I’d put in several hours of yard work in the afternoon, and though the temperature wasn’t too bad, the humidity was thick enough to lick.
After a shower, I slipped on some shorts, put on my favorite Spook House Saints Tee Shirt, poured a glass of red wine and stepped out to the stone benches in the yard.
I’d only been out there a moment when I heard a commotion coming from the chicken pen, so I set my glass on the bench and walked down to assess the situation.
I peered through the wire front of the roosting shed expecting to see an opossum (we just called them possums), a gofer, chicken hawk or the big honkin’ chicken snake that sometimes comes up from the barn for a dozen eggs.
What I saw was a mourning dove the color of ash. It was backed into a corner and making a pitiful cooing sound.
Apparently she’d been lured into the shed by the scratch feed that I put in the feeders for the chickens, and she couldn't find her way out.
Zeus, the mighty rooster, was standing in the doorway blocking the only exit. He was cackling and scratching up a cloud of dust to show the small bird that he was the king of the roost. He must have looked like a giant to the dove cowering in the corner.
I stepped in the fence and walked toward the roosting shed to help free the dove. Zeus apparently hasn't grasped the concept of size yet because he stood ready to block my entrance to the shed.
I put a tennis shoe on his behind and he flapped out into the yard, chicken cursing me all the way.
The young dove threw herself against the wire fence enclosing the shed, in an attempt to escape. You could see terror in her eyes.
I inched forward, talking in a low even-toned voice. She'd been evading Zeus and trying to free herself from the room so long that she was exhausted.
I stooped over slowly and gently cupped my hands around her. I could feel her tiny heart thumping against my fingers like a tiny jackhammer. I stepped over to the door and opened my hands.
She sat there for a moment on the palm of my hand trying to decide what to do. I had a chance to see her up close and realized just how beautiful she was.
Her breast feathers were as pink as a blush. There were black-tipped feathers mixed in with grey to make her wings look as if they had black spots. Once she got her bearings, she launched out of my hands and landed on a nearby branch. She turned to face me for a long moment before flying off.
I wish there was some way of knowing what was going through her head. Maybe she was simply resting to gather strength, or perhaps she turned to say, "You just wait mister, I'll leave a gift on your truck tomorrow."
I choose to believe that she was saying, "Thank you, sir, for a helping hand."