Years ago, when my sons were young, we had a wild, scary spring storm. Power lines were downed, tree limbs scattered, and early gardens flattened by hail. The morning following was sunny and calm as we emerged from the house to view the damage. Suddenly, one of the boys came running to me, smiling widely, cradling something small in his hands.
“Can we keep him, Please, can we keep him?” A newly feathered Baby Robin looked up at me.
“Better dig him some fresh worms. I’ll fix a basket,” I said, and Castaway became a member of the Family.
In and among fallen branches, shreds of a bird’s nest and two crushed nestlings had been found. We neither saw nor heard from worried Robin parents. The adoption of the baby was a Necessity. Almost immediately he accepted bits of food. He seemed unafraid and welcomed us, particularly “His founding father.” He peeped, opened his rather big beak and fluttered his stubby wings. That first day, he demanded so much attention, but by dusk he quieted down in his tissue filled box and allowed his new parents to sleep. When digging for worms, his caretakers had Castaway close by in his box, hoping that proximity to food source would teach him to search out his own—later.
Castaway’s feathers grew longer and more abundantly. He stretched his wings, fluttered, and hopped about in his box. He became messier and more noisy. He shook with pleasure during his many daily feedings of angleworms. Soon, he demanded the whole worm, not just the pieces dropped into his greedy little mouth. He learned to attack the wriggler as though he was capturing it himself.
One day as I was digging, he flew from his box onto my spade. He flew more and more each day. Actually, it was more of a jump, wiggle and flop, that became a glide, before the full-feathered wing-churning flying became meaningful. Castaway remained in his box during the night, but daylight hours were spent out of doors in the company of his non-feathered friends, always cheering us on from spade or shoulder during worm hunts.
As summer lengthened, he occasionally picked up insects from the garden—testing their palatability. One taste of a large moth, however, had him shaking his head, rubbing his beak against the grass and doing the Robin equivalent of “spitting.” He looked accusingly at me when I laughed. He sure was Fun to be around.
Then one day, a family emergency arose and we had to go out of state. Dear friends, our son’s buddies, volunteered to care for Castaway. We were to be gone—hopefully—just a few days. We arrived home almost a week later—to disaster. A sad-faced, ashamed, apologizing neighbor greeted us with the news that Castaway was dead. The baby Robin’s trusting nature had put him too close to our friend’s frisky red-bone hound. His ending was swift.
His—had been a Life of giving and getting Love and Pleasure. He brought joy—and has never been forgotten. Castaway was truly our fine feathered Friend.
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