#21. I know I won’t be able to figure out how to seek vengeance all on my own, so, when a new character emerges like a Hermit Thrush kicking back from the leaf litter; if this were a book, well, if this were a book, the two would be related.
The way it is with birding for me at my stage is I look for clues. So, I think I recognize the hop-scrape-backwards dance in the leaf litter. He’s half-hidden though. I get a better look when he lands on a fallen log in our shrub pile—a bird-refuge shrub pile which Pop deliberately adds to. I know for sure what I’m seeing when it cocks its tail, bobs it slowly, and flicks his wings. I write, HERMIT THRUSH in the notebook.
In contrast, I’m not certain what I’m seeing next. First I notice Miss Mary’s mule—Sir Isaac (Newton)—coming out of the cow and calf pasture gate, leading a human, or so it seems. Since when does Miss Mary have a helper? Besides us? Nobody tells me anything.
Never saw this person before, but it’s difficult to actually see much of him. Sir Isaac is a huge guard donkey and the guy has a slouchy barn hat, flannel work shirt, baggy pants, huge work boots, and gloves. He’s yodeling Good Moooooooorning, Captain from Mule Skinner Blues, the Bill Monroe song. I watch as he brushes Sir Isaac all over and checks his hooves. He laughs when the donkey nuzzles his neck. I don’t see any mixed flocks but I do spy a Golden Crown Kinglet in the aspens and that Hermit Thrush in the blackberry thicket again. The guy puts Sir Isaac back in with Molly and Millie and their calves.
The next day I spy him out of corner of my eye while I’m peering at a Carolina Wren singing teakettle teakettle teakettle. He (the guy, not the Wren) is weeding Miss Mary’s fall spinach and kale. Same clothes. I hear him humming while I fix my binoculars on a mixed feeding flock of Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, and (tahdah!!) White-Throated Sparrows in the Crab Apple trees, all of which silences the pretty brown Wren. I cup my hand behind my ear to try to catch what the guy is singing today. It sounds like Let the Harvest Go to Seed. He finishes with, Darlin’ please remember let the harvest go to seed, so the wild birds and critters will have enough to eat. He looks up from the kale and watches the mixed flock, meets my eyes, and laughs out loud.
I get a look at his face. He’s a kid, not a grown-up. You can tell.
Today I don’t spy him right away (not that I’m looking) but I do see a Cooper’s Hawk clear the entire South backyard (the area with the raised beds and feeders). Then up on Miss Mary’s porch I see Miss Mary in her chaise lounge. He’s reading the papers out loud to her.
Finally! The mystery is solved when the two of them come for supper. “Oliver” is Miss Mary’s grand-nephew. For some reason that is not discussed, he will now be living with her. He’s just turned 14 and going into 7th grade. He’s talltalltall, but without the barn clothes he’s merely a very skinny kid with big feet.
At supper, Mimi, Pop, Miss Mary, Clyde, and Sam either converse or repeat words twice (if you’re the twins) while Oliver and I say nothing. Then Pop asks us to do the dishes (it’s my job anyways). Sam and Clyde ferry plates and forks and bowls and even the centerpiece (!!!) to the sink counter then disappear with their trucks.
This is how our first Oliver and Isabel conversation starts: He holds a glass up to see if he’s dried all the spots and asks, So what ARE your plans for that Preliminary Hearing?