The Adventures of White Robin, p.1
The Adventures of White Robin
Copyright 2012 Lee King
This story is for my grandchildren.
The Adventures of White Robin
Granny Gray Squirrel scurried up the apple tree and sat next to White Robin. She peered over at Cindy, and then to Falcon Eddie and the scouts with her wise and knowing eyes.
White Robin looked to the lawn beside Drew’s cabin and studied Dark Raven and Tar Raven performing the ancient crow ritual for the dearly departed. He turned to Rick’s trailer, thinking of Levi.
“Why did He choose me, Granny?”
She glanced at Dark Raven and Tar Raven, then to Rick’s trailer.
“No one knows how or why the Great Spirit chooses His leaders, little bird. But one thing is certain for sure; we are all blessed to have them.”
It was late April, the second spring nesting season was nearly over, and still Lola Robin’s nest was empty. She had weaved her nest with strings of Bermuda grass and limber twigs from a willow, around a five-fingered fork in an apple tree, and plastered it with a thick coat of gray clay. Even if a fierce wind blew the apple tree over, her nest would likely still be intact.
Lola Robin’s kingdom was located in a one-traffic-light town in the Ozark Mountains near the northwest corner of Arkansas. The side street out front of Lola’s apple tree was just a narrow lane. It started at the stop sign on Johnson Street at the top of the hill, slightly sloped past the apple orchard for three blocks, and dead-ended at a ranch house that was set on five acres of pasture land. On the south side of the apple orchard, the lady in the big house planted her vegetable garden. At the end of the garden, in the same direction the sun sets, there was an old barn. It had a rusty tin roof with faded red cypress planks on the sides. A small flock of pigeons lived in the rafters. They built ramshackle nests and made loud cooing noises all night long according to Lola and her best friend Granny Gray Squirrel. They slept most of the day and waited for the lady in the big house that faced Johnson Street to bring seeds and table scraps to the feeder box.
Lola did not believe in handouts; it was against robin creed. She worked very hard at finding her food—real food: worms and bugs. She could hear the baby pigeons constantly cheeping for food. She wished she could take a juicy red-worm over to them, but unlike the redbirds and the house sparrows, the pigeons would not permit such an act. They did not trust anyone.
On the other side of the narrow little side street a huge silver maple tree grew, midway between a cabin-house and an abandoned mobile home. Six kids could not link hands around the trunk. Midway up the tree, in a woodpecker hole, five tiny heads poked out for the first time.
“My goodness,” Lola Robin squawked. “That’s like having two litters in one! We’re overrun with squirrels already.”
“But aren’t they adorable!” Granny Gray squirrel said, on her way past Lola Robin’s nest. She was heading over there to visit her new grandbabies, running through the treetops almost as fast as Lola Robin could fly. If not for the white patch of hair between Granny Gray Squirrel’s eyes Lola Robin might not know her from any other squirrel.
“You just make sure they stay out of my apple tree,” Lola joked.
Granny Gray Squirrel looked over her shoulder at Lola. “Hush, Lola! You’re just jealous because I have grandbabies and you still don’t have any… Oh, I’m sorry! That came out all wrong.”
Next door to the rancher’s house at the end of the side street, a graying man named Rick lived in a singlewide mobile-home on a rise in the land at the back of his lot. Rick had a small backyard and a huge front yard. Rick and Drew could stand on their porches and holler to each other across the gulch.
Rick had adopted a pet crow, who he named Levi. Levi was free to come and go as he pleased. Levi had a unique talent. He could scream like a woman. His first words were, “Help me! Help me!”The whole kingdom would never forget the first time they heard those words screamed out from an abandoned mobile home down in the gulch between Rick and Drew’s property, during the darkest hours of a cold, cold January night. Nor would they forget all the emergency vehicles, with their bright flashing lights, and the many officers searching the kingdom on foot with flashlights.
Just after the sun went down behind the old red barn where the pigeons lived, Granny Gray Squirrel told her grandbabies, “Go deep inside the den tree, cling to your momma, and don’t be peeking out the door. A storm is coming, my babies.” She hugged each one, then hurried to the top of the huge maple tree and began rustling the limbs and barking loudly. Other granny squirrels at the outer reaches of her signal did the same, and so on, probably throughout the whole region. Satisfied that her warning had gotten through, Granny Gray took off across the treetops, heading for her summer home in a large holly bush that had grown almost as big as the courthouse Christmas tree.
Granny Gray’s nest was every bit as sturdy as Lola Robin’s nest, even though it was designed differently. It was round and big as a jack-o-lantern pumpkin, with a small hole at the bottom for an entrance. She had crafted her nest from sticks and twigs, then thatched it expertly well with oak and sycamore leaves. She designed it to allow cool air to pass through it, but also keep the rain out. And since Lola could hear an earthworm crawling through dry grass up to thirty feet away, Granny’s nest was just close enough for Lola Robin to hear her snore, and Lola took great comfort in that sound. As she passed Lola’s nest Granny barked, “Keep your feathers tucked in tight and dig your claws in deep Lola. There’s a terrible storm heading our way.”
