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How To Catch A Bird
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How To Catch A Bird


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On the farm where I grew up were numerous birds of various kinds.  Back in Arkansas, there were real Red Birds, and Blue Birds, and Black Birds.  Blue Jays warned of approaching danger with a loud raucous noise.  Crows could be heard in the distance.

Grandpa could name em.  And he taught me to listen for each one and what to listen for.  Woodpeckers were numerous as well as Mocking Birds.  Chicken Hawks were fair game for the boys lucky enough to have a 410 shotgun because of the threat to Grandma's chickens, especially the chicks.

Sparrows were also there in large numbers and considered a nuisance.  They would eat 7 times their weight each day in grain, and so they were usually the game that the youngsters with BB guns would take care of.

But Grandpa had a way of challenging anyone around him.  He would say "Porgie Earl,"  (He was the ONLY one who could get by with saying that!  If one of the cousins or Uncles said it, there WAS a fight!), "why don't you catch one of those birds and put 'im in a box?"

Several light-bulbs went off in my head as I thought about the granduer and wonder of catching a bird and putting it in a box!  Why, I don't know, but, just because Grandpa said it, then that was the way it was going to be!

I lay awake what seemed all night, trying to figure out how I was going to catch a bird.  At breakfast, I arose with a mission.  I was going to catch a bird!  How, I hadn't figured out yet, but, catch one I would!

So, while I was eating fresh eggs, home-made sausage, potatoes, home-made biscuits and gravy, with a little "streaked gravy", (some call it Red-eye gravy), I asked Grandpa how I was going to catch a bird.  I certainly had none of the grand ideas like the simple bird trap to the right.

He said "Porgie Earl, just sprinkle a little salt on their tail.  If you can sprinkle some salt on their tail, you can catch 'em."

There was my answer!  I had it all figured out now!  Nothing to it!  Man, I started gulping down the remainder of my breakfast, and putting together in my head the best places to catch which bird.

So, with Grandmas extra salt shaker, I started out.  I had decided on the West fence row of the cotton patch behind the house.  I made my way through the corn field and snuck down real quiet-like to the tree where the nest of the Blue Bird was.  I hid behind the trunk of the tree and sat there.

Of course my attention span was only about 2 or 3 minutes, so a bird never came within sprinkling distance.  So, I went looking.  There, about 50 or 75 ft away was a whole bunch of birds.  Ssssshhhhh . . .  Quiet . . .  I started sneaking toward them.  Before I got within 30 ft of them, they all flew away.

It wasn't long before I heard a Bobwhite.  I begin to make my way toward where I thought he was, but then, it sounded like he was coming from another direction.  Then, another one sounded.  But I never got close enough to sprinkle salt.

I was getting very disgusted with bird catching.  It wasn't going at all like I planned.  Then I heard a covey of quail.  Then, I got a bright idea!  What if I threw the salt at them?  Well, I sprinkled me a goodly portion of salt in my hand and started forward again.

The sounds stopped.  I stopped.  And waited.  And listened.  And looked.  Nothing.  The salt was getting into a scrape I had on my hand and was burning like fire.  I dumped what hadn't dissolved onto the ground and readied the salt shaker.  That bird was close and I was going to get that dude! . . .

I slowly moved my foot back so I could turn and look behind me.  Suddenly, the whole area seemed to explode around me.  There were birds flying everywhere.  Their wings were beating the air with thunderous fury, and dust was flying everywhere.  I was so startled, I forgot to sprinkle my salt!

When I finally got my senses back, I started slinging salt everywhere, but it was too late.  There were no birds around.  Disappointed and out of salt, I headed back to the house.

On the way, I started to thinking about what Grandpa said.  "If you can sprinkle salt on their tail, you can catch them."  Suddenly, I felt like the world's biggest dummy.  What an idiot!  I hadn't caught what Grandpa meant until just now.  But, it was true!  If you CAN sprinkle salt on their tail, you CAN catch em!

It was a hard lesson.  I had spent almost all morning trying to do this simple little thing.  I hadn't taken the time to study out the hidden meaning of what Grandpa had said.  But I learned several valuable things because of that, but one I'll always remember:

If you can sprinkle salt on a birds tail, you can catch 'em!

George Cavaness
10-09-1994



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