Reluctant Cowgirl

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Rites of Spring

This morning is quintessentially spring in Oregon: grey and raw and rainy and damp all over the place. I wake up early, prompted by the starling who had entered the chimney and was flailing around in the pipe unable to reach the stove because I had the damper closed. This distresses the dog with good hearing, because she does not like things encroaching on our domicile and doesn’t particularly like starlings, just like the rest of the household. She climbs in bed and places herself atop my prone body, curling into a ball for reassurance and warmth. Had I lit the wood stove the night before, this entire unpleasant circumstance could have been avoided, I think, burying my face further in the pillow.

The bird continues to thrash intermittently and the dog’s weight presses on my full bladder. She nose-pokes my face when I peek out of the covers. “You’re in there, right? Are you hearing this?” She doesn’t want me to get up, necessarily, because we are if nothing else a family of animals who like to sleep in. She just wants to be reassured that she is not alone in her awareness of our abode and the creatures coming at it from all angles. She stares out the window now, twitching and wondering if the squirrel she spotted yesterday is up yet, and then gets further distracted and begins chasing a fly against the glass pane, stepping beside my head on the pillow.

I get up, eventually, as well all must, and do my chores to avoid dealing with the starling. I ignore it for several hours, only vaguely thinking that perhaps it is a bluebird and I should get to saving it’s dumb, feathery ass. Finally the rawness of the day seeps sufficiently into my bones, and I know I have to deal with the bird in the fire-making machine or complain how cold I am all day, so I fetch the net, open the flue, and do my best to block the door with the net as I open it, so I can catch the animal before it hurtles itself out into freedom, covered in soot and hell-bent on pooping as much as it can during the time it is free in my house. Unfortunately this never works, no matter how careful I am, and so the bird flies out past my net as soon as I reposition to try to reach in and grab it; followed, of course, by its mate, because after being stuck in there for a few hours he or she knew that he or she should be followed or loneliness and the search for a new mate would ensue.

One bird goes to one window and flaps incessantly; the second finds another window which happens to have a piece of plywood leaning up against it which traps that bird in a relatively small space (great job, absent partner). I net the first bird that flew out rather easily, but start to worry about what comes next because I a) don’t want to touch these gross things, and b) don’t particularly like the gruesome job of smacking them against the cement sidewalk to break their stupid little dirty necks.

Senior brown dog to the rescue. She comes across the house like a predator in hot pursuit, bouncing on her old arthritic toes with ears pricked, entire body thrumming with eagerness. She gets stuck behind the drying rack temporarily, but once I move it aside she is right there, ready for whatever is asked. I pinch the bird by the leg through the netting and hold it out for her, and she chomps it dead with one crushing blow of her decrepit, rotting old lady jaws. The second bird meets the same fate, and then she chews on one until I take it away because it is masticated and disgusting and she is repeatedly hacking it back up because her masticators don’t work as well as they used to. All in a day’s work. Now she’s lying by a fresh, roaring fire, and more starlings are welcome to meet the same fate as soon as it goes out. I dare them.


Sorry/not sorry.