After the four of us decided to stage Bob’s rescue, Caroline called UT’s Animal Hospital, and they told us to bring him in. Now, we actually had to catch the bugger.
Either Patrick or Caroline had heard somewhere that birds calm down if you cover their heads. Blindness is to birds as lollipops are to children.
Where do we pick up this stuff? My Side of the Mountain in elementary school? The Once and Future King? I can hear Merlin instructing young Arthur, “If you ever go hawking, remember to keep your raptor hoodwinked, so as to keep him in yarak, or ‘the state of prime hunting fitness in a bird of prey.’”
Most of these random scraps of knowledge originate with a team of nameless tutors. We use a nebulous phrase to invoke their knowledge: “They say….”
They say vinegar takes the sting out of sunburn. They say you should wait thirty minutes after eating before you swim. They say filling Ziploc bags with water, adding a couple of quarters, and hanging them up will keep mosquitoes away. They say you should let blood from sick people.
Who are these experts known as “they”? Mysterious village elders? Renaissance know-it-alls? Pat Robertson and his 700 Club gurus?
I have a sneaking suspicion that “they” are really “I” minus any responsibility when vinegar aggravates your sunburn and causes you intense pain. If you go ahead and swim on a full stomach and reap no consequences, well, don’t accuse me of sowing superstition and pawning off useless old wives’ tales as sound advice because “they” were the ones who said it. Should spring roll around and prove that winter killed your boxwoods and weeping cherry tree, you can ask “them” for a refund.
They once said that “ill humors” were responsible for some diseases and that all the sick person needed was a good bleeding. Guess what happened to many of those patients? Long, excruciating death. Thanks, They!
If I listened to their lousy advice about medicine, exercise, gardening, animal husbandry, child rearing, and finance, I would be a slavering fool with a toupee and a Tweety Bird tattoo. They invented toupees and convinced bald men that gluing a pelt to their scalps would enhance their sex appeal.
The idiocy of a Tweety Bird tattoo requires no explanation.
But the verb “hoodwink” happens to exist for good reason, so Patrick and Caroline were safe from my skepticism for the time being.
Armed with bath towels, a box, and the unshakeable confidence of people doing good, we chased the bird into a small bush with glossy green leaves—viburnum?—beside the church and laid siege to it.
Then, a strange thing happened. Anyone who has ever been collaborating on a project with other amateurs may have also noticed a phenomenon that is the antithesis of the “They say” cop-out: “If you would just… .”
While attempting to corral the bird, and rather than allude to the rickety expertise of They, we all began barking orders like four-star generals. In the five minutes since we’d left the house, we’d all become Wounded Bird Catching Experts.
“If you would just – ”
“Wait! I can see the bird!”
“Where is it?“
“On that branch right there.”
“That one near your left knee. No, sorry, your right.”
“Okay, I see it. Now, if you’d just stay there and get ready, and Michael, can you grab that branch and shake it a little bit, and– ”
“What if we go in from above?”
“No, this will work if we just –”
“But I don’t think we should scare it more than we already have. It’s starting to climb the branch. Caroline, why don’t you wrap your arm in the towel and stick it in there and see if you can gently, like, nudge the bird out toward me, and Michael, you be ready just in case it goes the other way.”
This went on for several minutes as four people played a chess match with Bob, who was now terrified. I think we all secretly wanted to be the one to catch the bird.
O the glory of walking into the lobby at the UT Animal Hospital:
“I, I, caught this wounded heron. These are my helpers, my assistants. I told them what to do, and they did it while I caught this poor animal, because I love animals and the love me like a 21st-century St. Francis, and now I’ve brought this bird here to you, because I just couldn’t bear for it to suffer anymore and I’m willing to sacrifice my time, hours of my Saturday morning, to bring this bird to you so that you can fix it and return it to the wild, and we will all know that the bird is eating bream and feeding them to its young and humans are not at all like a virus killing the world and I was the one that caught it. I have wounded-bird-catching skills and I have other skills too. Can you help this animal? Do you need my help? I have skills. Here’s my cell phone number.”
The end came fast.
The bird bolted from the bush, and I threw my towel over it. Bob was a wriggling lump. I gathered up the towel, trying not to squash him, and stood up.
I think we were all a bit surprised that we had actually managed to catch it because even though each of us was confident that he or she was the most qualified leader of the rescue mission, none of us had any experience whatsoever unless you count the time that I used a kitchen towel to rescue a hummingbird from behind the blinds in my parents’ garage while my dad held back the blinds. I wrote a poem about it. The poem is still unpublished.
So, after all, I was the most qualified, and I, I, had actually been the one to throw my towel on the little bugger. I felt entitled to this position of honor because when I was in the fifth grade, I received the “Most Tenacious Defender” award from the coaches of the Frogs, my YMCA basketball team.
Bob’s rescue was no coincidence. A theme is emerging in my life. Some things you can’t learn. You must be born with them. I really feel like I should be riding a dragon and bringing peace to the Middle East. I should be discovering that though I was reared in obscurity, I have noble birth and now I must save my kingdom.
If you have any idea where that kingdom might be, please help me by leaving a comment. Also, where can I purchase an ancient sword made by elves?