Tag Archives: Spring

Ma and Pa Finch: Our First Sign of Spring!

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Ma Finch looking over a likely nesting spot.

Ma Finch looking over a likely nesting spot.

When I went out to get the mail after lunch today, a blur of wings and cheep-cheeped expletives announced what has become the surest sign of spring — Ma and Pa, a pair of beautiful finches, were poking around in the channel beneath our front porch awning for the perfect nesting site. These two may or may not be the exact same pair of birds who have built nests beneath our awnings for the last five years, but I’m relatively certain if they are not the identical two, then they are the offspring of those who have come before.

I’ve consulted Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America and our interlopers are either a pair of house finches or a duo of purple finches. I honestly cannot tell the color plates in the book apart, but then I make no claims to being an expert birder. I do love watching them though.

Each year our avian visitors typically raise three to five obstreperous and demanding youngsters, some of whom I’m pretty sure have returned the next year to build their own nests. Once these little scraps of skin and feathers hatch, entering and leaving through our front door becomes somewhat hazardous. Ma and Pa are always either on the nest or very nearby and they inevitably interpret our need to walk down our front steps as being hazardous to their young. It seems they don’t associate the nesting material we put out for their use and the bird seed we keep supplied with US. I suppose in their minds these helpful items just “appear.”

After about ten days, the little ones are fully fledged. Then the sad waiting game begins. At some point, Ma and Pa leave the nest for the comfort of a nearby oak signaling the gravy train and room service have come to an end. Compelled by empty bellies, one by one the little fuzzballs hop up on the edge of the nest and launch themselves skyward. So far — knock wood — we’ve had a 100% success rate with flying.

This year's Ma again. She seems to be checking out the view.

This year’s Ma again. She seems to be checking out the view.

Two springs ago, however, we did have our first holdout. He (HAD to be a male I’m sure) was the runt of the nest of five and when Ma and Pa pulled back and the other nestlings left, he decided the newly roomy nest was to his liking and he showed no signs of leaving. For two whole days, he remained in what he’d adopted as his bachelor pad. I figured he would have gotten hungry, but one evening during the holdout, I caught Ma bringing a care package to him. Pa wouldn’t have approved, I’m sure. After two days, however, he must have gotten lonely watching his four siblings swooping through the air nearby. I was lucky enough to be sitting where I had a view as he finally decided to climb to the lip of the only home he’d ever known and launch himself into the blue. It wasn’t the most graceful first flight, but it was enough.

Three years ago, we had an awning built over the back deck as well and no sooner had its paint dried than another set of the same species moved in. This location, however, has more in the way of hazards than the front porch; so much so that Budge wants me to put up a rubber snake or something to discourage potential nesters. See, out front, if a little one doesn’t make a successful first flight, we’ve got several azaleas and boxwoods very close by he can climb up in and try once more. Out back though, if he doesn’t get it right the first time, one of two things is going to happen. First, he could land in the pool. For the record, finches swim about as well as I do. If they miss the pool, though and land in the back yard, they have to contend with Keaudie and Jack and while Jack at 14 isn’t nearly as fast as he once was, he can still outrun a fledgeling. Luckily though, we haven’t had any casualties yet.

This is Pa from last year. He's a little blurry because I never could catch him perfectly still.

This is Pa from last year. He’s a little blurry because I never could catch him perfectly still.

Even as I type this, Ma and Pa are twitching back and forth from one end of the awning to the other. Hopefully, they will take the hint we left them in the form of last year’s nest which sits at the OTHER end of the porch and build down there. I’m sure it will be less stressful for them and I won’t have to worry about losing an eye when Ma goes frailing into the night to protect hearth and home as I try to enter the front door!

Hope the weather is treating you great wherever you are and make sure to keep those feet clean!

Love y’all!

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Skip Party Aftermath

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When we last left our intrepid hero (that’d be me) he (or rather I) was standing on the front deck of the Overbay hacienda eating one of the first bags of Cool Ranch Doritos to grace the snack shelf at the local Stop ‘n Steal watching my best friend Robby allowing two of our class (drivers license-less) hotties to take his car for a spin. They were on the return trip with KC in the driver’s seat and CC riding shotgun as Robby sat helplessly in the backseat. All had gone well on the trip out and now, one more turn and KC would bring the little Phoenix to a nice safe stop and we’d all go home to supper.

Only she didn’t make it.

Like most families of my childhood friends, the Overbays had that bane of a bicycle-riding child’s existence — a crushed gravel driveway. Inevitably, some of the gravel would travel out onto the black top and create a gravel slick, which could throw and unwary two-wheeler into a serious case of road rash in a skinny minute. Little did we know, it worked for cars just as well as bicycles.

KC hit the gravel slick and the front end of the car got a bit squirrelly. Now an experienced driver would have just backed completely off the gas and waited for the dust to settle. KC was not — as I have mentioned before — an experienced driver. She panicked and stomped BOTH pedals at the same time. The accelerator won out over the brake and the poor Phoenix skidded completely off the driveway to be quite rudely introduced to the sawn off telephone pole that served as the north corner post of the Overbay’s barbed wire fence.

