The Red Baron
Cole took his hands off of the limb he was holding onto to protect his face from the attacking red bird. Next thing he knew, he was on the ground crying. Overhead, the big red bird sang in triumph, and glared down at the child. Cole wiped the dust and tears from his face and glared right back at his attacker. He had not fallen far, but it had been quite a scare, and if his parents had seen him fall they would forbid him from climbing his tree again.
To the birds dismay Cole began yet another assent up the giant magnolia tree. This time hugging the trunk to offer some protection against the birds powerful beak. He had to do something to free his tree from the “red baron”, and this time he had a plan.
His father had told him that as long as the bird was nesting up at the top of the tree he would not be able to safely climb up it. That it was effectively the birds tree until after spring.
“It just ain’t fair.” Cole angrily muttered to himself.
He plotted revenge on the big red bird. This time he would get a stick and knock the nest out of the tree so the bird would not have a reason to keep him from his favorite hang out. Out of the entire seven acres of land that made up his yard, most of which was inhabited by multiple decade old pecan trees, this was the only tree that he was able to climb.
Not without much concern from his parents, Cole loved heights, and he really was not supposed to be climbing as high as the nest was in the tree. The magnolia tree was over forty feet high and the nest was about a third of the way up there, resting in a nook at the end of a thick branch. Though It was still close enough for Cole to jab it with a stick, and knock it out of place. He was almost there.
Out of the corner of his eye was a red bolt of lightening and then a flash a pain in his arm. This only fueled his rage, and he climbed like a spider monkey towards the nest. Where the branches were too thick for a direct dive bomb from the bird. Soon enough, he reached his goal.
Cole straddled the limb with his legs and bounced back and forth on it trying to knock the nest from the tree, but that did not work. Instead he reached over and broke a long and dry stick off the trunk of the tree and reached out and punched the nest with the blunt end of it. Again, the “red baron” came in for another kamikaze attack. Though this time Cole was ready.
Because of the thick branches the birds descent was significantly slowed down and the young boy was able to hit the bird with a lucky swipe of the stick. This sent the bird plummeting down to Earth, leaving it temporarily crippled and unable to fly. Just a second later, the birds nest came crashing down with her.
‘Triumph!’ Thought the boy.
He climbed down the tree to finish off the bird and its nest, but instead of feeling the strength and hatred for the bird to complete his revenge he felt something tugging at his heart. Cole jumped out of the tree and looked at the scattered birds nest laying upon the ground and frowned. No longer was the bird flying and making alarming noises, now it jumped around flaunting its injured wing, desperately trying to catch Cole’s attention in a last ditch attempt to lead him away from her nest.
The boy felt pitiful, absolutely pitiful. He looked upon the defeated bird that he had felt so much hatred for and started to cry.
“I’m sorry red bird, I’m sorry, I just wanted you to leave me alone.” He said through sobs.
Cole looked back into the tree, and had an idea. Maybe he could replace the birds nest! It was the least he could, but when he bent over to pick up the nest he realized that the eggs were in pieces. Cole was traumatized, because now he realized that those three little blue stones were lives. That maybe one day they would be as graceful and protective as the red bird.
With a heavy heart, he reflected on what he had done. This was the first time he had ever felt this way before, and he did not like it. He looked over at the mother bird with a new kind of clarity and understanding. For the first time he saw the white spots on the birds wings, and he wondered if the birds babies would have had the same white spots.
That night he had a nightmare that he was a bird trying to protect their nest from an animal. No matter how hard he tried the thing would not stop advancing on his nest. He saw himself as a big, dark, and menacing figure that had nothing but evil in mind. Cole as the bird could not understand what was happening.
He woke up with a start. It was early dawn outside and the suns rays were breaking through the crack in his window blinds. The birds did not seem to be themselves today, and instead they sang a low, mournful, and hostile song…
The old minister shook slightly as he stepped out of the car while his grandson held onto his arm to help steady him. He took a deep breath of air and opened his eyes. Through the fog in his vision he could see a long gravel road surrounded by thick blooming pecan trees. The old man smiled, it was his boy hood home. Though the house had changed, and the trees were even larger, he could still recognize everything.
He immediately started walking towards the back of the house.
“There it is.” He whispered to his grandson and pointed to the gnarled and knotted magnolia tree.
The old minister approached the tree and placed his calloused hand onto the rough trunk. He sighed.
“I wanted to show you something.” His grandson smiled.
“What else is there?” He asked.
“Look up Paw Paw. Look at the birds in the tree.”
Maybe it was just the cataracts in his eyes playing tricks on him, but what he thought he saw was something truly remarkable. Through the thick limbs and branches of the tree was two birds. Two red birds with white spots on their wings.
“I remembered the story of what made you want to be a preacher. So I found the place where you grew up and when I asked the family that lives here now about the tree, they mentioned the birds, and I wanted you to see that you did not destroy a generation.” He said to Cole.
“Even after sixty years they’re still there.” Said Cole.
“God has many mysterious ways Paw Paw.” His grandson said.
“I’ve been around seventy nine years, and he still blows my mind.”
They stood there together for the rest of the afternoon, Cole’s grandson knew little of the peace that he had brought his “Paw Paw.” Who showed little of the emotions he felt, until the boy saw the tears in his eyes, and knew that he had done something powerful…