Hydrogen Jukebox Press
An Online Edition
edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers
Wednesday, June 17, 1914
"The country ought to have a few more Fords," said the Gray Pigeon, balancing daintily along the curved rim of the Fireman's basin.
"Good gracious, hasn't it enough of those machines?" cried the Sparrow. "There's a story going which Ford's should utilize as an ad, if they haven't already. Says the man in the big six auto to the driver: 'Why don't you pass that little old Ford ahead? You can, easy.' And the chauffeur answers: 'Oh, I know I can, but what's the use? There'll be another one in front of it.'"
"I wasn't speaking of the Ford car, but of the man behind the machine," said the Gray Pigeon. "Did you ever hear of his paradise of birds--watering troughs prevented by electricity from freezing in winter, and the strictest preserve maintained for all forms of bird life over a large fenced area? It must be a rock of sure defense for species in danger of extermination."
"What is needed," said the White Pigeon, "is not more men with Ford millions, but more with Ford common sense and consideration. Wealth is not required in order to befriend the birds. Judge Nathan Bachman, for instance, has been put to comparatively little expense by his generosity to his feathered friends, while his satisfaction and theirs have amply repaid his trouble.
"It was the Martin who told me about this," she went on. "He has man relatives in the country, for whose housing a pair of gourds used to swing above the beegums on every country place; hence the name 'bee martin,' frequently applied to them by country people.
"On Judge Bachman's mountain place the house is not old, but the fields and orchards are among the oldest on Signal mountain, and the place is surrounded by woods--just such a happy hunting ground as birds of the region love. There is something to appeal to each species particularly. The big barns afford nooks for the Phoebe's mud-plastered nest of moss; there are hollows in gnarled apple trees where the Bluebird's sky-colored eggs are safe; briary tangles in the pasture are alive with brown Thrashers each year,while the deep grass and wild berries and cherries, and a stream running over stones velveted with moss, are a joy to everything that flies.
"Out of his love for the birds, he remembered, on leaving the place in the fall, to instruct the man left in charge there to put out food of various kinds during the winter."
"What kind of birds live in the country in the dead of winter? I thought they all went south," said the Sparrow.
"Not all birds migrate," said the White Pigeon. "There is always the beautiful Cardinal; he is among the bravest things in the world. His note rings clear over the snow. On warm days the Bluebirds waken, in sheltered hollows, a sweet surprise to the ear; and before a storm the whole field and orchard are fairly alive with fluttering little wings of Juncos and Field Sparrows, whose two white tail feathers are conspicuous in flight. The tufted Titmouse, too, calls 'peeto-peeto-peeto-peeto' all winter, and becomes very friendly upon the advance loan of a handful of crumbs--mere table scraps. All these populate the farm, sleeping in the cedar trees, where the thick boughs defend them from sleet and storms and turn aside effectually the attacks of the Owl. The Cardinal sometimes finds a yet more comfortable bed in the hayloft of the big barns.
"In spring, before the family moved to the mountain, many travelers arrived from the south and made themselves at home--Wrens of several varieties first, and the Phoebe, the Nuthatch, Chippies, Indigo Finches, and the 'Checkerback,' smallest of the Woodpeckers, and some of the earliest venturing wings of the warblers. Some of these dare the treacherous winds of February; others wait for March, by which time the woods are a-flutter with their capricious movements and ringing with new calls. Later come the splendid singers of the region--first the Brown Thrasher, who is so easily tamed, then the Mockingbird and the Catbird, then the more distant-mannered Wood Thrush.
"The concert that greeted Judge Bachman's ears when he returned to the mountain in April was worth taking trouble to obtain. But he did not stop with helping them through the hard months of hunger and cold; he not only continued the feedings, but provided a bathing and watering trough, round which the tired wings cluster on hot days.
"The Martin told me, also, of the high Martin boxes--little houses with numerous chambers and tiny doors--which are set up on poles near the barn. They are even more satisfactory than the old-fashioned gourds.
"A year ago there was a miniature war between the Martins and the Bluejays. The Jays came first and took possession of the boxes, proving themselves to be as noisy, quarrelsome and mischievous a tribe as ever squatted on a claim. When the Martins came back from the south at their regular season they found their quarters swarming with Jays, who stubbornly refused to vacate the premises, and there was nothing for it but to seek homes elsewhere--to their own discomfiture and the judge's disappointment.
"So this year the judge kept his Martin boxes stored away until he heard the loud, clear twitter of Martin voices in the sky and saw the morning winnowed by their long, swift wings. Then he had them mounted, with the result that the boxes are now filled with happy and companionable families of those for whom they were intended.
"Such consideration for the birds never fails to yield a rich reward. I wonder that others do not plan intelligently for the comfort of the hundreds of pretty singers that gladly respond to any kindness."
"Man has not yet realized," said the Fireman, "the scope and importance of his influence on the animal kingdom. He says to a species of value, 'Increase and multiply'--a command never given to animals by nature--and that species is to him thenceforth a source of wealth. To an obnoxious pest he says 'Die,' and it is only a question of vigilance and time until it is exterminated. But his power in this regard is as yet used without responsible judgment. He allows the beautiful and valuable game birds to be slaughtered indiscriminately, while the most unmitigated nuisances"--the Pigeon carefully refrained from looking at the Sparrow--"are allowed to breed unchecked. Untold damage may result before he fully awakens to the responsibility conferred by this power and state of earth lord, air lord and sea lord, which is the birthright of his superior intelligence.
"What the world needs, more than
anything else, is a sufficient number of the right kind of people."