Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big Dogs and Crazy Birds

Yesterday, I was sent on another interesting assignment for Small Town Newspaper, given the simple task of interviewing a high school girl about an accomplishment. But as I've learned, no assignment is ever so simple.

I drove out into the country, not too far from the center of town, and I followed the specific instructions given to me by the mother of the girl. I'm one to travel by landmarks more so than by street names, so I appreciated her telling me when to look for an oil tank and a cabin and an ammo shop—I did say I was out in the country, right?

I turned into the long gravel driveway as instructed and got out of my car just beside the first house, and a man called from the field to say I was probably in the wrong spot. I needed to go to the end of the driveway and around behind the barn, and be very careful not to smash the eggs, he shouted.

I beg your pardon? Eggs? I decided to just drive and thought I'd see what he meant once I got there. I followed the gravel road as it turned behind a horse barn, and I saw a small, orange traffic cone in the middle of the road. I rolled down my window and slowed to a crawl, and I saw a killdeer nestled on a pile of her eggs right there in the gravel. They do that, those crazy birds. They lay eggs out in the open in the most inconvenient of places, and when they feel threatened, they hop away and pretend to be injured, as if to say to the predator, "Eat me. I'm weak and slow. Just leave the babies alone."

So, I carefully drove in the grass to avoid smashing the eggs, respecting the spray-painted markings the girl had drawn to give the killdeer a wide berth, and I watched the mother bird flap off to the side and show me her "broken wing." The whole thing told me what kind of people I was about to meet, people with a great respect for wildlife and who were willing to share their space at any cost.

I knew they had horses, and lots of them, and I spotted the cat right away, a lazy gray one sleeping in a lawn chair. I was offered the empty chair beside the cat, so as to allow the thing to continue its nap, and the father 0f the girl asked if I liked dogs. I told him I love dogs, and he asked if he could let his out of the house. He warned me they were big but friendly, and I said to bring them on, I wouldn't mind.

That's when he opened the door and five large Doberman Pinschers came bounding out of the house and ran directly to me, with their huge heads at about eye level. There were black ones and brown ones and giant beasts and smaller puppies soon to become giant beasts. Each one had to say hello to me, and each one had to sniff the back of my hand—tip: if you're uncertain of dogs, slowly offer them the back of your hand so they can check you out. They like that.

I spent the rest of the interview jotting down notes in my notebook with my right hand and scratching the chins of furry monsters with my left, all the while a little terrier something was jumping at my lap for a share of the chin scratching and pawing at my arm for more.

I was only at this house for about an hour, but it was such an interesting hour with me surrounded by giant, happy animals and a well-protected bird who had no idea how lucky it was to have chosen that spot for her eggs. And I thought I was just going to talk to some kid about a little story.

This is a killdeer. If you see one hopping frantically around a parking lot or in the middle of a driveway, keep an eye out for a stack of unprotected eggs.


dive said...

What a lovely place that sounds, Robyn. Killdeer is a crazy name for a bird. It looks like a snootier version of our ringed plover. I'm glad its eggs are well protected.

Madame DeFarge said...

Sounds great, but i'd have been rather more nervous of the dogs. Not my favourite types at all.

MmeBenaut said...

Very pretty little bird, even if it does choose an odd spot to lay its eggs.
We have little geese, called "Jaba Geese" and they have right of way where I live, they are often seen crossing the road with their brood and all the cars slow down until the last baby has crossed. We love our wildlife too and although we have no dobermans (sigh of relief), there would be a line up of cats to sit in your lap Robyn, if you ever come down to visit me.

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