Over the next little while I dug up and brought home a dogwood and an elm sapling. I rooted and planted pussy willows and weeping willows, and all the trees thrived in my very wet backyard, half a mile from Lake Erie. We planted trees in the front yard, too, when my girls came home with Arbor Day saplings. I’ve driven down the old street, forty years later, and all those trees surround the houses like a forest. Who would have believed it.
The back yard trees grew up and up. With judicious pruning I turned the pussy willow from a bush into a tree. We planted some roses, started a garden, grew elderberry bushes along the back fence line. It became quite the proper back yard. My trees grew taller and taller, and became so official they housed bird nests.
Beth and Shelly grew up there, too; the Mentor house was their childhood home. We lived there twenty years. Beth moved out to go to college, Shelly and I were on our own. Out in the back yard one day, Shelly found a baby bird, fallen from the nest and helpless on the ground. We located his nest, tucked him back in with his siblings. Several hours later he was back on the ground. We made him a shoe box nest and brought him inside.
I, of course, anticipated his overnight demise and burial under “the headstone rock” the next morning. My tender hearted daughter, however, began studying on his survival. I have no idea what she concocted to feed him; I know it was not blenderized worms. She took him away to her room, with an eye dropper and her container of baby bird food. She fed him all weekend, and come Monday still had a small bird in the shoe box, but, knowing food was forthcoming on demand, a very vocal bird. She took the baby to her summer factory job, where she was given permission to harbor and feed a bird on demand.
In short order the bird was rowdy enough we had to rustle up an old bird cage to keep him. Shelly had not had a night’s full sleep in two weeks. Even through two closed bedroom doors, neither had I. I wondered if Shelly’s factory job/bird fostering could have endured had her mother not been an executive up front. Shelly was determined to grow her little guy up and set him free. Although he displayed every evidence of flight ability, the little guy had a suspicion he would be out of a meal on demand every half hour if he actually flapped his wings. I knew he had to go.
I called the animal sanctuary at Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland and asked if they had room for a fat and noisy little sparrow. I told Shelly there was a home for her bird, and instead of bursting into tears she asked “How soon can we go?” The nice ranger assured Shelly he’d have the fat little guy out and flying in no time. I have a feeling they really did rehab him. Probably set him loose in a fast food parking lot.
Phoebe Snow in the pussy willow tree