My grandma thoroughly enjoyed feeding them, and I reckon I picked it up from her.
This morning, the kitchen door is open, and I am sitting here writing while watching the wild birds. The nuthatch is chirpin’ as he scales down the side of the tree, pokin’ at the suet that I have wired to the trunk.
The tufted titmouse gather one sunflower kernel at a time from the feeder, fly to a nearby branch to bust the shell between their feet, eat the seed, and repeat the process.
Cardinals don’t crack the shell between their feet. For the most part, they just park it at the feeder; and one kernel at a time, roll it around in their beak, spittin’ out pieces of shell like a walnut huller.
The bashful little chickadees are kind of like the titmouse, except they like to fly further away to consume their bounty.
Likewise, the woodpeckers, blue jays, and the finch all have their own unique ways of doing things, as do the doves. But the doves are different than the others, for they peacefully feed on the ground with little to no fanfare.
We have a very low window in our living room; one day when he was about five years old, our grandson Caleb, was sitting in his little wooden rocker observing the doves. After a good long while of just quietly sitting there, he stated matter-of-factly, that the doves were “Grandma birds.” (Matt. 21:16)
Over the years, I have shared his comment with a few folks. Sadly, they rarely seemed to understand his reasoning – but I do, and if you kindly bear me some patience, I will attempt to share it.
I am so very thankful to have been raised among many grandma birds in my life; they were plentiful. The ringing of the cattle guard at New Hope Church announced their arrival every Sunday morning. The one room schoolhouse at Pleasant Hill was full of them, when Mother would take me there to watch a quilting bee. And it was a grandma bird that calmed my fears the first day of kindergarten: Mrs. Mary Stockstill.
Sadly, it will be impossible for me to give tribute to each one by name. So, I will choose one, and what a dear memory she is, for she was the true essence of a “grandma bird.”
I was about seven years old when I first met Mr. and Mrs. Bill Wheeler of Ellis Prairie; her name was Hazel. I had gone with my grandpa to haul cattle for them. They were both waiting in the barn lot when we arrived. Obviously, I did not know the wisdom of my grandson’s label yet, but if I had, I would have said, “Yep, there stands a grandma bird.”
You see, Mrs. Wheeler with kind eyes, was gentle, of quiet nature, not painted up, and just, well, plain. Like God made the dove. And as I was to learn, a whole lot more similarities too.
Fast forward many years later after Mr. Wheeler passed. I would visit Mrs. Wheeler, and I can still remember walking up the little sidewalk to their home. She always kept barred rock laying hens, and they would often be scratchin’ near the woven wire fence, with her well-tended garden on the other side to the east.
All were welcome. And don’t you know, that visitin’ Mrs. Wheeler’s home without being fed was pert near an impossibility? A real grandma bird through and through (Titus 2:3-5). She was a frugal old soul with a beautiful heart, and when she set to gatherin’, what a delight it was.
Like a dove slowly walking about the kitchen, she would grab a little of this, ‘n a little of that. There might be a few green beans, spinach or a mess of poke. Some okra, a hamburger patty, with a couple pieces of fried chicken. Some sliced tomatoes, a few biscuits with homemade butter, gravy, and almost always (my favorite) fried ‘tater cakes she had whipped up from left over mashed potatoes. With no fanfare, she would end with a smile, while serving her homemade chocolate pudding (1 Peter 4:7-9).
After the meal, any tinfoil that was no longer needed, was cleaned, folded, and placed in a drawer for future use. If it was winter time, her well-worn hands would be loadin’ the old cook stove with wood, and stirrin’ the fire. She would draw water from the reservoir, and although she had a sink, she would wash dishes in a pan, and then carry the old dish water outside to be discarded (as with the tinfoil, probably an old habit from tougher times).
Yes, I remember her well. And I wouldn’t bat a tear-filled eye at trading my Massey Ferguson tractor to spend just one more day with her. It hurts just thinking about it. It sure does.
But I will see her again one day. I know I will, for she was a Christian – a real one; Mr. Wheeler was also. Yes sir, and when found sitting quietly in the living room, Mrs. Wheeler would often have her well-worn Bible in her lap, making notes in it while studying her lesson for the upcoming worship service.
Here in the Ozarks, late of the evenin’, I often go outside, cup my hands to my mouth, and blow a cooing call to the doves roosting in the nearby trees. They softly answer back, and it reminds me…reminds me of a time long ago, a time that was much more simple, a time that was much more slow. Of cast iron cook stoves, canning jars and ‘tater cakes. Of well-worn Bibles, handmade quilts, and Amazing Grace. Of “Oh pshaw!,” feather pillows, raisin pie, and her gentle face.
Yes, I remember…and I remember a tiny wooden rocker, and a little boy filled with love. Sharing how his grandma, reminded him of a dove – the granddaughter of Bill and Hazel Wheeler – my wife.
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother…” (2 Tim. 1:5).
Michael Everett Jones is a Texas County native, old fashioned historian and purveyor of traditional Christian values. Email email@example.com.