Looked a lot like this, only there were two head prints instead of one. We drove the car to school the next day and had "KC" written over one and "CC" over the other.

As usual in these cases, time seemed to stop as the collective gasp of the party goers caused me to drop my chips and bolt towards the stairs. Once on the ground, I was joined by several other people in a headlong Jack and Jill-esque tumble towards the scene of the accident. What we found was not encouraging.

The front end of the car had wrapped its bumper around the cruel pole in a desperate lover’s embrace . . . and so did the radiator. Simultaneously, KC and CC – seatbeltless, naturally — launched forehead first into the windshield. They didn’t do the classic “shattered glass fly through” but they hit with enough force to make two NICE spiderwebs — one on each side of the glass and raise beautiful raspberry blue goose eggs on both their classically beautiful high foreheads. Meanwhile, Robby, the Phoenix’s erstwhile owner, was tossed into the hatchback where he lay on his back, feet in the air, somewhat dazed like a spring-woken tortoise newly crawled from his winter’s den.

Ignoring all first aid training and advice, we helped the girls and Robby from the car. The girls were a bit unsteady on their feet and might even have had a mild concussion. We would never know because this was a skip party and what happens at the skip party STAYS at the skip party, or at least it did in those pre-cell phone camera days. We certainly weren’t going to call the police and ambulance. At the risk of sounding heartlessly arrogant, we were the cream of the Laurens 55 High School crop (what I was doing there, I still wonder sometimes) and we couldn’t risk the hoopla and resulting brouhaha a police report would generate.

The party disintegrated just as soon as everyone realized that no one was dead or critically injured. This is referred to even to this day as the “Getting the Hell out of Dodge” procedure. Robby took the driver’s seat, I sat shotgun, and Duane folded his lanky frame into the backseat. Hopefully, Robby turned the key and the little Phoenix that could sputtered to life. Against all odds, it backed away from the pole and with the help of a couple of Raider linemen, ended up back on the road and off towards home.

This is a pretty good facsimile of Duane's dad . . . pretty much all the time.

We did have one nasty dilemma. We had to get Duane home under his parent’s radar. They were the most strict parents of our entire group — if by strict one means somewhat Stalinesque. That party I mentioned in the first act of this tragedy resulted in Duane being put on restriction for the rest of his life. He didn’t get to leave the house on the weekend until college. If his dad found out about THIS snafu, Duane would probably end up in a shallow grave somewhere. Luckily, we had always planned for just this kind of eventuality. Duane got out of the car about 200 yards from the schoolbus stop for his house. When his younger brothers got off the bus, he just fell in behind them — no muss no fuss. Duane didn’t even worry about them ratting him out. Those five boys were tight. None of them was going to risk bringing the wrath of Gray Court’s version of The Great Santini down on a sibling.

So with Duane’s continued future assured, Robby and I limped the Phoenix back to his house. He asked me if I wanted to take his motorcycle home and thus avoid the ensuing confrontation with his dad — Bobby. I told him that I’d been with him when the mess started and I wasn’t bailing now. I figured I owed to him as my best buddy to face the music with him. Besides, Bobby T was one of my greatest father figures growing up. He knew how things were with me and Mama and with me and Daddy so he always made sure I had walking around money as well as doing five thousand other little things for me that I’ll never be able to repay him for. Bobby T is a great man and I really looked up to him so I couldn’t run home like a coward and let Robby take the heat alone.

This is what we started with.

We sat across the den from each other waiting for the sound of Bobby’s car in the drive. In that eternal hour, I caught a glimpse of what a condemned man must feel like waiting for the warden and the preacher to come to his cell. Bobby got home and walked in the house all smiles and hellos like always. Robby and I realized instantly that he hadn’t seen the car. Now Bobby was the type of parent who hadn’t forgotten that he hadn’t been a complete angel as a teenager either, so he recognized our guilty looks pretty quickly. We didn’t even BOTHER trying to explain anything; we just led him out to the car. He looked at the damage, then at us, then back at the damage and just shook his head. That head shake was his ultimate mark of disappointment.

Funny though. Duane’s dad would have launched into the stratosphere. I don’t really know WHAT Daddy would have said, but I know I couldn’t write most of it on a family oriented blog. Bobby just shrugged and said, “Don’t plan on going

and 16 hours later we had this.

anywhere Saturday, boys,” and walked in the house.

I spent the night with Robby that Friday and we spent about 16 hours the next day cleaning out Bobby’s three bay garage / workshop. The Augean Stables that Herakles cleaned as his fifth penitential labor were pristine compared to this building and alas, we had neither Alpheus nor Peneus to reroute to our aid. We worked mightily fueled by gratitude and hot dogs until the floor of the shop was FDA approved. It was a learning experience for certain, but it still wasn’t the last skip party we’d have 🙂

Love y’all! Keep those feet clean.

Springtime = Skip Party

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The Indigo Girls said it best when they sang “There’s something about the Southland in the springtime!” I was just sitting on the porch looking at the living proof that God Almighty is a University of North Carolina fan — a gorgeous Tarheel Blue sky. The temperature is just about perfect and if trees had a way of reproducing that didn’t involve that fluffy yellow pollen, I could stay outside forever. I know people say that we’d get tired of one continuous type of weather year round, but I promise that if someone could invent a Claritin or Allegra pump similar to the insulin pump some diabetics wear, I’d be willing to test this time of year all year.

