A few years ago one of my sister’s cats brought her a live and unharmed baby squirrel. We thought raising it would be a good experience for my nieces. For some reason, however, I ended up having to squirrel sit every time Sister had to go somewhere. My cats and dogs were enormously interested in the smell of this small aquarium Sister had set up as little Skippy’s house and I was afraid they might form a raiding party the minute my back was turned. Sister had told me to put him someplace warm, since baby squirrels were unable to regulate their own body heat and required warmth from their mom. Figuring I’d take care of both issues with one grand idea, I took Skippy out of his cage and slipped him down inside my bra! He nestled quite happily in there and none of the dogs or cats had any idea where he was. When he’d get a little too warm this tiny nose would pop out, or sometimes his whole head, but he was always quite happy to hang out in there.
After a few days we became concerned that the cats may have gotten the mama squirrel and there was a nest of orphaned babies up in that tree. You could kind of tell where little Skippy had come from by the feline audience hanging out at the base of the tree, just waiting for someone to toss them something new to play with! So we called our Tree Guy, Randall, who was just the nicest man you’d ever want to meet. He had helped us clear out the mess from the tornado and he agreed to come out and climb the tree and look in the nest for us. It was, thankfully, empty. When Randall got his feet on solid ground again, he was shaking his head.
“I can’t believe I came out here and climbed all the way up there just to look for a nest of baby tree rats!” he said good-naturedly.
Mom and Sister and I had been standing below, watching, and Randall didn’t know it but I’d had Skippy in my shirt the whole time. I have about 20 men’s cotton v-necked t-shirts that I wear around the farm. It’s sort of my farm uniform. I walked up to Randall and pulled the neck of my t-shirt down and leaned over, showing him dear little Skippy, contentedly peeking out from between my breasts.
“But Randall,” I said. “He’s just so cute!”
The poor guy turned bright red. He didn’t charge us for the visit.
So last night I was a little late getting to the barn, but nothing that a bit of hurry-up wouldn’t fix. I was efficiently going about my evening chores, standing outside at the water spigot to fill up Old Meg’s bucket. (Meg is my eldest ewe and she prefers hose water to sink water, thank you very much!) I had her bucket about halfway full when some movement caught the corner of my eye and it suddenly became One of Those Evenings. From the tree line next to the barn comes this little bird. Y’all know the song “You Can Fly” from Peter Pan, right? Everyone sing along with the baby bird now…
“I can fly! I can fly! I can fly! I can fly! I can….” WHAM! Barn.
The little dude flew right into the side of the big red barn and I’ll be damned if George Earnest didn’t just happen to be there to pounce on him the minute he hit the ground! The bird is screaming at whoever will listen, I’m screaming at George, George is looking for an escape route… and so I turned the hose on him! Well, he decided the bird wasn’t worth getting soaked over, promptly dropped it, and I jumped in and scooped it up.
So I find myself standing there with a wet cat glaring at me, a baby bird in one hand, and a running hose in the other. I just sort of shook my head and thought yep, this is my life. I shut the hose off, walked into the barn (George hot on my heels, just in case I dropped something), baby bird in hand, called my mom and said, “Well, you’re not gonna believe this shit!”
Now I’m really running late getting everything ready for the sheep to come in for the night. I have no idea where this little Tufted Titmouse baby came from, no idea if he’s hurt, or what the heck I’m supposed to do with him! And it’s getting dark and I don’t really have time to figure it out. I knew he was scared because I could feel his little heart just hammering in my hand, but I checked him over and didn’t see any blood on him and his wings appeared to be ok. I was pretty sure hitting the barn had rung his little bell, though. So I did the only thing I could think of— I tucked him in my bra and went about my chores. When Mom and Dad got to the barn I was dishing up feed and Mom asked me what I’d done with the baby bird.
I said, “Look, mom! I have a Tufted Titmouse between my titties!”
That pretty much had us giggling on and off for the next hour. I took him to the house and put him in a box out on the screen porch where he’d be safe from the kitties and decided I’d figure out what to do with him in the morning.
Well, this morning he was flying all over the porch, trying to get out! I was so relieved that neither the barn nor the cat had hurt him. I took him down to the barn with me and walked up into the tree line where he’d come from, deciding that if I put him on a safe branch he’d eventually figure out where home was. Well, that idea lasted about as long as it took to get him settled on the branch. He just looked so tiny and frightened, I couldn't stand it!
I said, “Aw, crap, dude! What am I going to do with you?”
As visions of raising this baby bird to maturity in my bra ran through my head, I scooped him off the branch and walked along with him in my hand, I suppoe hoping I'd just happen to run across a flock of Tufted Titmice. When I ran out of trees I decided to cross a bit of open pasture and check out the woods. I was getting really disheartened when he suddenly heard a familiar voice. That little head popped up and he started chirping his little guts out! And then I could hear Mama Bird talking back to him! He started wiggling and wanting to fly away, but I kept a firm hold on him, wanting to get closer to wherever his mom was before I let him loose. I finally found her in the trees just at the edge of the woods, and boy was she pissed!
I opened my hand and the baby flew off, making his way very well up into a tree. And then he flew to another tree in the absolute wrong direction! I just about pulled my hair out in frustration, but his mom came and found him. She swooped down and bitched at him some more and then flew back to her original tree. I could just hear it: “Oh my God! Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick, do you hear me? Sick! You are in big trouble, young man! Staying out all night and coming home smelling of human! Just you wait until you father gets home!” The little baby flew over to her (“But Ma!!!!”) and the last I saw of them they were sitting together on the same tree branch. I cannot believe that with all the trees and all the acres we have on this farm he and I managed to find one little Tufted Titmouse Mama!!
Let’s just hope the little guy has learned his lesson and stays away from the barn!