Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mark vs. The Grouse



My friend Erika recently had a bird dive-bomb her not once, but twice during the same jog. My friend Michelle has twice been a victim of bird attacks, several years apart. Hell, even a wayward seagull possibly cost the Kansas City Royals a game the other night, which led to a hilarious Joe Posnanski post detailing the various comical misfortunes of the Royals franchise over the last 15 years.

With all of this evidence stacking up, one thing is certain: birds are slowly turning against us. Were it not for the decorative birdhouses we've built to appease them, they might well have begun the full-fledged assault already.

I myself have particular, painful, knowledge of just how vicious our avian adversaries can be. My grade school sat at the bottom of a hill behind my house, and thus every morning I'd set out down the hill to get to class. The hill itself was rather rough, covered in grass and bushes and whatnot, but there was one clear path that ran along a small trench that went almost directly from my backyard gate to the schoolyard below.

One catch: the trench was also an ideal nesting place. Almost every day I walked down that hill to school, I was accosted by a grouse that leapt up to squawk at me for getting too close to its babies. I'm pretty certain that it wasn't just one bird, either, that was just stalking me Jaws-style. The attacks came at various points along the path, so I'm guessing it was a whole mess of grouses that were happily living there like it was their own personal Sesame Street, only to occasionally rise up against the big galoot of a 12-year-old that invaded their personal space twice a day. So while I could count on an attack coming on a more-or-less daily basis, I never knew where specifically the grouse would pounce. Though it was a group of birds, I simply referred to my nemesis as 'The Grouse' since for some reason I never attacked twice in any one given trip up or down the hill. It was almost like the birds were sitting in a group drawing straws, and on Tuesday it would be, say, Squawky's turn, he'd jump out at me, and then Squawky would go back to the gang and accept some high-fives and backslaps.

You might ask, of course, why didn't I take a different path down the hill? As I said, it was a rough hill. And there was a path RIGHT THERE. It was a matter of principle. I could've also taken the long way around my block and walked down to the school down the concrete steps, but that would've taken an extra 10 minutes, and it was a journey I rarely took unless it was raining (since a grouse attack on a muddy hill is potentially disastrous) or I was walking home with someone. And, I refer to my earlier quote....it's a matter of principle. Here I was, blessed with a school literally in my backyard and I wasn't going to throw away that perk of a short commute just over a few pesky grouses.

And my principles stood strong, since I eventually won that battle. By the eighth grade, the birds stopped attacking. The real reason for this cease-fire was probably due to, I dunno, the increased development in the area, so the birds took off. But if you talk to my mother, it's because one day, she saw a hawk circling around in the sky and taking periodic dives towards the hill. So my mum grabs a broom, goes outside, and starts waving the broom in the air in an attempt to scare off the hawk and 'save' the grouse's nests. Since this event coincided with the start of my eighth grade year and the end of the attacks, she claims that by chasing off the hawk, The Grouse (using their Borg-like hive mind) appreciated the gesture and let me pass by as a sign of respect towards our family.

Problems abound, of course. It is 100 percent more likely that the hawk was diving at a squirrel or rabbit, rather than a grouse nest. Also, I'm pretty sure the grouses didn't get another in a town hall-meeting format and announce that now the Broom Lady's son was to be given free passageway through their territory. A grouse can't hold a gavel, so how would they know when to stop and start the meeting, anyway?

But, since the attacks stopped, my mother's native creation myth persists to this day. Hey, what the hell, maybe that was the reason, for all I know about a bird's mind operates. All I know is that I was able to confidently stroll up and down that hill like a regular Fast Happy Cat without worrying that at any moment, a squawking pile of feathers was going to appear as if from nowhere.

So to all my friends, colleagues and American League Central teams who are being beset by bird intervention in their lives, never fear. All your problems can be solved by a middle-aged woman with a broom.

(Bonus: I wrote a song about the experience here!)

No comments: