Date: 1/7/18 8:38 pm From: CK Franklin <meshoppen...> Subject: An Unexpected & Uniquely Southern Close Encounter While Birding
I was out yesterday on the Near Delta sampling the fields across the river as I usually do this time of year. First stop was the Scott sod farm to see if the Longspurs were still around and amenable to pictures. I managed a few lousy pictures of the wrong bird. I had many more fields to check so I went back to the main road & headed toward England. Didn't get far. A tractor trailer hauling something big lost its load at the Willow Beach intersection and the main road was essentially blocked. Old Bearskin Lake Road was handy. I've driven most of the back roads in that area & knew there are always a baker's dozen worth of workarounds.
What I did observe was all the pickups and cars coming north from England driving over an agricultural field to get to Old Bearskin Lake Rd. Having grown up on a farm, I am well aware this behavior is sure to put the landowners into a fine strut. Since it looked like it would take a while to get the accident off the road, I resolved to stop at the nearest occupied house and let the neighbors know this was going on. Since everyone in semi-rural areas know each other, alerting a neighbor is as good as speaking to the owner directly. First place I stopped was deserted. The second place had a car and a truck parked outside so I stopped and went to the door.
We all know that strangers knocking on our door, even in broad daylight, often isn't but can sometimes not be a good thing. There I am in my birding gear standing well away from the door and where the person inside can see me. First to the door is a massive brute of a dog threatening mayhem. A woman about my age opens the old timey door and asks me what I want. I explain about the accident and the cars using the farm field as a detour. She asked what was it to me and I replied I grew up on a farm and my father, if that was his field, would be having a stroke right about now. There aren't any crops in the field she tells me. Well, I said, it still isn't right people are driving across that field & I wanted to let the owner know about it. She counters with, "I don't get up in those people's business." Conversation closed.
I thanked her for her time and said I was sorry to have interrupted her afternoon. She eyed the binoculars and asked what I was doing out there. I told her one of my hobbies was bird watching and I enjoyed driving the roads out in that area looking at the winter birds. She gave me a sharp look like she was deciding if I was okay which was no problem with the Akita standing at attention by her side.
"You want to see my house," she says. It wasn't a question. She all but grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me inside and close the door. I am standing in a fixed up old plantation house from the 1800's and this lady commences to trace her family genealogy from the time the house was built in the 1830's. I get a tour of the entire rogue's gallery on the wall and hear what they did, who married whom, looked at pictures of their kids, heard about why the house was considered haunted, and so forth. She showed me the 1800's dining room with the tea service all nicely polished and ready for some party a little later in the afternoon. Given the O'Connor moment I was having, I thought it possible I might be invited to that little party or more likely put to work.
I still don't quite remember how I extricated myself from that encounter. I remember walking out the door with Akita slobber on one hand and a brochure about the house in the other. Given the unpleasant encounters we have from time to time with people who actively discourage birding in their vicinity, we also run into many more people who are genuinely warm and interested in birds. Not too many of them invite into their homes for a crash course in family history.