Sunday, May 2, 2010
Ode to a Grouse
She was here for such a short time, just like my eight baby ducks.
The kids found her down by the track (the running track, as opposed to the train tracks), with an injured wing and leg. Clancy did his best to put her out of her misery, doubtless thinking she was a fluffy rat, but Devon succeeded in catching her anyway. At first we thought she might be a pheasant, and she was duly named Fezzy. A quick google search confirmed that she was actually a sharp-tailed grouse, but the name stuck anyway.
An orange box was the quickest and best solution for a hospital pen, with its precut holes and strong lid to keep the cat out. She wasn't exactly happy, but she wasn't being eaten out in the rain and snow, either.
The next day she was maintaining ok; no better but no worse, and very bright and alert. That's how she was right before I left to pick up the kids from school, and when I got home she was dead.
Here's what happened.
Unbeknownst to me, Devon rode the school bus home, and was already there getting into mischief while I sat in front of the school wondering what was taking him so long. He got here, invited one of his friends in to see the grouse even with no grownup home (a BIG no-no!), and lifted the box lid just a little so they could see Fezzy better (another big no-no).
He didn't notice when he closed the lid that Fezzy had stuck her head out a hole on the other side, and her head became trapped. He was heartbroken and considerably in denial when I got home a short time later and figured out what had happened.
I thought it over for a while before I made up my mind. The unfortunate death had been an accident, but Devon's life is a whole series of unfortunate accidents, and I wanted to be sure he learned a deep lesson. So I told him to bury Fezzy himself.
About 30 seconds later he was back in the house. "Ok, I'm done."
I fixed him with a fishy glare. "Devon, I KNOW what happened out there."
He clutched his innocence a bit tighter. "What do you mean?"
Gimlet eyed, "You know what I mean!"
"But...but...but...I did bury her! Really!"
"Fine - show me."
A look of horror crossed his face. "But it's sooooo COLD out there!!!!!!" He clutched his scrawny arms to his chest and shivered dramatically.
I continued putting on my coat. "That's all right - I'll just go by myself."
His sigh could have knocked the leaves off a good-sized tree. "All right. I'll bury her this time."
Checking out the back window several times, I could see that he was in the right area to be conducting a burial, and he stayed out a lot longer, too. Finally he came back inside and announced proudly that he had buried her "real deep". He held up his fingers about two inches apart to show me the vast amount of dirt he had sprinkled over Fezzy.
Damon was quite worried that she might only be stunned, and not dead. I reassured him, thinking to myself, that's ok; if she's not dead she can just get up and walk away.
After what I did to the ducklings, I have nothing but sympathy for Devon in his sorrow. The neighbor gave us eight adorable ducklings when I was probably right about Devon's age. They followed us all over, for the short time we had them.
I took them swimming in the little wading pool, and how happy they were! They quacked and paddled all over, wiggling with joy. As the minutes wore on, I noticed they weren't floating as well as they had been. I remember trying to hold them up out of the water, but with 8 ducks and only two hands and two feet I couldn't get them all at once.
The next thing I remember is calling for Mom & Dad, carrying an armful of limp-necked ducks and begging them to fix it. To their credit, they tried. They even gave mouth-to-beak resuscitation. It was no use. All 8 of them ended up in an unmarked grave, albeit much deeper than Devon's effort. After all, Dad was the one digging.
They even went back to the neighbor and got another eight ducklings, having every confidence that after they got done explaining to me why ducklings don't float for long, that I wouldn't take them swimming again. And I didn't.
Devon's stories rarely have an Uncle Arthur ending. "...And after that, little Johnny learned to never disobey his mother again." In fact, most of his stories end with, "...And wait till you hear about the next time Devon did the very same thing!"
I'm sure he will disobey again. In fact, he's already disobeyed quite a few times since yesterday. However, I have a great deal of confidence that Devon will never kill another sharp-tailed grouse with an orange box ever again.
Until the next adventure,