The robin couldn't fly

Last spring, my wife came charging into the house telling me I had to come with her. Quickly!

A look of concern was on her face and I thought some tragedy had befallen one of the kids, our vehicles or the house itself.

Instead, sitting near a juniper on the ground, was a small, fluffy robin.

The bird was not quite old enough to fly and still had its baby feathers mixed with its adult feathers.

“Is that it? That’s the big emergency?”

“Yes. You have to do something.”

Looking under our van, I noticed at least six neighbourhood cats waiting intently for the right moment to pounce.

“No problem. This will take care of itself.”

It was kind of creepy actually, kind of like a Hitchcock movie or something. The cats were just sitting, silently staring.

“We can’t let the cats get him. Do something,” was my wife’s plea.

“What do you want me to do? It’s the circle of life. The strong survive and the cats eat the tiny birds that fall out of the nests. Wait, let me get this on video.”

Wrong answer.

After a stare from my wife that could have frozen molten lava, I tried to formulate a plan.

I knew there was a nest in a large birch tree near our front yard. I assumed that’s where the little critter came from.

Problem was, it was about 10 metres in the air and, as much as I would like to risk my life carrying a small bird to safety, I just didn’t feel like riding in an ambulance that day so I went on to plan B.

I didn’t even have a plan A, let alone B, but I stood there examining the situation looking like I was thinking hard to solve the problem when in reality I was thinking, “I wonder if I have a beer left in the fridge.”

After several minutes, I had to admit I did not know what to do and again suggested we grab the video camera and make our own survival-of-the-fittest nature documentary.

I would call it Cats Eat a Baby Robin.

Another icy stare later and it was back to planning the salvation of the beaked beast.

We had an old bird’s nest that came out of a tree I had cut down, so my wife decided I – notice she didn’t say she – should grab the bird, place it in the nest, which will be placed in a bucket, which will be hung from the tree.

OK, we have a plan.

Not wanting to get baby bird cooties all over me, I put on a pair of work gloves, put the nest in the bucket, hung the bucket on a tree branch and Operation Rescue Tweety Or I Will Have to Sleep in The Garage was well under way.

Just as I started to head toward the bird, my son’s cat came calmly strolling from the backyard, saw the little pre-dinner snack and pounced like the natural born killer he is.

He had the bird in his grip when my wife yelled at him to let go.

At least six adult robins took turns dive bombing the cat, but it was my wife running over to him that made him relinquish his version of dinner to go.

He looked at me with a what-is-that-all-about look and all I could do was shrug. He then joined his compadres under the van and waited patiently.

By now there were about 349 cats surrounding my house.

The little bird had managed to hop under the juniper bus and the second I got even close to him, the robin Luftwaffe started their bombing runs again.

Fending off the frantic attack I carried the little bird to the ladder, climbed up to the bucket and placed him the nest – where he stayed for about two seconds.

I had not even started down the ladder and this feathered genius had already hopped out and landed on the ground.

This got the attention of the 1,436 cats that had now completely encircled my yard.

“That’s it, I’m getting the video camera. Could get YouTube going for me?”

The icy stare was gone, as my wife realized there was nothing we could do for the bird. Operation Rescue Tweety had failed.

We watched it sit on the grass for a second and then my wife insisted we grab our son’s cat so she could rest assured he was not the one to "do the deed."

I gathered up the feline and we headed into the house as dusk settled over the land.

I do not know what happened to the bird (but I have a pretty good idea). The next morning it was gone and there were no feathers in the yard, so it may be escaped or something.

It could happen.

But fear not dear reader, the day was not a total bummer.

I did have a beer left in the fridge.


It was a dumb idea

I know, and you are right, it was a dumb idea.

I know I will have to narrow that down a little as I have more dumb ideas than a politician (if that's possible).

The dumb idea in question was from a few years back when I took my kids to a local skateboard park.

No, I did not jump on a skateboard after a 25-year absence and hurt myself — that would be really dumb.

Instead, I threw on my in-line skates and hurt myself.

While the kids were rolling along doing all sorts of neat little tricks, I was calmly skating my way around the outer perimeter of the skateboard park.

I watched as they went up the quarter pipe and down and around and thought, “That doesn't look so hard.”

