Maggie's Magpies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


This short story, about a child and some birds, is half true and half fiction. But which half is which?

Submitted: March 26, 2018

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Submitted: March 26, 2018

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I was driving through an area of farmland when I spied a KOA Campground sign. The sign said that the campground was just two miles from the main highway.

It was still early in the day but I was tired of driving so I thought I'd give the campground a try.

After securing a spot at the campground I thought I'd get some exercise before making dinner. So I took off down the two lane road for a walk and to sight see.

As I passed a certain farmhouse I saw some Magpies swinging in a tire-swing; apparently it is one of their favorite pastimes. Who Knew?

The swing was hung from one of the sturdier limbs of a large oak tree and the tree stood in the front yard of a very old two story farmhouse.

I was told that the farmhouse was once owned by the Parkhurst family. They, in turn, sold it to the Thompson family about a year ago.

As for the house, it now stands facing a recently installed,  two lane, county road. The very same road I took to get to the campground.

One after the other, the birds would fly from the roof of this house and land in the tire's inner circle. When they landed their weight and forward motion would cause the swing to move, thereby giving each bird a minor swinging experience. And as soon as the swing would stop, the bird in the inner circle would fly back up to the roof of the house and the next bird would swoop down to the swing. Not once did two birds try to occupy the tire at the same time.

Considering the fact that these are birds, I would think this behavior impossible. After all, a very organized and cooperative playtime is not like anything birds generally do, especially Magpies.

 

The farmer, Bert Thompson, was seated on the porch and was amazed by my wonderment. And after some chit-chat he asked me to sit for a spell and he would tell me the story of Maggie and the swinging Magpies.

So I did, and I was very glad that I did, because I now have another story to tell.

At first I wondered how I was going to craft this story about a human family and a family of birds. But after considerable thought I just decided to wing it.

***

Many years ago, the Parkhurst family lived in the noted farmhouse and they apparently had acquired an extended family of Magpies; not that they ask for any.

The number of magpies varied but at the time of this story's origination there were five; their names were Rocket, Blinker, Dawn, Fluff, and Waddles.

The names, I have come to understand, were given to the birds by Margret, aka, Maggie; the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Parkhurst.

***

The story begins on a hot summer's day and not long after Maggie's sixth birthday.

Maggie was having a tea-party with her dolls, and Mr. Bear, in the front-yard. Her playhouse and play-table were positioned under a section of the oak tree where shade was plentiful.

Suddenly, the Magpies were causing a terrible ruckus. The sounds coming from the birds were so frantic and noticeable that Maggie's parents came to see what was going on.

Mom came out and onto the front porch, dishcloth still in her hand, and Dad exited the garage.

To their horror they discovered a very large wolf and he was about 30 feet from where Maggie was seated.

Where the wolf had come from was anybody's guess. It had been an especially dry year and perhaps he came out of the hills looking for water. Wolves in this area usually avoid farmers and their guns.

The wolf was being distracted by a procession of very noisy and indignant Magpies. They were diving-bombing at the wolf and pecking at its head whenever possible.

Maggie was frozen in her seat with fear, her eyes fixed on the wolf!

Dad yelled at her, "Maggie! --- Maggie! --- Plan-One, Now!"

Immediately Maggie snapped out of her frozen state and with the reaction that comes from repetitious safety training, she ran into her playhouse and slammed the door behind her. She was safe!

But that wasn’t the case for the bird called Dawn. The poor Magpie had been snatched from the air by the agile and quick thinking wolf. One chomp and she was lifeless.

But the wolf was not in the clear, yet!

Maggie's nine year old brother, Danny, had taken a position in an upstairs window; along with his trusty Daisy Pellet Rifle.

The aim was steady, his trigger finger firmly engaged. (POP!), the pellet hit the wolf in the side of the head!

The pellet startled the beast more than it harmed him. But the bird was dropped on the ground and the wolf sought an escape route from the unknown assailant.

(POP!) "Butt shot!" Danny happily stated after a second attempt.

