Birthday Birds Arrive to Fill Martin Gourds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 16, 2013

The 30-year quest is won. Following the precise conditions spelled out by experts Wade and Connie Beauchamp of Lewisville in our March 28 issue, I erected a four-gourd purple martin contraption on a 15-foot pole at my parents’ farm.
Five days later, I spotted two pairs of birds twittering about the gourds. Purple martins. I recognized their chatter, but it took several minutes to believe what I was seeing.
Their arrival just happened to be on my birthday — a present from God.
The old editor really is old this week.  The birthday put him into the 60 decade. So far, it’s not bad at all. Maybe there’s a little creak in one knee that should be oiled. The hips are still good. The heart beats steadily. My hands tremble at times, traces of the old family genetic shake that will get worse with time. Otherwise, I’m feeling rather spry.
I can hike a favorite 10-mile section of the Appalachian Trail easier than I could a decade ago. I’ve finally learned how to grow a lush lawn. I can usually work the New York Times crossword puzzle Monday through Thursday when it becomes woefully difficult.
Purple martins, however, had eluded me all my adult life.
Sometimes you have to listen to the experts. The Beauchamps said the trick is to use gourds, not those fancy little aluminum multi-unit houses that had failed me for so long. I had taken my fancy birdhouse to northern Virginia to my son’s home earlier this spring, but it had again attracted nothing despite the interstate travel.
Flush with success, I took him four gourds on Saturday. We mounted them beneath the aluminum house. On Sunday morning, purple martins were checking them out. The new resident birds will now protect my precious granddaughters from biting flies and insects this summer.
The purple martins helped assuage my ego at having lost the bidding war for a pair of bluebirds at home. I fed them all winter only to have them snub me for a box several hundred yards away.
A pair of Carolina wrens may replace them. They will sing for me every morning.
Getting old has its advantages. By this age, I’ve learned a lot about what I don’t know.
I’ve learned to say, “Hmmm,” a lot when people tell me things. Youngest son Michael, 14, asks lots of questions about things I should know but don’t. Hmmm.
Last fall my college son relayed this information from his communications professor: You can’t really change anyone’s mind. People only listen to what confirms their prejudices. Thus, President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney spent $2 billion last year in a campaign not to win new converts but to rally their own troops to the voting booths. We may never have another Reagan-sized landslide because everyone is so fixed in their politics.
I encountered my younger self last fall embodied as a 20-something falling-off-the-edge liberal. He launched into a 30-minute defense of President Obama, and I recalled my …