One Small Mourning Dove

I love watching the neighborhood kids play because they go about it like my brother and I used to, riding their bikes like the hounds of hell are on their heels, tearing up the alleys, ducking in and out of yards, or streaking down sidewalks.  Animated voices arrive well in advance of their actual bodies, and lingers in the air after they’ve disappeared.

Sometimes they jump on the trampoline, or into their pool.  Sometimes they play fetch with their dog, or tag football in their front yard. Sometimes they shoot baskets, and…, sometimes they bring out their air rifle b.b. guns and target practice.  That’s when I get a little nervous.  The other day as we sat on the porch, we could hear their voices rising in pitch, excitement boiling over.  A long dark gun was held by the eldest and it was obvious something in the trees had been spotted.

I heard someone say, “shoot it, shoot it.”

Quietly, I said, “Oh no,”  while my husband remained silent, watchful, probably hoping like me their aim hadn’t improved.

There was a sort of pop.  I saw a dove launch itself out of a pecan tree, heading straight for our yard.

Then a chorus of:   “You got it!  You got it!”  “Where did it go?”  “I don’t know!”

Me, again, more distressed:  “They’re shooting at the birds!”

I thought they’d missed.  Thank God.

You see, I feed the birds every day, and it’s as if they’ve come to recognize me.  I can hear them in the trees when I go outside in the mornings, and it’s not only the dove, it’s purple finches, goldfinches, sparrows, wrens, redheaded woodpeckers, a pair of cardinals, a couple of catbirds, and a few thrushes.  Their calls and whistles, and chirps and cheeps grow louder as I strew the seed about.  They seem to know why I’m there and as soon as I’m done, and before I can get back inside, they swoop down to eat.

The kids came out of the backyard to investigate.  They saw us, and grew quieter, but kept searching, declaring amongst themselves they’d seen feathers fly.

I spoke to them from where we sat, “It’s not dove season, right?”

The eldest, a great kid whom I’ve known since he was born, replied in a quiet voice, “No ma’am.”

They returned to their backyard and shut the gate.  It was then I looked to my right, and there, on the pine straw, below a bush was the dove.  Not even five feet from me.  And of course, it was dead.

To say I’m tenderhearted over such things is an understatement.  As I gathered it up, ignoring the blood and the lolling head, all I could focus on was the warmth still there, the plush feathers, and the soft gray and browns inherent to a mourning dove.  They are often called Carolina turtle dove, or rain dove as well, and amazingly, they are monogamous.  Funny, delicate seeming birds, with a head much smaller than their body, they can fly up to 55 m.p.h.  They are breeding now, which is why they aren’t in season.  It’s possible a nest has been compromised.  I can’t help myself, but I’m half crying, and feeling a bit silly for doing so.

Like I said, tenderhearted.  What can I say?

I took the bird to the back gate, and as I expected, the eldest when he opened it and saw what was in my hand was more than sorry.  His face expressed genuine concern and real worry, yet, I too am worried because this is one of those awkward situations where, as an adult, I have to handle it appropriately yet make my point.

I shook my head, and said, “I just can’t handle seeing anything get shot.”

He replied, “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.  I won’t do it again.”

I said, “Well.  Now you have it, what are you going to do with it?”

He said, “eat it.”

Which is, of course, the right answer.

I handed it to him and he took it from my hands carefully.  I came back over to our porch, up the steps and inside to wash my hands.  When I went back out, within seconds, he came out of their back gate, across the alley, up our steps to stand before us, to apologize again.  At that point, still sort of teary eyed, I began to feel like a real jerk.  His parents are stellar.  They’ve taught all their children to respect adults, mind their manners, and I would bet money, he’s the most considerate thirteen year old I know.

He said it again, “I’m really sorry, Miss Donna.  I won’t do it again.”

I said, “I know, and I know you hunt, and your dad takes you, and you know about responsibility.  For me, it’s just that…, I feed them, you know?  And, I’m such a rule follower.”

He stood there, hands folded in front of his shirt, so contrite and clearly disturbed.

I wish it hadn’t happened.  I don’t want him to think he can’t play, run or ride in that free and spirited way like before.  I want him to know I trust his word, and that even though one small mourning dove is gone, he IS a really good kid.

