I will make you brooches
and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning
and star-shine at night.
-Robert Louis Stevenson
OK! Long and somewhat embarrassing story with this one.
My favorite books around the second and third grade were the Trixie Belden series. These were Nancy Drew-esque mysteries, but the main characters were farm girls who had to clean out the chicken coop and groom their horses before school. They went camping, belonged to 4H, and in the first book Trixie’s little brother is bitten by a copperhead. (Not to worry! She applies a tourniquet and sucks out the poison, and now we know what to do in case of snakebite.)
Ah, but there was more to the Beldens than just mysterious doings and farm life. The Belden kids and their best friends also form a secret club with the stated purpose of helping people.
And their secret call is the whistle of the bob-white.
Strategically placing their fingers to their lips, they would issue a shrill “bob-WHITE! bob-WHITE!” Many a time Trixie is saved from evil-doers by whistling at just the right moment.
You can make fun of it all you like. They were awesome books and I yearned for the Beldens’ simple farm lives, their wonderful parents, their sense of family and friendship and civic duty. I read the whole series again at 30 years old and loved it just as much as I did at seven years old.
Fast forward to real life and present day- well, last weekend, if we are splitting hairs. I am visiting a farm in Northern Pennsylvania, it is 5:40 a.m., and it is raining. I had hoped to get out and take some pictures, but I am tired and lazy, and it’s raining. I am inclined to go back to bed.
And then I hear it.
I’d never heard it before, but it is unmistakable. It sounds, basically, like an otherworldly bird that can speak its name, albeit somewhat overdramatically.
So now I’m outside, in the rain, tracking a bobwhite.
He is larger than I expected; taller than a jay but smaller than a crow. And round. He is very roly-poly, a gourd with legs, and he runs away from me; quick little feet racing along the gravel road.
He looks a dignified fat man in a too-small coat, trotting as fast as his little legs will take him, with studied nonchalance; away, away from the crazy lady with a camera in the rain.
Maybe in sunshine I would have had a fighting chance. Alas, I managed no clear photos of Mr. Bobwhite. I have lots of blurry ones if you’re interested.
Eventually tiring of my nonsense, he retreated high into a tree, and I managed this silhouette, which I have convinced myself is “arty”.
Arty or no, it was the highlight of my weekend.
Thanks Tim! When can I go again?