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Fledgling Mockingbird

The Pineywoods Manifesto: Be Amazed

Our curious grandson Jack Iles on a Wild Azalea hiking trip. Circa 2011.

 

My goals at this season of my life:

  1. Stay Curious.

  2. Be Amazed.

  3. Share Remarkable Stories

 

“God is working in 10,000 ways around you, and you may be aware of two or three of them.”

-John Piper

The legacy cedar tree in Dry Creek Cemetery.

As a Pineywoods Man, I’m committed to a lifetime of curiosity.  To be a lifetime learner.  To walk up to strangers, introduce myself, and slowly let them tell their stories.  Everyone has an amazing remarkable story within them.

Our job is to listen well and make them comfortable with sharing.

Our job is also to see, with our eyes and hearts, the amazing things around us.   Here are a few from the last week of my life:

Last week, I stood under the Evergreen-Cedar Tree in Dry Creek Cemetery. You can read about this remarkable tree and its significance here.

I stood in the cedar’s shade as I waited for the hearse and family of Larry Honea, Sr to arrive.  I cannot remember not knowing Larry and his twin brother, Gary, their sister Diane Honea, and their parents Dwayne and Altha Frusha Honea.

My Dad and Dwayne Honea became friends while working at the ice plant in DeRidder. Dad was still in high school, and Dwayne had a young family.  They became fast friends and that friendship lasted until their deaths.  Our families were tied together through shared experiences, games of Moon dominoes, bowling leagues, and basketball.

Larry Honea fell in love with my classmate and close friend, Kathy Miller, when she moved to East Beauregard during our freshman year.  I knew it was true forever love just watching them and knowing their families.  They dated through high school, to my knowledge never ever having a teenage breakup, married as soon as Kathy graduated and were married 43 years until Larry’s death from cancer at 64.

I’d walked the entire cemetery, visiting the graves of my family and others who shaped my life as a Dry Creek boy.

Now, I waited under the cedar tree. I heard a strange buzzing from near the cedar tree. After a rattlesnake encounter last week, I stepped away quickly.

It wasn’t a rattler, it was bees.  The old cedar, wizened and hollow, contains a huge hive of honeybees.  It touched me that this old tree, in its last stages of a long life, was alive with life.

I watched a bird circling the tree. I’m from a family of birdwatchers (now, that’s nerdy!) and immediately recognized the lone bird as a Kingbird. It’s best known for two traits: tormenting hawks or crows that invade its domain. If you’ve seen a smaller bird pursuing a hawk, it’s probably a kingbird or mockingbird, the two most territorial of birds.

Secondly, the Kingbird, which likes sitting watch on high line wires or fences, delights in killing lizards, and impaling them on barbs of a barb wire fence. That’s where it gets one of its nicknames, butcher bird.

As I watch the kingbird circle the cedar tree, I remember what my bird mentor, my grandfather Sid Plott, called them: “Bee Martins.”  That was because they love catching bees on the fly for a quick lunch.

The cemetery kingbird, or bee martin, had found a buffet line at the old cedar tree. I watched him capture bee after bee.

The unavoidable cycle of life and death was all around me.

I was touched.

____________________

Early June is bird-hatching time in Louisiana. I was staking a tree for DeDe in the front yard. I’d tied parachute cord around a leaning tree, tying it to an angled metal fencepost. Each time, my hammer struck the fencepost deeper into the ground, a squawk came from up in the tree.

Fledgling Mockingbird

I got our ladder, climbed up, and was face to face with a young mockingbird. He was feathered and close to fly-day. The bird emitted the familiar mockingbird alarm call, which is a click or “chick”.  The mother bird dove bombed me and I quickly retreated down the ladder.  The alarmed fledgling fell out of the tree onto the ground. I picked it up, returned it to its nest, and went back to work. “Buddy, in a day or two, you’ll be flying, and I’m a little jealous.”

All the while, the adult mockingbird was dealing me misery.

I remembered King Mockingbird that once ruled a section of Dry Creek Camp near the Tabernacle. Read the Story. 

The next morning, the fledgling was gone. I watched the group of mockers that inhabit my front and back yards, trying to pick out the younger bird. I’m sure he was up there somewhere, enjoying the joy of flight.

_______________

Yesterday, we drove to Dry Creek. As we passed through Ten Mile, I watched a cow licking her newborn calf. I was amazed at this simple but wonderful act of motherhood.

Today, I’m writing in a Lafayette coffeehouse. A mother, with a newborn, sat near me. I went over, “That’s a beautiful baby.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re at a special time in your life.”

“I know.”

I walked away. “You wait until you have grandkids. It’s not better but different-better.”

The mother smiled. “That’s what my parents say.”

The amazement of new life.

___________________

Last night, we attended a surprise 60th birthday party for Billy Mitchell in DeQuincy. Billy and I share four grandchildren. His daughter Robin is married to our oldest son, Clay.  They’ve given us Noah, Jude, Luke, and Maggie.  I was amazed, as folks shared, the influence a man makes in his life.

My Mom went with DeDe and I to the party. As I dropped her off in Dry Creek, I helped my Mom from our car into her house. She’s a proud 83-year-old but walks slowly with a cane. I remember how in her younger day, we couldn’t keep up with her shopping.

Those days are past. I grip her other elbow, determined to support her up the steps and into her house of over fifty years.

I walk back to our car and as my eyes adjust to the night, I’m amazed at the bright canopy of stars overhead. I see all of my old friends, constellations and planets, that I seldom see in the city lights, trees, and buildings of urban life.

I love living in Alexandria among seven grandkids, but I miss the Dry Creek night sky most of all.

It’s simply amazing.

All of life is.

I recall the first thing I ever wrote and showed to others. I’d discovered The Cat in the Hat and I guess my inner Dr. Suess was coming out:

“This world is a wonder

By thunder.”

I proudly showed it to my parents and family.  I cringe thinking about it now. However, I still feel that way about this world around me.

I’m curious about it.

I want to notice and be amazed.

And I want to share remarkable stories about old cedars, honeybees, birds, motherhood, and the wonders of the Universe.

 

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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