Children teach parents to have open minds and hearts

Published 12:20 am Saturday, September 2, 2006

Since we moved to the Spring Meadow farm in 1961 we have owned it in partnership with all the critters, large and small, that live here. We have been especially involved with the bird life from the tiny hummers to the giant eagle that occasionally floats overhead surveying the countryside from among the low hanging clouds that float in from the gulf.

Years ago we parked our car on row 8 at Wal-Mart and were walking toward the store when Johnie laid her hand on my arm and asked, “Do you hear the bluebird?” We stopped for a minute and located the little guy, perched on top of the row 8 sign, announcing to the world that this parking lot and all the cars in it were his territory.

My wife literally has thousands of bird pictures taken out at our place. Hundreds of them are enlarged for framing. For example, several years ago, a Johnie’s request, I backed our camper pickup within 30 feet of one of our bluebird houses and left it there for about four weeks. Johnie made herself comfortable with a chair and long range camera in the truck in order to take pictures of a pair of bluebirds as they gathered grass for their nest, laid their eggs, hatched and fed the little ones until they feathered and flew away.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

During all these years we have raised bluebirds in five houses that are well spaced to avoid territorial disputes. Virtually all of the houses are occupied in the spring and on a few occasions a pair will raise two nestings in one summer. We estimate that we raise from 20 to 30 bluebirds every year.

Of course, not all of the chicks survive. Several years ago we were watching a hungry hawk circle the bluebird house down toward the spring branch when it suddenly swooped down, caught the little mother, and made off with her. She had been busy sitting on top of the bird house bravely trying to protect her little ones. Now they would die in the nest.

But Johnie was determined to save them. From somewhere she had learned to mix baby food and pablum for baby blue birds. The daddy bluebird did his part as he fed grubs and other insects to the little ones in the morning and watched from a nearby pecan tree limb when Johnie undertook to fill their open beaks in the evening. They did just fine, grew fat, feathered, and flew away on schedule.

When people visit us on the farm they often notice the abundance of bird life; especially the intermingling of birdsongs. The simple song of the cardinals, the harsh scolding cry of the blue jays, the cawing of a flock of crows, and the soft cooing of the doves intermingle and somehow manage to blend, forming a sound track for a peaceful country setting. Among the many birdsongs we often hear the happy chattering of bluebirds. Nest mates chatter as they engage in playful games that are typical of most young things. They dive and swirl around one another in ways that reminds one of a little of playful pups.

Bluebirds often bathe together as though the first one in says, “come on in, the water’s fine.” If we can locate it, Johnie once took a picture of five little bluebirds bathing together in a bird bath. They were in several different poses and appeared to be imitating a bunch of boys down at the swimming hole. In fact she title the picture, “The ole swimmin’ hole.”

We first started raising Bluebirds in Eastern Oklahoma. I has just returned from duty as chaplain at the end of World War Two. While I was gone Stan Jr. had grown into an assertive little guy and Mark was born. (The qualified briefly as army brats.) One evening in the spring of ‘46 we went to see the new Disney movie, Song of the South. At his age Stan entered whole heartedly into the story. In one of scenes a Bluebird flew around the head of grandfatherly old slave while he sang, “Zippity Do Dah.” The bird landed on his shoulder when he came to the words,

“There’s a Bluebird on my shoulder. It’s the truth. It’s actual. Everything is satisfactual.”

That week I bought our first Bluebird house and put it up in our south yard. To Stan’s delight a pair of Bluebirds quickly found it. In the ensuring days they built a nest in it and hatched a family of four tiny Bluebirds. Stan and Carol, his little blonde-haired playmate, spent many happy hours watching the birds as they collected material for their nest, laid eggs and brought insects for their babies after the eggs hatched. The climax of the event occurred when the babies, on a bright sunny day, launched themselves out into the world.

It occurs to me that all new parents are beginners in the business of parenting and our best teachers are our children. Through experiences like this one Johnie and I learned that adults are welcomed into the fantasy world of children if we enter it knowing that it is both fanciful and true. Hearts are open, minds are free, and the kingdom of Heaven is like one of these. Matthew 19:14.