And that we all make mistakes.

220px-Mourning_Dove_2006


COMMENTS

  • ajcapper

    April 24, 2015

    Reply

    I so get this, Donna. Just as I got your post about your mom. My dad died 1997 and though my mom is 3000 miles across the Atlantic, her phone calls changed.

    I also feed my birds, and have doves. But we’re rural so we also have fox and coyotes and deer, and you learn not to get too attached. Still hard, though. The worst is when you come across something wounded and in pain. You can only harden your heart so much.

  • donnaeve

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    And that makes it doubly hard for you, that 3000 miles, and I’m sure it is/ was so difficult.

    It is better to try and harden one’s heart, yet the older I get the softer I get. Maybe it’s just a sharper awareness, and maybe why I am the way I am is partly b/c I recollect an uncle who was cruel, and I was traumatized by some things he did when I was growing up.

    IDK. I mean, it’s this bad – I try to dodge wooly bear caterpillars in the road. Sheesh.

  • Carolynnwith2Ns

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    Speaking of caterpillars.
    I read your post yesterday and wanted to comment, with a story about an incident when I was little but I wasn’t sure if I should. The neighbor boy, shooting the bird, and yet being a good boy resonated with me.

    Someone gave me one of those doctors’ shirts, the white ones with buttons up the side, doctors used to wear. So, I donned my special shirt and proceeded to play scientist.
    I found a razor in my father’s wood-shop. I captured a wooly bear caterpillar and decided to do research. What I remember most is how green the little guy’s guts were, and how fast they bubbled out of his tiny squirming little body. Yes, he was alive when I took a razor to him. I got so scared and felt so overwhelmed by the horror of what I was doing that I wrapped the caterpillar in a leaf, put him in a hole in the ground, covered him with dirt and stumped on him to put him out of his misery. My misery was just beginning.
    I cried all afternoon. That night I couldn’t sleep. I imagined the tiny creature suffering the insufferable at my hand. I cannot describe how guilty I felt and how evil I considered myself. The next day I had to know if the caterpillar was dead or still suffering so I dug him up. He was not there.
    To this day I do not know if he wriggled out of the dirt and survived, (although without his green guts I don’t think so), the ground absorbed him, or, as I thought back then, God took him to heaven like Jesus.
    Over my lifetime I have thought of that incident as pivotal to my thinking regarding good kids doing stupid and cruel things (once) and to never do them again. Have I squished scary bugs, run over caterpillars in the road, I am sure I have, but I have never, ever, intentionally hurt another creature in order to “play scientist” so to speak. What I did still racks me emotionally.
    Your neighbor kid, sounds like a good kid. (I guess at 13 he’s a young man actually). Perhaps the dove will be pivotal (in a good way) for him as well.
    BTW, I never wore the kid-sized doctor’s shirt again. I threw it away and told my mother the washer ate it.

    • donnaeve

      April 25, 2015

      Reply

      It’s amazing how much I start to remember from back when I was a kid when stuff like this happens – and yes, I’ve certainly done my own stupid things. Speaking of birds, and your caterpillar story, I robbed a bird’s nest once when I was around eight, more from curiosity about them than anything. I remember the mother screeching at me in desperation, flying about the branches. I took them to a woodshed in our backyard and held them, and petted them awhile. Mom called me in for supper and I put them where they’d be “safe,” up on some old dusty shelf, with a scrap of burlap for their nest. It stormed that night. And all I could think about were those little birds, without their mother, and how I should have left them alone. The next morning before breakfast, I went out there and of course they didn’t survive. Boy did I cry and I think that was the first time I ever experienced that level of regret and a guilt so huge, I knew I’d never do it again.

      If my mom had known, she’d have taken me to the woodshed – for entirely different reasons.

  • ncsweede

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    Beautiful writing!

    – Sam

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  • Jen Donohue

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    I don’t feed the birds, because we’ve had a squirrel problem and don’t want critters to feel welcome. But I love watching the birds (so does Elka) and this story really spoke to me.