It wasn't where Danny was aiming, but hay, he'd take credit anyway.

***

 

The all-clear was given by Dad, but when Maggie saw the dead bird she was devastated. She knelt near the bird and started crying her little eyes out.

It wasn't long before Mom came to the rescue; scooping her up in her arms she took her to the porch-swing to mellow the emotions.

Mom explained, "Maggie, that bird gave its life for you and there is no greater friend than that. I think that a bird that does something like that deserves a honorable burial. Don't you?"

Maggie dried her eye, as much as possible, and asked, "You mean like heroes get?"

"Yes," Mom replied, "a hero deserves a honorable burial. I think we need to have a stiff upper lip and do our duty to our bird friend."

"You mean for Dawn, don't you?" Maggie asked in a correcting manor.

"Yes, a proper burial for Dawn is what I'm saying," Mom replied.

In time, a suitable shoebox was picked.

Magpies look much like crows, except for white wing-bars, and they are about the same size too. So Dawn was going to require one of Dad's boot-boxes for a casket.

Mom picked out one of Maggie's favorite silk scarves, old, too small, but still very nice looking. Maggie arranged it, right and proper, in the box.

Dawn was soon placed in the box with a lock of Maggie's hair, for remembrance sake, and the service began.

Maggie and her Mother had chosen a proper site in the garden, and Dad did the digging. He also made a little grave marker out of something he found in the garage; it had nothing to do with birds but it looked nice.

Maggie's youngest brother, Buck, was learning to play the Saxophone, so he played Taps as well as he could.

Danny acted as Pallbearer and Dad said a few words over the grave; then they all sang "Amazing Grace".

 

After the service, Peanut-Butter and Jelly finger sandwiches, as well as Lemonade, were served at the porch reception. Also, dishes of cracked corn were set out for the relatives of the deceased, and their many guests; lots and lots of guests.

Everything was tastefully done and met Maggie's heartfelt approval.

 

It was not long after the burial that Maggie's parents noticed that the Magpies were taking more interest in Maggie's tea-parties. Mom attributed it to possible free crackers being snuck out of the house. So they just passed it off.

Then after a few months the parents noticed Maggie calling the birds by name, which wasn't surprising. But what was surprising was the fact that they came to her when she called.

But the real clincher was when they saw Maggie giving the birds rides in the tire swing, they were very surprised. They were even more surprised by the fact that the birds seemed to like it.

One at a time, Maggie would place a bird in the swing and push. The Magpies soon grew used to it and liked it so much that they started doing it even when Maggie was at school.

Later, after another generation of Magpie came along, Rocket, Blinker, Buckles, and Waddles began to show their offspring how to play the game; they picked it up quickly.

So, according to Bert Thompson, that is how the Magpies learned what a tire-swing was for.

***

 

Years have passed from the time this story began, when Maggie was six years old. And at last count Maggie was 93 years old and living with her daughter; Maggie's oldest daughter, and her family, to be exact.

They live in a much newer house, a house more suited for wheel-chairs and walkers.

However, I was told that every Tuesday, after Maggie's daughter dropped off the kids at school, the two of them would take a trip to the old farmhouse for a visit.

The Thompsons didn't mind the Tuesday visits. In fact, Mrs. Thompson would sometimes join them, with Lemonade and cookies, if her calendar wasn't full. They would chit-chat on the front porch and watch the birds if they were playing in the swing.

 

Now that is the story I was told and as far as I know it is true. But as for the rest of this story, I will leave that up to the readers to decide its validity.

 

On one such visit to the farmhouse, as Maggie was watching and chuckling at the antics of the birds, there came a sudden silence.

Maggie's daughter, Dawn, looked up from her book to realize that Maggie had passed on.

Then the strangest thing happened, according the Dawn, she saw a clear vision of her Mother. It was a younger Maggie and she was being carried toward the setting sun. And of course, there were five Magpies following right behind her.

 

 

D. Thurmond / JEF

03-24-2018


© Copyright 2018 D. Thurmond, aka, JEF. All rights reserved.

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