Eltee’s Daily Freewrite 5.14.09–First Draft

Posted: May 14, 2009 by eltee in Eltee

When I was seven and my brother Kelly eleven, he spent the entire summer trying to catch a bird.  Our grandfather told us that if we could put salt on a bird’s tail we could catch it and it would be our devoted pet.  The very idea fired Kelly’s imagination, and he decided he had to accomplish this goal. 

 At first Kelly simply took granny’s salt shaker from the kitchen and openly stalked any bird landing in our yard.  The glass container with stainless steel lid made hundreds of trips around the house, clutched in Kelly’s sweaty hand, as he slithered down the side of the house sneaking into the periphery of the bird’s vision, which always flew away.  Granny would call from the house from time to time “Son!  Bring me my salt back!  I’ve got beans in the pot!” and he’d put the shaker back on the stove, and wait for another opportunity. 

 I soon grew bored.  Stalking.  Waiting.  Slithering.  None of these qualified as fun for me; at seven years I could see only the freedom my first big girl’s bike offered me that summer.  Patience has never been my strong suit, even in childhood.  He worked methodically, not racing to catch a bird, but thoughtfully.  He was a marathon runner ready for the duration, not a sprinter like me, only good for the shortest of times.  While Kelly became bored with the style of the hunt, he didn’t get bored of the hunt itself. 

 His second incarnation of the quest to salt a bird’s tail involved an intricate system of traps that he designed.  He placed a cardboard box held up by a Y shaped stick under the neighbor’s weeping willow tree.  He tied a cord to the stick, and placed birdseed and bread under the box.  His goal was to entice an unsuspecting bird to waddle under the box, where he would yank the string, pulling out the prop.  The box would drop over the bird, trapping it, until Kelly could get his salt-shaker filled hand under the cardboard to do the deed. 

I don’t know how many hours he sat there, under the tree, waiting for the bird.  The long willow fronds hung down, making a nice shaded cool area, and the dirt under the tree was comfortable for resting.  When my legs grew weary of endless pumping the bike up and down our street I would go rest under the green tent with him, flopping down in the cool dirt and leaves, usually irritating him by my noisy entrance, which he avowed scared away the birds who were JUST THEN read y to have taken the bait if I hadn’t made so much noise and scared them away. 

 As the summer progressed Kelly continued his silent slow quest.  I remember his curly red hair and freckled face filled with excitement. He hid his hair under a green bath towel granny allowed him to take out and use as camouflage.  He believed for a while that the shade of his hair, not being something found in nature, was perhaps the reason the bird didn’t take his delectable offerings. 

 I see him now in my mind’s eye, head towel draped, hands clasping string and salt shaker, legs crossed Indian style under the canopy of the weeping willow.  In my mind the light shines through the leaves, dappling the scene, and I wish to go back, for just a brief moment, to my childhood, and revisit the home of our youth.

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