Back when I was in high school, a day like this would result in several feverish calls between our group’s houses, and in those days — not THAT long ago — “calling around” meant dodging parents who always answered the phone. We didn’t have cell phones, Facebook, or email. Of course, it’s just as well. I probably wouldn’t have graduated if the Internet had been fully open and operational in the middle ’80s. In any event, we’d be attempting to set up a skip party for the next day.Some people favor playing hooky on Fridays to get an early start on the weekend, but I was always the type to skip on Monday so as to put off the first of the week for as long as possible. Skipping Mondays also had the advantage of less makeup work. In a tradition I was later to continue as a high school teacher myself, Fridays were always quiz and test days. Mondays were just notes and worksheets. My teachers didn’t really care if I made up notes. Tests were mandatory though.

Our parents had differing opinions about skipping. Mama simply required that I let her know if I was planning to come down with a 24 hour bout of “spring fever.” Robby’s dad was pretty much the same. Duane, however, was forbidden to skip school under any circumstances. That meant he had to actually drive to school then walk down Raider Road a bit where one of us could pick him up. For some reason, the girls got to do pretty much whatever they wanted to — and they ALWAYS wanted to skip.

"Honey, does this new vodka taste a little watery to you?"

Skip parties were eclectic affairs. Sometimes, we’d just congregate at someone’s centrally located but somewhat off the road house and sit around running our mouths and eating another set of parents out of house and home. Later on in high school — I think we started our sophomore year — some of the more adventurous souls would score some “adult refreshment” from Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet. Those of us who were Pentecostal or Southern Baptist usually relied on the Presbyterians or the handful of Episcopalians to take care of the alcohol needs. Pentecostal parents — like Mama — really didn’t drink and the Southern Baptist parents managed to hide their liquor stashes in much more difficult to find locations. One particular young lady who will go nameless, always brought a jar of very nice vodka . . . until she finally learned — the hard way of course — that one can only replace JUST SO MUCH vodka with water before Daddy noticed. Fortunately for her, she had an extremely cool older brother who was a Clemson University student and complete Helion and gave his baby sister carte blanche to throw him under the bus with their parents whenever necessary.

Just as a reflection though, I don’t remember our parties ever getting completely out of hand; well, except for that ONE time at Duane’s when his parents were in Europe for a week and we had a weekend long bash with over 250 people showing up, but other than that, we didn’t go for some of the insanity I’ve seen among high schoolers (and even middle schoolers) of this generation. A little liquor WOULD change the dynamic somewhat, just as it always has since Jesus turned the water to wine in Cana of Galilee, but except for a few fights that produced more bruised feelings than bruises and a strange relationship or twelve, we didn’t get nearly as rowdy as today’s bunch. Of course, our parents probably thought the same thing about THEIR generation since they were certain we were in the grip of the Antichrist.

 

Like this, only LOTS more kids.

I remember two particular incidents from those days quite well. Once, around this time in April of our senior year, a great cloud of us met up at one of the girls’ lakehouses and piled on for a pontoon ride around Lake Greenwood. About ten o’clock in the morning, I noticed Robby counting people. I asked him what in the world he was doing and he said, “look around.” I picked up his drift then. We had around 30 people divided between two pontoons and of those 30, twenty-six were in our second period math class . . . which just happened to be meeting at that very moment back at school — with a grand total of 2 people in it, if they had actually shown up.

 

The second incident was during the spring of our tenth grade year. Robby picked me up and told me we weren’t going to school, which was fine with me. I just ran back in the house and left Mama a note so she’d know what to say when the school called her after she got off third shift. Then we picked Duane up in Laurens as per our SOP and headed to the Overbays. It was a warm enough day to swim if anyone wanted to–unlike yours truly who couldn’t, and still can’t, swim. The four Overbay brothers had an awesome Olympic sized pool with no fence around it. That made one of the more interesting water sports at their house the “water walking contest” where someone would get about twenty yards back from the deep end and take off at a dead sprint right out onto the water to see how many steps he (and it was ALWAYS “he”) could take before getting pulled over by the long arm of the law of gravity.

That wasn’t what made this day special though. THIS day, Robby made the grave mistake of letting people talk him into driving his car. Robby was one of the few of us with night licenses and a car. Unwisely, he started sitting in the back while different folks took the trusty little ’83 Pontiac Phoenix Hatchback out for a spin.

A little browner than this, but a pretty good likeness.

The first ten or fifteen trips actually went quite well and it was getting about time to shut the party down anyway when Robby, in a total lapse of judgment, let Kathryn get behind the wheel with Carolyn riding shotgun.

The trip out was fine. Kathryn guided the little brown car up the gravel driveway and out to the stop sign about a mile away with no problem. She was doing great on the trip back in as well when the car skidded ever so slightly on some loose gravel at the head of the drive.

Now, keep your feet clean for a while and I’ll tell you the Paul Harvey in my next installment.

Love y’all 🙂