Published by
Hydrogen Jukebox Press


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      An Online Edition

 edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers

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Tuesday, June 30, 1914

[The Yellow-billed Cuckoo]



     It was early in the morning, and everything was quiet around the Square. The plash and tinkle of the fountain sounded louder, and drew to it a circle of happy wings that made haste to get their bath and drink before the streets should fill with men and the noise of their activities.

     "There comes a stranger," said the Gray Pigeon, suddenly. "Listen!"

     In the large trees before the courthouse the voice of an invisible bird was calling, "C, c, c, cow, cow, cow, cow!"

     "That's a yellow-billed Cuckoo," said the Sparrow to his mate. "They call him Rain Crow in the country, I am told."

     The call was repeated, and a bird as large as a robin, after peering cautiously from his covert of leaves to make sure that no one was approaching from either direction, flew across the street and alighted in the magnolia, apparently to reconnoitre a second time before venturing to the fountain.

     "Come on, come on; don't be afraid," cried the Sparrow. "Nobody ever hurts a bird in this park."

     The newcomer was not easy to reassure, but at last he came to the fountain's rim and perched there, with his head held low in the peculiar Cuckoo fashion.

     "I--I--I never did drink at such a place before," he said. "But the water is getting so scarce everywhere, I--I thought I'd try it." He drank, and then looked all around again, curiously. "Men are strange and terrible creatures," he commented, spying the movements of a group in a side street.

     "Not when you know them," declared the Sparrow.

     "Ah, maybe they don't tell such tales on you!" said the Cuckoo. "Now, they tell about me, again and again, that I don't make a nest, but lay my eggs in the home of another bird, being too lazy to bring up my own babies. Of course it's a slander. I believe there is a Cuckoo in Europe that does shirk its natural duties in this fashion; but I never saw him in my life. Then there's an 'ornery' creature here, called the Cowbird, who has a similar habit of cheating his way through life; but I'm thankful to say he's no kin to me.

     "I do make the best nest I can. I'm not talented as an architect, it's true; my nest is rather flat and open, and if the wind blows too hard the eggs are apt to roll out onto the ground. But I do the best I can; and it's too bad I have to be confused with that lazy Cowbird.

     "He always picks some smaller bird to take advantage of--some bird whose fledglings will soon be starved and weakened, finally, perhaps, shoved out of the nest by the greed and growth of his own. Sometimes the little builders are too cunning for him; they simply make a false bottom over all the eggs, build the nest deeper and start afresh with new eggs of their own."

     An early car came clanging up the hill. The Cuckoo dived hastily into the boughs of the magnolia and, after it passed, flew away, calling back, "C-c-c-cow, cow, cow!" by way of farewell to the fountain group.

     "Will he bring a shower, really, do you suppose?" asked the little Hen Sparrow, fluttering with hope.

     "No such luck," snapped her mate.

     "Well, I don't know," said the White Pigeon. "Yonder's a beautiful, big thunderhead in the southwest."

     They looked. Along the horizon a fleet of cloud sails caught the first sun rays and flushed and brightened. The largest opened slowly a thousand pink curving petals, like a phantom rose.

     "Surely, surely, the rain has not forgotten us!"

     But the full sun flamed over the housetops, and like some giant cat of the desert, the day's heat leapt on the land.

 




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