“Thank you for worrying about me, Granny Gray. But I knew a terrible storm was heading our way long before you did.”
“I know you did,” Granny said. “I could see it in your eyes. Get some sleep, you delightful ole bird. We may have rocky times in store for us before the sun comes up tomorrow.”
“Indeed we may! Good night, Granny Gray Squirrel.”
“Goodnight, Lola Robin.”
The storm stalled at the foot of the western Ozarks in Oklahoma’s tornado alley and waited for several smaller storms to join it. At daybreak the monster storm advanced east like General Sherman’s army, destroying everything in its path. Daylight was coming in from the east, and a huge black cloud like nighttime returning was closing in on the kingdom from the west.
Drew had seen the weather report on TV. He was standing on his front porch, watching the sky for funnel tails. He could feel the voltage building up for a lightning strike. Just then a lightning bolt struck the giant maple tree where Clara and her baby squirrels lived. The explosion nearly knocked Drew off his feet, and the percussion shattered the windows on that side of the cabin-house. It broke the giant tree in half; well below the woodpecker hole where Clara had made her home. The top half crashed in a splintered heap on Drew’s lawn.
Rick came running down the side street, carrying Levi in a birdcage. “The weatherman said a twister is on the ground and headed straight for us, Drew!”
“I know,” Drew said calmly, and pointed to the western sky. “It’s not on the ground. The funnel is leaping across the trees, looking for open land to travel on.”
“We’ve got to find shelter!”
“Go get Grandma Hokum and take her to the storm cellar. Hurry!”
“What about you?”
“I have to get Rudy,” Drew said. “I’ll be there before you can get the door open.”
Just then a wave of water hit them. The wall cloud dumped rain so
“What about your sister in the big house?” Drew yelled.
“She’s at her lake house,” Rick screamed.
In the howling storm their words sounded as though they were echoing through the culvert pipe under the side street.
Over in the apple orchard, the trees were being whipped wildly. Granny Gray leaped from her nest just after the lightening bolt hit the giant maple tree.
Lola had jumped out of her nest when the first big winds hit and was huddled under Granny’s holly tree, trying to avoid the downpour as much as possible.
“Where are you going Granny—you get back here!
“I have to see about my grandbabies!”
“It’s too dangerous, Granny. You could get swept away! You know that yard floods every time it rains. Stay here with me!”
“Go to the hedge bushes beside the big house, Lola. The house will block the wind. Hurry.”
“I can’t even see the bushes through all this rain,” Lola squawked.
“Go by your sense of direction and cry for help. The sparrows and the red birds will hear you and guide you to the hedges. Go, Lola, go now!”
Like Granny said, the sparrows came out of the hedges when they heard Lola’s frantic clucking. “Come with us, Lola, hurry!” They all hunkered low and scurried over to the hedge bushes, guided by the redbirds’ loud clicking sounds.
The old red barn where the pigeons lived groaned and creaked as if in terrible pain. Loose sheets of tin were banging loudly. Suddenly the roof tore loose from the barn, and then the sides collapsed. Then the whole barn was lifted into the sky. The tornado carried it right over the apple orchard, across the side street, over the top of Drew’s cabin, and dropped it on the vacant lot near the next street over, behind the cabin. If the giant maple tree had not broken in half it would have been crashed into, head on by the barn.
After Granny made it to the Maple tree she set about searching worriedly. She checked inside the den hole; it was empty, just as she feared. But it was still a safe place, high above the floodwater. Granny grabbed a half-drowned baby squirrel that was clinging to a tree limb and headed for the den. On the way she passed another baby squirrel. He grabbed at her legs, pleading for her to help him. He was coughing and blowing blood-bubbles out of his nose. Granny was standing on her hind legs, and the water was already up to her belly and rising fast. She pulled and pulled, but she could not free the squirrel. The trapped little fellow was pinned under a tree branch.
Granny quickly ran over and deposited the squirrel she had in her mouth in the den, then raced back to save the trapped squirrel. In the monsoon rain she could barely see. Granny forged ahead on instinct, battling the fierce wind struggling to keep her footing on the tree branches. Like a butterfly or a moth to a flower, she focused on her target point and willed herself to get there.
The waters had risen and Drew’s backyard had turned into a raging river. By now the trapped squirrel’s head was completely under water… and just a short moment later, he stopped struggling and went limp in Granny Gray’s hands.
Clara, the momma squirrel, was injured badly. She had many broken ribs and was wheezing for air. She was barely clinging to a tree limb with one hand; the raging water was up to her chin. She was too weak to even wheeze out a cry for help. Granny jumped onto the main tree limb and zoomed over to Clara. She reached out and grabbed her by the ear just as the raging water tore Clara’s grip loose. Granny pulled her onto the limb and fixed her safely in a fork.
