Animals Crestline Life Photography Weather/Nature

The Rescue

“What’s that?”

Our eyes met across the living room where Jerry and I sat reading yesterday, aroused by a distinct, unusual noise. A sound that should not be in our house.

“I think it’s coming from here somewhere.” I indicated the fireplace area recalling the time that a raccoon had traipsed around on our roof during the night, scaring the liver out of us, and finally, as I watched through a window, had jumped down and landed on the chimney. Fat, wide beautiful critter, he stared back at me as I looked at him that night.

For awhile yesterday as we continued to read, we heard nothing else, then again, a racket arose, and this time I was sure of its source. “There’s something in our fireplace, Jerry.”

Now, you must understand that here in the neighborhood we are in quite a skirmish with ground squirrels and with chipmunks, not to mention the ubiquitous mice for whom Jerry keeps attractive wooden rectangles set in the basement and onto which he plops peanut butter or cheese, depending on what he thinks might be the preference for dinner . . . or breakfast . . . or midnight snack of the mice gentlemen and the mice ladies. I pushed the button to open our rear garage door a few days ago, and in a flash I saw a skinny grey tail disappear between the garage floor and the wall. “Mouse, Jerry. Just saw a mouse here.”

We’re kind of used to the mice, and I have a bit of a love affair (misplaced, I am told) with the squirrels, especially the one who ran about here a few weeks ago and who seemed tame, but who has now disappeared. Tell the truth, I’m thinking he might have been the “Romeo” type who has romanced around here quite a bit and has now moved on to a different part of the country, leaving behind a frazzled wife (or wives) and a bunch of needy youngins. (I told you he was cute when I first wrote of him, but you know how that kind can be. . . sadly, it is so.)

They’ve invaded us. They are skittering across the yards and the flower beds; they’re chomping on vegetables and yellow flowers, dashing through the garage, and foraging in the birdseed bag. So, many days ago, Ken and Jerry, who are afraid the creatures might destroy wiring and such, went down to Ace and bought a $40.00 squirrel trap. Each kicked in $20.00. Their success has been less than remarkable on either one of our properties. “Wonder if they’d give us our money back down at Ace?” Ken said to Jerry one day.

So, yesterday when we heard the racket in the fireplace, I thought: squirrel or chipmunk–has to be. Now it is important that you know our fireplace has an insert with doors that close. So as Jerry and I considered the situation yesterday, we both agreed that we should not open the door to see if anything was in there, for if a squirrel or a chipmunk got loose in the house, it could be disastrous. I shined a flashlight into the fireplace cavern, but I could see nothing through the thick, dark glass.

As we stood before the fireplace, considering, something moved quickly and dashed against the glass door. “It’s a bird, Jerry. I saw it against the glass.”

“I’ll smoke it out,” Jerry said, thinking (I guess) it could fly up the chimney if motivated enough. In our garage was a worn American flag that needed to be burned, so, slightly opening the fireplace door, he pushed the flag in, then quickly set it afire with a long lighter. Loud scratching and other noises ensued, and after the fire went out and Jerry lighted it again and it went out again, we gave up on that idea. “Maybe the smoke will be enough to give the bird a pleasant quiet death,” Jerry suggested.

All was quiet for a long time as I sat on the couch very near the fireplace and we were hoping for a sweet end to the little bird’s life, when suddenly there was a desperate, loud scratching sound. I shined the flashlight again, and was aghast as I saw a beautiful bird with orange markings and brown spots, head erect, looking straight at me.

“I can’t stand this,” I told Jerry. I picked up my reading material and my computer and moved to the dining room. “If he is still alive in the morning, I’m going to try to rescue him.”

He was alive. It broke my heart when he stared at me through the glass as we devised a rescue plan. Jerry thought an old fishing net would work, so still in my robe, the net in my leather-gloved hands, I crouched before the fireplace as Jerry carefully opened the door and I slid the net in. The bird moved back and I placed the net over him. He fought and immediately became terribly tangled in its threads. “I need a towel. I’ve got to grab him.”

(Photograph by Gerald Buxton)

“It’s okay, Baby,” I crooned as I carried him, tangled in net, and wrapped in a burgundy-colored towel that Jerry had taken from the rag box. I grasped him firmly in my hand and walked to our front deck. He was so tangled that Jerry had to take scissors and cut him out. Sometimes he struggled; other times he relaxed in my grip. It had been at least 18 hours since he had food or drink. He was weak.

Finally Jerry had clipped away all the net and we were ready to release him. He was a beautiful bird, maybe a variety of woodpecker. When I first loosed my hand, he did not move, and I feared he might be dying. I walked toward the steps so I could set him near water. But at that moment, he gathered strength, and flew off to a nearby tree.

(Photograph by Gerald Buxton)

I wish him well–wish him a long and happy life.

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

7 replies on “The Rescue”

Thanks Holly and Bek. We can’t imagine how he even got down the chimney into the fireplace, for our chimney had a filter on top to keep embers from flying out. We need to see that the filter is still in place.

He was such a beautiful bird, and although I felt so bad for him, I enjoyed holding him in my hands.


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