I have been ice skating since I was about five years old, so I feel quite comfortable on in-line skates, and this is where the dumb idea began to form.

Slowly, I skated closer and closer to the quarter pipe, while my brain lied and told me I could do it.

“C'mon, you played hockey for years. You are a master on skates. What's the difference between ice or concrete?” challenged that little red, horned guy on my shoulder.

“How tough can it be for a super jock like yourself. You can do it. Go for it, stud.”

The white guy with the halo on the other shoulder was trying to offer a cautionary word or two, but the red guy was making such a convincing argument.

“C'mon, big man, you can do it. Go up, go down, it will be great. People will be amazed at your skating ability, especially for such an old guy.”

By now, I was feeling pretty darned good about my skating prowess and I knew I possessed the skills of a life-long, stunt skater.

“I can do it,” I thought.

The plan was to start slowly. I would just go part-way up the ramp, turn and come back down.

No problem. I can do it.

Once I completed the little warm-up stunt, I would graduate to more challenging moves and before you know it, I will be the oldest guy in the X Games.

I can do it.

Apparently, I couldn't do it.

In fact, I could not even come close to doing it.

In fact, I only made it less than two feet up the ramp when I realized I should have listened to the little white dude with the halo, who was now sitting back with a rather smug look on his face.

I quickly learned the difference between skating on a nice flat sheet of ice, and in-line skating up a sloped ramp.

My leading skate hit the bottom of the half-pipe and decided it would be best to go north while the rear in-line skate went east, sending my butt south.

I also learned I do not bounce like I used to. Instead of bouncing off the ground, getting up and going again like I did as a young lad, I landed with a thump that held absolutely no bounce at all.

I didn't even slide or anything, just — Wham! — and down I was.

I got up and tried to look cool, which wasn't too hard because people (much younger people) were falling around the place all the time.

The truly hard part was not showing how much pain I was in. I had a bruise on my hip that covered roughly 48 per cent of my body.

That will happen when you thud rather than bounce.

The pain in my hip could have been a lot worse had I not used my wrist, elbow and shoulder to break the fall. Fortunately, the fall was all that was broken that day.

Full-contact sleeping

You know you're getting old when you hurt yourself sleeping.

How in the hell do you hurt yourself sleeping? All you're doing is lying there.

It is not too challenging a task. You lie down, you count sheep, listen to soothing music, read this column, whatever it takes to get you to Sleepyland.

Once sleep is achieved, the hard part is over. Way to go. You accomplished your goal of not being awake. From that point, all you have to do is lie there like a lump.

You might roll from side to side a little bit, but the activity is hardly enough to cause an injury, or at least it did not used to be.

The other day, I woke up with a sore back. I tried to think of how I had acquired said pain and nothing came to mind. So, near as I could figure, I threw my back out sleeping.

How do you prevent that injury from happening? It's not like I can slow down the pace – I was asleep, the only thing slower than asleep is dead.

Maybe I should work with a personal trainer on how to sleep safely.

It is certainly a far cry from the days of my youth. When I was a young lad, not even getting run over by a dirt bike could slow me down.

I was coming around a corner at a rather excitable speed when I encountered two other dirt bikers doing the same thing in the opposite direction. We spotted each other at the same time and everyone scrambled not to hit each other.

I swerved left and went through the ditch before the front tire introduced itself to a rather large boulder. The rapid deceleration that followed applied only to the bike, as the rider, that would be me, kept moving forward at warp factor five.

I remember going over the handlebars and hitting the ground. I vaguely remember something bumping my shoulder and my helmet. That something was my motorcycle that had made it past the boulder and seemed intent on running me down – which it did.

I lay in the weeds for a second having a good laugh, but to those who saw the mishap, it seemed I was having a seizure after being trounced by my own metal steed.

I got up to witness half a dozen people running toward me thinking I was a goner.

I assured my would-be rescuers I was fine and continued riding for the next couple of hours.

The next day I was a little stiff in one shoulder and had a few bruises, but was otherwise fine.

I also had a set of knobby tire tracks going across the back of helmet that was a source of conversation (and pride) for months to follow.

Now, it is all I can do to get out of bed after a vicious night's slumber.