“Stay here, Clara. I’ll come back for you!”
The squall line passed, and the torrential rain simmered down to a drizzle. Granny had scoured the whole area many times. After a long while of searching she was totally exhausted and had used up almost all of her hope and prayers. Out of five grandbabies only one and his badly injured momma had made it through the storm. Granny Gray Squirrel looked to the sky, shook her fist, and screamed, “Why, Great Spirit! Why did you let this happen to my family?” She put her head in her hands and cried.
Just then Granny heard a “cheep cheep” coming from a ball of straw over by Drew’s cabin on a spot of high ground. She rushed through the downed tree limbs to check it out. She peeled back the straw and found a bewildered little pigeon inside. He had pure white plumage; a fledgling just a day or two away from testing his wings.
“Hey there, little bird, are you all right?”
“You’re not my momma?”
“I think maybe she might have been carried off in the storm,” Granny uttered softly.
“Well,” he screamed, “when is my momma coming back?”
“I can’t say, honey. I don’t know. But one thing is certain for sure, and that is you are a very lucky little pigeon.”
Panic overcame him as he realized that the barn was missing and he was in a strange place, talking to a stranger. The young pigeon cried, “What am I supposed to do without my momma?”
“You will find your flock, learn their ways to the fullest, and become a leader! During tragedies like this we need many leaders!”
“But I don’t even know how to fly yet.”
“Don’t worry none to much about that, little bird, I know a good teacher. Her name is Lola Robin. Do you have a name?”
“What’s a name?”
Granny remembered that pigeons usually do not give names to their young. Pigeons usually acquired names after their personalities were developed.
“Since you have feathers white as apple blossoms and will be staying with my friend Lola Robin in the apple tree, I shall call you White Robin,” she said. “Lola is a very proud and responsible robin. Everyone in these parts holds her in high regard. Likewise, I pray, the same goes for me. They call me Granny Gray.”
“Are you a squirrel?”
“Momma says squirrels are not to be feared.”
“Your momma is right. I have known her since she was about your age. I met her at the birdfeeders. She is the only white pigeon in these parts; that is how I know she’s your momma.”
“Did you name her Savanna?”
“Yes, I will explain that later; we must hurry now. There is much emergency work still to do.”
Granny scooped him up in one arm and hobbled on three legs, but mostly on her hind legs, wrestling the young pigeon through Drew’s soggy yard. She struggled with him like a raccoon dragging a stolen bag of groceries to its home. Suddenly she realized something.
“Hey, you’ve got legs, you can walk.”
“I never said I couldn’t walk,” the young pigeon chirped.
“Don’t mock me, boy! I’m saving your life! On the ground you are same as food left on a picnic table!” Granny stood him up and nudged him on across the side street over to the apple orchard.
From the base, Granny looked up Lola’s apple tree to her nest, shaking her head. Thank goodness the nest was only head high to a tall horse. She hooked her arm under the little pigeon’s wing and around his neck, then lugged White Robin up the apple tree. She rolled the plump orphan into Lola’s nest. The cup of the nest was about the same size as a box-turtle’s shell and he filled it to the rim. He landed on his back and stayed that way, facing the sky, crying—thinking about his momma and his friends…wondering if he would ever see them again.
He was Savanna’s only baby, and Granny was the only furry critter she’d told. Savanna’s momma had advised her to do so; for Granny was one of the blessed animals, like raccoons, who could use her feet as hands,
Granny Gray stripped bunches of leaves off a handful of small branches and spread them over White Robin, then tucked them in like a blanket.
“I have to go get my family, White Robin. Lola will be here shortly, so stay put.”
Granny Gray dashed back over to the huge maple tree. She got the baby squirrel out of the den hole first, clenched him in her mouth, then went over and grasped Clara under her arm. She eased them across the yard gently.
Granny knew from the heavy wheezing that every small step caused excruciating pain for Clara, the momma squirrel.
Their trembling claws scratched and slipped as they hobbled across the wet side street pavement. Granny gained a second wind at the wonderful sight of her warm and dry summer home, still intact, in her beautiful old holly tree. Like all grannies, she had a little cubbyhole filled with nice treats: sunflower seeds from the birdfeeders, and shelled pecans and walnuts wrapped up in a sycamore leaf, all waiting for them.
“How did you get in my nest, little pigeon?” Lola Robin had returned to her nest just shortly after Granny Gray had left.
“Granny Gray Squirrel found me on the ground and brought me here.”
Lola jerked her head to the hay bales where the barn used to be. She slowly craned around and looked at the baby pigeon in her nest. Great Spirit in heaven! He’s an orphan. She wrapped her wings around him. “Are you all right?”
“Yes ma’am, as far as I can tell.”