The Neighborhood Celebrity
© Copyright 2023 by Abbie Creed
Photo by Jacques Le Henaff on Unsplash.
The neighbor children found this baby sparrow that had fallen out of the nest and was in danger of being devoured by a family dog. My son Kelly was known to all the neighbor children as the big kid who took care of animals. But this one looked as if it was beyond Kelly’s fixing. It appeared to have tissue, skin, and no feathers. Looking at the poor thing was sad; you could see its insides through its skin.
Kelly called the Audubon Society to get information about birds. A kind gentleman there tried to be positive about the poor little bird but felt it had little to no chance of survival. However, he gave Kelly a list of things to do such as making food using oatmeal, cottage cheese and Karo syrup. Kelly made a paste in a small bowl and cut up one of his artist brushes, leaving just four small bristles as a means of feeding the bird. Using his ability to communicate with this little critter by making a clicking noise with his teeth, the baby bird opened its beak as Kelly gently picked up some of the mixture on the bristles of the brush and poked it down the bird’s throat. These were directions given to him by the kind man on the other end of the phone. He said mama birds push the food through the beaks of their babies and into the gullet. This same routine was repeated many times a day for several weeks.
To everyone’s amazement, Chip, Kelly’s name for the bird, was thriving. However, being a bird’s mama was extremely time consuming. The foot of Kelly’s bed became the bird’s nest. Every morning at sunup, that baby bird started pulling Kelly’s neck hairs to wake him and remind him that it was time to eat. After a week or so, Chip began to have a few feathers and was gaining weight.
We had a cat in our family at that time and it was quite a feat to keep that cat out of Kelly’s room. As the bird began to flit around, the cat became more curious about the noise behind the closed door. During the day, Kelly took the bird to the basement where it had more room, so the shift began, to keep the basement door closed so the cat could not go downstairs.
During these critical days, Kelly was in constant touch with the gentleman at the Audubon Society. When he felt it was time to change the bird’s formula to something a bit more substantial, Kelly switched to wild bird seed, but it had to be crushed up. Kelly did this by putting it on the driveway and crushing it with a hammer. Chip learned to feed himself. Kelly took him outside several times a day for that purpose. He also kept a little food in the basement.
Chip became the pride of the neighbor children. They came often to visit him in the basement. Kelly had taught them to hold their finger out, click their teeth and Chip would jump up and sit on their fingers. Chip also liked to give kisses on the cheeks, and rocking on the rung of the wooden rocking chair in the basement.
The whole family was getting overly attached to that little bird. But as directed by the gentleman from Audubon, it was time to teach the bird to fly. The routine was for Kelly’s brother to stand in the open window of his second-floor bedroom while Kelly went down to the back yard and with his clicking sound, call Chip to fly down. After several tries that baby accomplished flying down. When it was time to reverse the procedure Kelly stood in his bedroom window, while his brother took the bird to the backyard. It took a few more tries to accomplish flying up. But once that was accomplished Chip flew all over the yard, but at night he wanted inside Kelly’s bedroom.
The next lesson for Chip was exceedingly difficult for Kelly. He was advised not to let Chip in at night. He and the bird had slept together most of the early days of summer and now he would have to be the one to stop it. That little bird slept on Kelly’s windowsill with the screen in the window separating them the rest of the summer. After Chip had learned to crack the bird seed himself, he did not have to wake Kelly to have breakfast.
Chip had a broken front claw that was quite noticeable, so it was not difficult for Kelly, using his binoculars, to keep an eye on Chip when he was outside. He did not go far from home though he had learned to fly with ease. One day when Kelly went to the swimming pool, he asked me to let Chip stay in the basement. He was afraid that if he followed him, he might not know how to get home. There I was babysitting a baby bird on a hot summer afternoon. But somehow, one of Kelly’s brothers had left the basement door open and Chip got out. However, I did not know it.
As Kelly was returning from the pool, riding his bike down Winston Avenue, a bird took a flying dive at him and landed on his shoulder to finish the ride home. Kelly knew it was Chip. Kelly was kind to me. He did not complain to me about Chip getting out of the house. I think he was a little too excited that Chip had landed on his shoulder for the ride home.
All summer, Chip was spotted in the backyard. The gentleman from the Audubon Society was beyond excited that this little sparrow had survived and had become such a special neighborhood celebrity. Kelly watched for Chip all winter long and on occasion would spot him in the trees nearby. The next summer as well, Chip could be seen in the neighborhood. After all, Winston Avenue was his home, and all of our family and the neighbor children were his family. What a fun filled year that was!