and close it – then proceed upstairs to begin what I started the day before. All’s quiet, not a sound, just as I like it. So, there’s the blank page of the memo pad staring straight up at me from my dest, and what do I experience? A deja vu moment. Chirping. That’s right! Chirping. Where the heck was she? We had looked everywhere. Honestly. Everywhere. And no Belle. But big as life there she was tweeting away on a fan blade. “Okay!” I said to her. Now you’ve had it. No more Mr. Nice Dan. Now I take off the kid gloves. No little Tweety bird is going to outsmart me! I’m not Sylvester the Cat, you know! As I was already sitting at my computer, I decided on a more diabolical plan, a more human approach. I ran up YouTube and put on Finch calls, figuring that she might come and perch on my flatscreen. Then I could catch her gently, as I had seen it done, and release her to the great outdoors. I put that Finch calls on for half an hour and Belle paid no attention. “Okay!” I said to myself, if kindness doesn’t work then I will try “Fright!” That would send her scurrying out the door. First I put on the calls of the Red Tailed Hawk. Nothing. Belle was still whistling her little melody. Then I put on the Peregrine Falcon. Again, nothing. Finally, I drew out the nuclear option, “The American Bald Eagle!” Zowy! That one even scared me, but Belle only gave a little flutter and flew over to the north facing window sills. Another zero!

I have a very large, wooden ornamental birdcage in the front window of 505 Main Street, but this, up till now did not seem to be a good option, because I couldn’t get it up to Belle’s favorite window perch on the mezzanine. That cage is awkward and probably weighs a good 50 pounds. But, I decided, if I can’t get the cage to Belle, maybe I can get Belle to the cage. The entire top comes off the cage quite easily and there is also a small door in the front of the cage. I removed the top (the roof) and put Belle’s water inside. I also put the bird seed and bird- feeder I had bought at D.G., inside. Roof off, door open. I got the long pole that I, on rare occasion, use to clean the front windows of 505 with, and held it ready at a distance, in order to push the little door closed when Belle got used to the big cage. She flew to the top of the open cage and peered inside. “Sqwack!” she said as she looked down at her bird feed and sunflower seeds.

She would hop in and hop out, hop in and hop out. Eventually, she got used to the new arrangement, as I sat patiently watching. She flew to her window sill and I went over and put the roof back on the cage. When she returned, she looked curiously at the closed roof but right away spotted the open door at the bottom of the cage. In she went. Slam went the door from my push of the pole. My problems were over and so were Belle’s.

I called Betty to let her know. We decided to carry the cage outside the next morning for the big release. Next morning, Betty was right on time and we proceeded to take Belle and the cage out the front door to Main Street. It didn’t take long. Off came the roof and instantly Belle was

zipping into the wild blue yonder. Betty said that she thought that Belle actually did a loop de loop as she flew away. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Three days of man against the bird, but both of us are happy. Belle got her freedom back and I got a pretty good bird story. But it does make me think about the importance of writing a story compared to the freedom and the life of my Feathered Friends.

Thanks, Betty. I couldn’t have done it without your help.


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