119 / 365 – Birds

JACKIE CAMPBELL

We had some birders in the cafe this morning. All the way up from Jamestown, just for birds. Think about that for a moment. They had been out since dawn. Their jeans and their shoes were all wet with the dew. They didn’t seem to care.

They came in during that lull when everybody’s in church. Between the early people going out to work somewhere and the people coming in after church for brunch. There was nobody in the place, and they decided to sit down at the counter. They filled it up with their chatter. They were so excited. They named all kinds of birds I’d never heard of. Martins. Flickers. I knew woodpeckers, of course. They were so excited, I thought they’d never stop.

Then people started to trickle in. Dick Morstad, on his way between his brother’s place and home. Dan on his way up to Newcastle. Doug Miller. At first I thought, “Well, good. The usual talk.” But these guys didn’t leave, started it all over again. Asking had people been out to Bennett’s field. Someone’s field down away from Gwyneth. Land that isn’t farmed, so it’s full of birds, apparently. People drive from all over to watch birds there, especially near a pond on it, didn’t we know? I thought, “Somebody should take up a collection and start farming that land. Keep these people away.” I guess I was a little crabby this morning, it had been so slow. I had another cup of coffee.

I thought the guys were going to ignore them, but they were so friendly and talkative, pretty soon, people had sat down at the counter on both sides of them so they could hear. They were naming these birds. I think Dan knows some of them, maybe, as they’re ducks. They talked about some martins. Purple martins, they said. “You’re kidding,” Dick Morstad. “Purple birds? Around here?” I think he thought they were playing a trick on him. They woman said, “You betcha.” They pulled out a book they had with pictures in it and I guess that settled it. Next thing you know they’re making birdcalls. “Haven’t you ever heard a bird like this?” Then, Weet woot, or tweet tweet! I can’t even do them right. It sounded like a barn or a circus in there.

After they left, Dick said, “I thought they were pulling my leg. Purple birds around here. Gonna have to look around a little more carefully when I’m outside.” But everyone was leaving with a smile on their face. Leaving good tips, too. So I take that back about farming over that land. Maybe we should put up a billboard outside town. “Welcome to Jericho. Birder’s paradise.” Dan said, “Still hard to believe somebody drove all the way up here to look at birds.”

So, purple birds. After we closed down I drove over to the C-store for some milk and some meat for dinner. The trees are still bare, just a few hints of buds. I caught myself looking in the branches. Before I got back in my car, I stopped and listen for birds. I did it again when I got home. I didn’t really hear anything. I’m still not sure I believe that one about purple birds. Hard to imagine anything purple here in Jericho.

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