    • donnaeve

      April 25, 2015

      Reply

      Oh, good Lord, we do know about the squirrels too. Not sure if you read a post I did – it was a while back – but I had a pic of a squirrel (in the snow) and he was eating (bird seed), and he had a missing tail. He had a missing tail for the same reason as what happened to the dove. I named him “The Notorious Nubby” because he’d survived, not only a wounded paw, and lost tail, which I have to think is essential to a squirrel for a variety of reasons, but also because he lived at least another two years after… R.I.P. Nubby.

      Hoping our backyard “woodland creatures” will have a bit of a safer haven now.

  • Colin

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    I think you handled that heart-wrenching situation well, Donna. I understand the dilemma, not wanting to rob kids of their childhood, but also not wanting them to dismiss lightly an act of cruelty. The boy was sincerely repentant, and that counts for a lot. Like you, I suspect he’ll think twice before doing anything like that again.

    • donnaeve

      April 26, 2015

      Reply

      Thank you, Colin. I’ve kept quiet for some time, but when I’d see them with their guns, I would try to lose myself somewhere in the house, but with my windows facing the alley and right where I can see too much – even from where I write, I would simply hope they’d miss, and if they didn’t, I would hope I missed the actual act. This time, it was like being afforded an opportunity to let them know how much it bothered me. The thing is, it’s actually against the law – it’s a federal crime. So. There’s that too. I didn’t pull that one out of my back pocket, b/c I know he understood.

  • AJ Blythe

    April 25, 2015

    Reply

    I’m with you, Donna. I hate having to hurt animals. Working as an environmental scientist has meant that I’ve had to destroy a lot of feral animals. Even though I know the destruction they cause to our native wildlife (and fauna) it’s always been something I’ve struggled with.

    Mind you, I think my famly would rather I felt differently. I won’t kill spiders in the house unless they are poisonous (which quite a lot are unfortunately).

    • donnaeve

      April 26, 2015

      Reply

      Thanks, AJ. I can only imagine what a very hard thing that is to do – even knowing, as you say, the destruction they cause. The spider thing…egad. Once I tried to get one, out of the house on a paper towel and the darn thing launched itself onto my arm and you should have seen me then. Unfortunately, my freak reaction was to slap it off my arm, which didn’t make for a “live” spider any more. I tried though, I tried.

  • lynnrodz

    April 27, 2015

    Reply

    Beautifully written, Donna, thanks for sharing. (I would have come sooner from Janet’s blog, but I was traveling.)

    • donnaeve

      April 27, 2015

      Reply

      Awww, thank you Lynn! Hope you’re back home, safe and sound. Glad you dropped in!

  • lynnrodz

    April 28, 2015

    Reply

    I am, thanks. I never post photos on FB until after I’m back, it’s safer that way.

  • Lilac Shoshani

    April 28, 2015

    Reply

    I love birds. I live next to a park, and when I hear their voices it always connects me to something from the beyond. Maybe it has to do with their wings and divine singing.

    That said, you’ve handled the situation with that kid with great sensitivity, Donna. I really believe that he has learned his lesson. I can feel it in my heart.

    And the way you write is very beautiful and moving…

    • donnaeve

      April 28, 2015

      Reply

      Awww, thank you Lilac! Your words are so appreciated.

      I really do love birds. I’ve got a two pairs, one set is wooden, and one set is ceramic sitting in my living room. I want more, but I’m sort of particular about how they look – i.e. in paintings, tapestries, or whatever.

      I think what I prefer are the depictions of them that look almost antique, or old world.

      • Lilac Shoshani

        April 29, 2015

        Reply

        Wow, Donna. How wonderful that both of us love birds. I have a bird in my living room as well. It’s Native American — a wooden bird with an egg. To make a wish, all I need to do is write a note and put it under her egg for the night. I’m a sucker for these things….kids seem to love it, too. It’s so cute.

        PS I think it’s better to have them in pairs, like you do. 🙂

      • donnaeve

        April 29, 2015

        Reply

        It is cool! And pairs…yes. Which of course makes me think of the mourning dove…and the fact this might have been a mate. Sigh. No need to flog the point.

        • Lilac Shoshani

          April 29, 2015

          Reply

          What you did with that kid was so healing, I’m sure it influenced the mate as well as all the doves, everywhere…Sending blessings and love and I stand by you, Donna! <3


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