Early Tuesday, afternoon I headed outside to get the mail. I stopped, about forty feet from the road. When I spotted some large, bird tracks that crossed the driveway, south to north.
I followed the tracks to the south, the way they came into my yard, and looked over the fence into my neighbor’s yard. I couldn’t see where the tracks started from. But, I could see a large number of bird and small animal prints around the trees. I noticed only the large bird had separated from the rest, and walked a four toed pattern under the wooden fence.
I retraced my steps back to the driveway and hesitated. Should I just collect the mail and head back to the house? No! This was bugging me, that bird could need help. I decided to follow the bird’s claw prints across the front yard.
Uriah came over and sniffed at the snow, then followed me.
I found a couple of feathers. They were stuck in the snow a few feet north of the driveway. Reddish mottled brown with a soft gray tuff closer to the tip, about two to three inches long, I slipped them into my coat pocket and kept following the tracks in the snow. They guided me across the front of yard. That bird had walked a zigzagging pattern, headed north, and kept to the harder packed snow.
I reached the property line on the north end. Slipped between the evergreens and stood on a sizable chunk of plowed up dirt, and stared across the field. Uriah stood next to me and waited.
I took off my right glove and readjusted my hat. The temperature was in the lower 30’s, without a wind. I wiggled toes, to check how frozen my feet were, they weren’t cold. And my fingers were still warm. I wasn’t cold at all! This gave me a reason enough to move on with my quest.
I was thinking the bird might be a hawk and he was hurt. Why else would a bird take a walk? He could have a broken wing! Or he may have been clipped by a car driving by too fast! I shook my head silently. No! If the bird had been hurt I would have seen a blood trail.
It might be a pheasant! I usually see a few of them running in the snow, or startling me when Uriah flushes them from the tall grass. Again, I shook my head; the tracks didn’t have lines formed from the birds trailing tail feathers. And this bird had four toes. I thought a Pheasant’s tracks usually showed only the front three toes.
I replaced my glove, and made sure my footing was steady. “Well, Uriah, should we head back to the house? Or…Should we see what type of bird left those tracks?”
I left it up to Uriah to decide what we did next.
I use my old ski poles as my walking sticks, I grabbed them both in a way that said I was finished standing around. Then I looked towards my dog.
Uriah sniffed the ground, glanced up at me and started to walk on ahead. Now he was following the tracks, and I followed him.
I carefully stepped out on a wash of tiny black icebergs, small points of back earth, which stood out above the snow.
Tracks of coyotes, a fox, and raccoons crossed my trail heading off to the east and west. Tire treads cut through the snow from an off road vehicle, probably the neighbor who I saw on Sunday. His tracks headed across the road into the farm field. The animal’s prints looked fresh, possible early this morning. I thought, maybe they were chasing the bird. But no, the tracks crossed each other. I doubt they actually saw one another.
Curiosity had me moving on. I was beginning to think I was following a drunken chicken
The bird had walked towards a couple of very old, gnarly Oak trees. Scratched in the snow then turned towards the road, and walked in the ditch, until he headed out on the road.
I called Uriah back, and made him sit. I waited for two cars and a truck to pass by. Once it was clear, I allowed Uriah up and out of the ditch, so he could stand next to me on the blacktop. I could see that something had been hit by a car recently. It laid still another twenty feet to the north on the opposite side of the road. The car that hit it, had been heading south.
I made sure there wasn’t any traffic in sight. Then, I told Uriah to sit and wait! I approached the carcass. It was a rooster, a big roster. With a red Comb, or was it a male ring-necked pheasant? No, it looked like a rooster…
It had the shape of a fat chicken. Well sort of. It was hit by a car!
I kept checking for cars, and took my eyes off Uriah for a second. In that time frame, he walked up to me and stared at the bird.
I glanced both ways along the road, and then asked Uriah. “Okay, what do you think it is, chicken or pheasant?”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head at him as I checked the road. Then I asked. “Okay, Uriah! What do you think it is, chicken or pheasant?”
I don’t think he cared. But wanting to get in on the game, he looked at the bird. Then he looked back at me! Then back at the bird! I could hear him loud and clear, “Can I take it? Huh? Come on let me take it!” His eyes sparkled and he started prancing around. His nails clicked loudly on the frozen blacktop.
I shook my head at him, “No! Let’s get out of the road.”
Uriah followed and only looked back once.
I saw a truck coming at us, really slow. We had enough time to walk along the road. Then move off the road, in-between the Blue Spruce and the Austrian Pine, at the north end of the front yard.
The truck turned out to be a farmer and his tractor; he was pulling a couple of swaying grain carts filled with corn. The farmer was very, very slowly making his way down the road. I waved at him. As I check the mail…