Each year, around the time the snow melts off the fields, and the ice encasing your dark soul thaws after a long winter of horse slavery, the birds start falling from the sky.
Plop! Day is ruined. Plop, plop! You shake your fist in fury at the barn beams, screaming, “Whyyyyyy?!” as you officiate at yet another baby bird feed bag interment. “Though you were only here for a brief moment, you were here long enough to ruin my day,” you intone at the service. “I hope your parents are hunted down by the cat for their nest-erecting incompetence, which seems unlikely considering Kevin the barn cat is a freeloading piece of expletive.”
You conclude the service by unceremoniously chucking the feed bag into the dumpster of eternal slumber.
Spring has arrived.
When your mane-pulling stool doesn’t cut it, you stack two trashcans on top of one another in order to return a “jumper” to his nest. This seems like the logical thing to do at the time, and little thought is put into the sturdiness of cheap plastic Walmart trashcans, or their tendency to crumple under anything weighing over approximately 14 pounds.
The first can begins to warp as you climb, simultaneously thrusting the bird skyward towards his launch site. Mere inches from success, the second can slumps in defeat beneath you, and you flop hard onto the concrete barn floor in pretzel formation. You immediately regret your recent diet of corn chips and Hawaiian rolls, but ultimately you assign the blame of structural trashcan failure on the fat baby bird.
You would have caught yourself and minimized impact, had you not still been clutching the feathered pork-chop. Years of falling with adult beverages in hand have given you the puma-like reflexes required to hit the deck while instinctually landing with your beverage hand above your body, level with the earth, so as not to spill.
This skill serves the baby bird well, as the hand clutching him is the only part of your body that presently isn’t intimately involved with concrete. You lie there for a moment while the ungrateful baby bites your fingers and chirps in protest. You give him a little shake and remind him you’re trying to save his tiny bird life. Your Spanish-speaking coworker appears and helps you to your feet. “Que?” he asks. You try to explain your rescue mission using the only Spanish you know (which is obviously swear words) supplemented with wild gestures from your bird-free hand. He nods, takes the bird from you, and Randy Johnson-style fastball pitches it at the rafters. You snort in horror, but the thing actually lands in its nest and begins to chirp.
“What the hell, Kevin?!” (He named the barn cat after himself.) Kevin shrugs and walks out of the barn.
So here’s my letter to the birds…
Dear birds that live in my barn,
(This includes you, barn swallows, but mostly the gross little sparrows)
Please stop hatching your naked pink babies in poorly constructed nests above my place of work.
Whoever told you that a nest consisting solely of candy wrappers and dachshund fur would have enough structural integrity to withstand and contain your unruly bird baby brood was mistaken. My rapidly fraying nerves are tested as I create burning-apartment-complex-worthy landing pads for your offspring’s eminent suicide plunges. My long-suffering employer applauds my empathy but can no longer conceal his concern for my sanity as numerous avian-infant free-fall trampolines are constructed and placed throughout his sparkling barn aisles.
His concern grows as repurposed pastel colored Easter baskets begin to appear, hanging from exterior stall bars, filled with fledgling fluff balls in various stages of bird-hood. When inquiries are made, the response sounds something along the lines of, “Because, Mr. ——–, their idiot bird parents, despite millions of years of evolution and instinct, are incapable of constructing a decent bed for their stupid bird babies…so I Googled it and made them new ones.”
He is unimpressed.
While you barn swallows seem to practice committed mutually exclusive relationships, full of adorable displays of affection and healthy interactions, your filthy hillbilly sparrow cousins practice gang violence and aggressive bird courtship rituals. No means no, man-sparrows—nothing grinds my gears like having to quit filling water buckets in order to break up active sparrow assaults. I try to counsel all you she-sparrows about gender equality, but as soon as I’m finished lecturing, you head right back to the wash stall, shaking your little bird moneymakers and attracting the wrong kind of attention. I blame your parents. Sparrows are the worst parents.
Once I’ve managed to save all your gross babies from plummeting to their deaths, they inevitably grow up and join the resident colony of filthy cretins that make up Barn Bird Babylon.
This results in my freshly scrubbed water buckets being utilized like dirty little wash houses in a tiny Wild West bird brothel, and the constant screeching serenade of sparrow song reverberates in my brain long after I lay down at night. You fly into the side of my head, you poop in my helmet, you build nests in dumb places, and you pollute the air my horses breathe. When I’m not spending time saving your young or preventing bird assaults, I’m pressure-washing your droppings off of every surface your tiny bird feet deem fit to perch. There is no shame in your poo game, and you continue canvasing the barn with your sticky sparrow feces day and night.
I have no idea how to evict all of you, but I’d love it if you became migratory and dropped your babies on some other poor sucker’s head. At the end of a long day all one can do is pray for summer and the conclusion of falling fledgling season. It’s not me, barn birds, it’s you.
The undone guardian of Bird Babylon
P.S. Many have criticized my suckership, chalking it up as childlike, counter-intuitive or a complete waste of time and energy … aaand they’re probably right.
Laugh on—I’ll still save earthworms from driveways, and run across roads with a turtle tucked under my arm like Brett Favre in a sundress, and I’ll always help stupid baby birds who fall from their stupid candy wrapper nests.
Someone once told me you can tell everything you need to know about a person from the way they treat their waiter, where they leave their grocery cart, and most importantly how they treat creatures smaller than themselves. So far that ideology hasn’t failed me. Tip well (karma is a thing). Take your cart back to the store front; you probably could use the exercise (I know I do). And finally, save stupid little birds. It will make you feel good. Then bad, but probably for the most part good.
P.P.S. If anyone has any brilliant solutions for abject barn bird anarchy… PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HELP ME.
Alice Peirce was raised as a self-described “feral horse farm child” in Howard County, Maryland. She’s made efforts to leave the horse world over the years but always comes back and has worked for a number of people in various disciplines. Currently she’s riding young race horses and training foxhunters in Monkton, Maryland, where she hunts with the Elkridge-Harford Hunt.