You know you are getting old when sleeping becomes hazardous to your well being.

There is no safety apparatus available for those who suffer from sleep injury.

Perhaps that's why the prayer starts with 'Now I lay be down to sleep...' It is not just a prayer to God for sleep, it is a plea for physical well being while sleeping.

I think a slight variation is in order for us older folk.

“Now, I lay me down to sleep,
I pray I can rise when the alarm goes beep.
If I should cramp before I wake,
I pray the Lord my pain to take.
If muscles knot and become tight,
I pray that God will make it right,
and should I die before I wake,
well, at least I will not have to worry
about waking up in pain.


Let cats be carnivores

I read a story a while ago about a vegan who is promoting a no-meat lifestyle for cats. 

In fact, this guy has not fed his cat any meat-type product in months.

Do you know what they call a cat that is not allowed to eat any sort of meat product?

A hungry cat.

Cats have been roaming the Earth since there was an Earth to roam, and I doubt even once did a feline prefer a salad over an entrée of fresh mouse.

The article touched off a heated discussion not seen since the great dogs-should-be-allowed-to-hump-your-leg-as-a-form-of-personal-expression debate of 1973.

Both sides of the meatless cat diet are making their case, but I have to side with the ones who seem to have an IQ greater than a bowl of turnips, like the veterinarian who said cats need to eat meat.

To this I say, “No duh.”

Cats are carnivores and just because a flower eater wants his cat to eat soy products, leafs and berries does not mean cats were meant to eat soy products, leafs and berries.

Those pointy teeth are there for a reason. So are the claws. They were not designed to take down a carrot or head of lettuce, but to sink into mice, birds, small rodents and the household dog should it try that humping thing.

Of course, PETA got involved and sided with the plant eater and said cats can live a full and healthy life by eating “an all-vegetable diet with artificial supplements mimicking the essential amino acids and minerals.”

If cats could talk, odds are this one would say, “Are you freaking kidding me?! I’m a cat, and cats eat meaty things. In fact, I am capable of catching and eating meaty things all by myself. Just let me outside and I will take care of my own dinner.”

The cat owner said he has been feeding his cat non-meat products for a year and the cat is just fine (aside from a growing resentment of the kind of owner it has).

“To force cats to eat a vegetarian diet is both unethical and irresponsible," said the veterinarian.

"To impose some vegetarian or vegan ideology on one's cat is to go against the nature of cats and their right to be fed a biologically-appropriate diet."

Yeah, you tell 'em. doc. If God wanted cats to eat nothing but veggies, he would have made them tiny little cows (that ignore you when you call their name.)

The Humane Society of the United States is also against feeding your feline nothing but veggies, and I am pretty sure those folk know what they are talking about.

I must pause for a moment and praise the passionate — if not occasionally misguided — people at PETA for their tireless work in making conditions more humane for animals.

I have seen those "secret" videos of how some animals destined for the barbecue are treated and it truly is sickening.

The way those animals are kept and raised must be changed, but let’s leave the cats alone, OK. Like it or not, say what you want, cats are carnivores. It is that simple.

Hey, I don’t make the rules of nature. I just make fun of people who try to change the rules of nature.

If you make a conscious decision not to eat meat, go ahead, scrum down on sprouts and bark mulch to your heart’s content. I must admit I respect the determination shown by flower eaters to abstain from meat.

A vegan lifestyle is not something I could do. I tried once, but then the barbecue was warmed up, so I went back on the meat wagon.

In the end, to eat meat or not to eat meat is a personal choice, but for a cat eating meat is in their nature.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to share some chicken-fried steak with the family feline.

More The Shoebox articles

About the Author

Darren Handschuh has been working as a writer and photographer in the media industry for the past 25 years. He is married, has three children, a dog and two cats (although he is not completely sure how that part happened).

He takes a humourous look at life, and has often said, “I might as well laugh at myself, everyone else does.” 

His writings have been compared to a collection of words from the English language assembled in a somewhat coherent manner. High praise indeed.

Life gives Darren plenty of material for his column, and no one is safe from his musings – especially himself. 

He regularly writes to his blog www.therudemonkey.blogspot.ca.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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