It's Not A Raven

Dana S. Ellingwood

© Copyright 2024 by Dana S. Ellingwood

Image by rfotostock from Pixabay
Image by rfotostock from Pixabay

Death was imminent as sadly I bent to comfort my beloved orange tabby of seventeen years; named Marvin. He’d spent all of his nine lives barely escaping the grim reaper.

Imagine my horror as I rose and looking out our large sliding glass doors to the patio, saw perched on one of the lawn chairs the largest bird I’d ever seen staring at us.

The hairs on my arms stood up, goose bumps rose and the shackles of my mind lifted and raced with shades of Edgar Allen Poe and “The Raven.” DEATH was at my door and casting a dreaded darkness upon the threshold.

I stood there petrified, aghast at what was big as life only a few feet from me. It spread its wings and my eyeballs nearly popped from their sockets. It was enormous. Its wings spanned at least three feet.

Courage was scrambling to take a foothold. After all there was glass separating it and me and poor Marvin. I inched my way forward, slowly, to the phone at my antique desk, not inches from where the bird sat. Lifting the receiver, I dialed my husband at his office.

When he answered I proceeded to explain the situation. His response, “What is it a blackbird?”

“No,” I said, “it’s bigger than a blackbird.”

“Okay, so it’s a raven.”

“No, it’s bigger than a raven.”

I heard his cohorts laughing in the background as they overheard his conversation with me. Further description from me only garnered more giggling and intensified the absurdity of the situation and deepened his disbelief. All the while the mysterious bird eyed me scrutinizing my every move.

I felt distinctly uncomfortable under his watch and was at a loss as to what to do. I followed the edict when unsure do nothing. I went about my business and a while later the bird had gone, or so I thought.

Before I opened the sliding glass doors I peered outside in every direction. When I was satisfied no unusually large birds were about, I cautiously ventured out into the garden. I searched the gazebo, the orange tree, the wood pile, flowerbeds, and finally the grapefruit tree. Almost satisfied the bird had vanished I began to retreat back to the house when a grapefruit dropped and I instinctually jumped back lost my balance and fell on my keister. Flat on my back under the grapefruit tree I saw a speckled head and dark piercing eyes glaring at me from a limb two feet above me.

The bird had the definite tactical advantage. If it was going to attack it would do so now. Don’t panic I told myself. Move slowly, stay reclining and inch your way out from under the tree and then rise and run like hell.

I escaped with a few minor scrapes and retreated into the house.

When the children came home from school, I forbade them from going into the yard. They tried to see the bird from the safe side of the glass, but nothing, not even a feather was visible. When their father came home it was already dark outside and even with patio lights there was no evidence that I had had a strange bird visitation. Disbelief and laughter ensued at the dinner table over what was deemed my illusory bird. Marvin’s dying and I’m hallucinating and conjuring up Hitchcockian tales of the dark side was the general consensus.

I was not amused, but I couldn’t blame them for not believing me or thinking I was exaggerating. I had no proof.

The next day after everyone had left, I again ventured into the yard, looking every which way as I went. I approached the grapefruit tree with some trepidation. Before I could sneak quietly under its branches there was a large whoosh and the bird alit directly in front of me. I froze. The bird just looked at me. I began to sense the bird wanted something from me and it wasn’t my jugular or dear listless Marvin.

I began talking to it. It didn’t move; it just seemed to be listening. It was obviously a bird of prey. Its size and its sharp talons were enough to determine that. So why was it in our backyard and what did it want? Was it literally a harbinger of doom or was there a more reasonable explanation for its sudden appearance?

Aside from our yard and the grapefruit tree having become its sanctuary, I observed another peculiarity; it didn’t so much fly as swoop in staccato flutters and hops. Mulling this strangeness over led me to the logical assumption that it must be injured. If it couldn’t fly it also couldn’t hunt and must therefore also be hungry. I decided to find out.

As my footsteps receded into the house the bird just watched. I went in and took out some raw kidney I kept for Marvin and chopped it up into small bite size pieces. I put the pieces in an empty plastic margarine tub and took it out side to the grapefruit tree. The bird had moved under the tree and now stood by the trunk of the tree. I put the tub down near the tree and retraced my steps back to the patio and waited patiently.

After a few minutes the bird emerged, looked at me from a distance and at the food and with one eye cocked in my direction ate the kidney.

Not wanting to be the butt of any more jokes I grabbed my camera, unfortunately not a Polaroid, and snapped a few pictures. I also didn’t have a zoom lens and the bird only let me get so close before it hopped back into the tree.

I spent the rest of the day on the telephone to a myriad of animal agencies from the SPCA to the Fish and Game Department. Most of them offered assistance, but their method of capture and what they intended to do with the bird once it was trapped was not to my liking. I love animals and refuse to have any mistreated while in my attendance or with my knowledge. I finally located a veterinarian who specialized in birds. He gave me the name of an organization called The Wild Bird Rescue.

I called and got a message machine. Not too promising, but the voice on the machine was kind, so I left my number. That afternoon I received a return call from a lady named Taffy. It turned out she alone, constituted the Wild Bird Rescue along with occasional volunteers. She was as concerned and loving as the timber of her voice had indicated on her machine.

When I finished relating my somewhat bizarre story to her, she didn’t seem surprised at all. She told me I probably had an injured hawk in the yard and feeding him raw kidney was absolutely correct. She asked me if I could hang on one more day until she could manage a rescue the following day. I answered in the affirmative.

The following day Taffy arrived on schedule and together we traipsed through the yard to the grapefruit tree. She withdrew a towel from her satchel and requested my assistance. She directed me to draw the bird’s attention while she snuck up from behind the bird and gently draped the towel over the bird’s head. In this way, and obviously practiced, she was able to wrangle the bird from the tree and onto the lawn. There she identified it as a Red-tailed Hawk with a wing span of over three feet, but with several BB shots in its right wing preventing it from free flight.

She gently lifted it into the cage she had brought and assured me it would be tended to by a vet, rehabilitated and then allowed to fly free in the woodlands, its natural habitat. She further stated that the bird had chosen me and our yard, specifically, and was indeed a lucky Buteo Jamaicensis, its genus, because being a large bird of prey it surely would have ended up quite dead in someone else’s back yard.

Uncannily, or not, my family was never able to view the bird first hand. Until I had the pictures developed and they could see for themselves that the supposed figment of my imagination was not a figment, or an abnormally large Raven, as my husband had insisted. Instead, my tale of wild bird landings no longer remained a tall and wild tale.

Several weeks later I called Taffy and she happily reported that my red-tailed friend was completely mended and had been released that Tuesday to soar high into the sky. She said he circled once as if to say thank you and gracefully and gratefully glided away.

That same Tuesday Marvin died. Coincidence? Probably. But I’d like to think his spirit went soaring with my red-tailed friend whom I was able to help save.

In the weeks that followed Taffy drafted me as a volunteer to tend to baby birds until they had matured enough to be released.

The experience not only helped me through the mourning of Marvin but fostered a renewed faith in humanity and enhanced my appreciation of the wonders of life.

I have been writing since high school, but acting was my preferred ambition. I was married, had two children and when my husband entered into a business it was necessary for me to go to community college to learn bookkeeping and payroll. While there I decided to take a short story course wondering if I had any talent for it at all. Much to my pleasure and surprise the professor chose me and a few others in the class to be in an advanced class.  Later I took an adult writing class at UCLA where once again I was spurred on by the professor. I am not officially published, but did self-publish a little picture book called "Whiskers Who Am I, " available on Amazon. 

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