It was a pleasant morning for June 15. The humidity felt low, there was a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky as I parked beside my garden plot at 6:50 a.m.
I stepped out of my truck, popped open my umbrella and started picking tomatoes.
“But, wait,” you say. “Not a cloud in the sky and you need an umbrella?”
I needed something to cover my head. The chance of rain was near zero but there was a 100 percent chance a brown thrasher would fly at my head like a dive bomber at the Battle of Midway. It’s become an everyday thing.
He’s within his rights. He’s protecting his family, at least one that’s coming. His mate sits dutifully on her eggs in a nest built about two feet off the ground in the middle of a tomato plant in the David Curtis Memorial Garden. That garden is one set aside to honor the late Mr. Curtis who loved the garden to the point he remembered the Family Garden Club in his will. All the produce from the Curtis garden goes to the needy, which is kind of ironic given the main beneficiary is the Sparrow’s Nest. But this guy doesn’t care about Sparrow’s Nest. He just cares about his own.
This brown thrasher is dauntless. I’ve waved grocery bags and brandished buckets as I picked. I threw a handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer at him the other day as he spread his wings and prepared to launch at my head. Unfazed, he perched on the top wire of a tomato cage and gave me that yellow side eye daring me to take a half step in his general direction. He knew I wasn’t going to throw a fist-sized, vine-ripened Parks Whopper at him.
Speaking of which, I got cheated on tomatoes this year. When my tomatoes started ripening, I noticed they were an odd shape and a little on the purple side. I think someone had switched tags on the tomato plants so instead of my beloved Whoppers I got some ridiculous heirloom that hippies grow. They’re mostly rotting on the vine, but I worry if I eat any that don’t I’ll develop an irrepressible urge to send campaign money to Bernie Sanders.
This bird is a real featherweight at only two to three ounces, but he punches above his weight. They’ve been known to draw blood. Float like a butterfly, make gardeners flee.
He’s whacked me in my gray head more than once, but so far no loss of O positive.
You’d think we could put this menacing bird to work scaring off intruders like whoever is stealing vegetables. Just Saturday morning, a man a few plots away found half a dozen ripe cantaloupes missing.
If you’re the one who took them you should know he had planned to take some to his wife who’s been in the hospital three weeks. But not to worry. There’s no way a home-grown cantaloupe can compete with hospital food.
The brown thrasher, or toxostoma rufum, is a member of the mimidae family which includes catbirds and mockingbirds. Mockingbirds are known for imitating the songs of other birds even at 2 a.m. under a street light.
When I was growing up, one sang every moonlit night in a tree in front of our ramshackle house. It was summer so every window in the house was up, and it was too hot to put a pillow over your head to block the nightingale’s solos. My sleep-deprived daddy got so exasperated he went out some time after midnight and shot up into the tree with a .22 rifle. The bird sang on as leaves showered down in the dark.
You can’t just go around killing brown thrashers, these aggravatus maximae. They’re protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act along with all their feathered friends, including the booby and the bufflehead.
If that weren’t enough, the brown thrasher, aka irritatum persistus, is the state bird of Georgia. I did what any responsible citizen would do; I complained to a state lawmaker, Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island. He got on it right away.
“Don’t you hurt that state bird,’’ he said.
I was hopeful he would arrange for a team of 39 or so wildlife biologists to safely capture said feathered menace and relocate him, his mate and their nest, but no. The honorable representative should bear in mind that although the brown thrasher is the state bird it cannot vote. I wonder if that’s voter suppression.
I don’t care if it’s the state bird or the official brown mascot of UPS, I want that bird out of my hair. I think he’s starting to figure out how to get under the umbrella, but there is an end in sight. After some extensive research — actually 30 seconds on Google — I learned that the incubation and nestling periods last a combined 23 days at most. I figure I’ve got less than two weeks of defense left before the offspring fly brownly and merrily away.
The problem is, those babies will mature and build their own nests. What’s that old saying? A bird in the bush is better than one in the head, or something like that.