Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Florence Cracked Corn (and I DO Care)

It was late fall. I parked my car alongside the Starbucks on Main Street, got out and turned the corner into the shop. I got my usual quadtallamericanohotwithroom, ($3.10) fixed it at the fixings counter and walked out. As I rounded that same corner back to my car, I saw a pigeon huddled against the side of the building. This pidgeon did not look well. Her feathers were ruffled up against the wind whipping straight down the sidewalk. I approached, doing my best pigeon coo. She had her eyes closed and seemed a little wobbly, even though her little red legs were tucked underneath her. She had found a nook in the facade, right in front of the taxi depot. It was a poor wind shield, but it did allow some sun to shaft down, warming her a bit.

I went back into Starbucks and came out with a corn muffin ($3.75) When I returned, she was as I had left her, head down, feathers up. I crumbled some corn muffin up and spread it on the ground a non-invasive distance away. She looked up and stood. Her legs, red, like most of our town pigeons' were distorted with painful-looking tumors, especially the left one. She hobbled over to the muffin crumbs and ate with gusto. I got into my car and drove home.

The next day, she was there again, in the same spot, huddled, waiting for a few friendly sun rays to penetrate her shivering body. I got another muffin, cooed to her and crumbled it just the way she liked it. She ate greedily, nodding occasionally to me as if to say, "hey, by the way, thanks for the food".
I decided to name her Florence.

Visits with Florence continued into the winter, when the livin' outside ain't easy even for the hardiest of wildlife. Some mornings I would come and a crumbled muffin would already be in place, courtesy, I believe of the rangy taxi dispatcher who dressed in cowboy boots, ten gallon hat and fringed vest. He chain smoked and had that constant raspy smoker's cough. I switched from corn muffins to cracked corn, since I had googled pigeon food and learned that cracked corn was a fine food base for most any bird. Florence liked it and cleaned her plate every day. Word spread throughout Pigeon Hotel (A large tree by the train station) that Florence had a rich benefactor. When I came in the mornings, now I would find a robust (yet still limping) Florence chasing and pecking opportunistic relatives away from her recent and regular windfall. It was futile. Every time she shooed one cousin away, another would sneak in from behind and grab a beakful of corn. Invariably Florence would give up and join in with the group, pecking and flinging dried corn kernels all over the sidewalk.

Florence could fly just fine. Some days, she would not be in her spot, but if I cooed, she would drop from a nearby eave and walk over saying, "what took you so long? I'm starving!"

The cold days dragged on. Spring finally came and the winter birds left, replaced by courting robins, sparrows and starlings. Florence too disappeared. I looked for her for a few weeks, carrying my container of corn in the glove compartment, just in case. I half-heartedly threw some out to the new crowd who waited until I was gone before coming down.

Another winter has come and gone. I don't know how Florence has fared or even what the life expectancy of a pigeon is. I do know she was a lovely creature sharing a moment and a space on the sidewalk with me. I hope it made a difference to her.

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