First of all, everyone needs to know about this: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
It is one of my absolute favorite picture books of all time. It came as a part of a set of picture books I ordered on QVC (yes, I’m a home shopper–don’t hate) about 6 years ago. The rest of the set were classics–Madeline, Paddington, Babbar, etc. I read it for the first time out loud to my mom and had to stop reading several times, I was laughing so hard. It’s just the silliest. I’ve started reading it to some of my kids for their social skills times and make them break it to the pigeon that he can’t drive the bus. It’s fun when the pigeon gets all oppositional and wigs out.
Anywho…thought you needed some background on my love of pigeons before I launch into the epic, tragic, and all-together bizarre story of a real-life pigeon I “met” this September.
So there I was…escorting one of my little darlings out to recess. It was me, a student teacher, my student, and a girl from his classroom who was late to recess because her faux pony-tail had fallen off. We were headed out to the playground which is about ten steps up from the school building. There, standing at the base of the stairs, was a pigeon. And he literally was just standing there, chillin’ out.
Typically birds don’t just stand around. They’ve got places to be, worms to eat, lives to live. And usually they flit away pretty quickly if kids start yelling at them, which is what happened to this poor dude. “PIGEON! PIGEON! ARE YOU OK?” My little friend bent over the bird, got right in his face. “I WILL FIND YOU A WORM!” And the bird just sat there. Blinking at us. Well, half blinking. Homeboy only had one eye.
One eye and one dry socket. Like he should have been the pigeons’ own pirate king, but had left his patch at home. I made the kids back away slowly and promise to bring back some pigeon doubloons if he’d only spare us our lives.
Yeah, so there’s that. And that’s creepy. Then, early the next week, I’m in my classroom with the same kid who’d yelled at Cap’n Pidgey. We were standing in the middle of the room when it suddenly sounded like someone had thrown one of those huge, institutional-sized sponges full of water at the window. It sounded dense, and somewhat liquid-filled. The whole thing rattled. I looked up in time to see a pigeon flying in a weird curly motion toward a little decorative tree that’s out front, crash through the tree scattering blossoms all over, and then land on a totally different tree across the parking lot.
My kid said, “Whoah…was that a pigeon?” Yes, friend, I’m pretty sure it was. “Was it him?” You know, there’s not a way to tell, really. (But I’m pretty sure it was. It only makes sense that Cap’n Pidgey might have been hitting the pigeon rum a little hard and lost control of his flight-pattern.)
Also, he’d left these behind:
Little pigeon-piracy calling card? They’re stuck on there really well, too. That must have been the window-slam of his life. I took this picture mid-October and he hit the window mid-September. It’s now the first week of November and one feather remains.
Thursday afternoon of the same week, I’m stopped in the hall by our principal’s son who is in one of the upper grades at our school. He said, “Tell my mom there’s a dead bird on the playground!”
I said, “Excuse me?”
“Tell her! It’s on the ground out there! The kids all saw it today! It’s over by the blah-blah-blah-blah-blah!” For some reason, I knew. I could just feel it.
“Hey, was it a pigeon?”
Yes, he was pretty sure it was. I went straight into the office. I explained the situation to the office manager who remembered that she was supposed to have called the custodian about that earlier. “Do you know, by chance, if the bird only has one eye?” Fully knowing there was more than a slight chance that question would label me as a giant weirdo, I asked it anyway. I just needed to know if Cap’n Pidgey, Pigeon-Pirate King, had met his end. (I’m also fully aware that giving one-eyed birds pirate names is something that could make people think I’m a giant weirdo. I’m cool with that.)
Our fabulous and indulgent office manager called the custodian and reported the dead bird, gave it’s location, and then asked if he’d make sure and check if the guy only had one eye because “one of our teachers thinks she knows him.” Good news is he was a substitute custodian and wasn’t coming back the next day. I didn’t have to worry about whether the thought of freak show teachers building relationships with mangled birds weirded him out.
Sure enough, dead homeboy only had one eye. I grabbed the kid who’d been with me on both other occasions and we swiped one of those little paper boat things used for nacho day from the cafeteria, padded it with napkins, set it on fire and sent the little guy adrift in the Puget Sound. I realize that send-off is more Viking than pirate, but it seemed a fitting way to bid farewell to the only pirate king I’d ever met.
That’s not true. Really the custodian put him in a ziplock in the freezer and called the health department. A few years ago they’d torn down a smelter a few miles away so whenever you find things like tweaky one-eyed pigeons who run into windows and drop dead out of trees, the authorities like to know. It could be a mutant. Or it could be some weird bird disease about to morph into a form that infects humans. Or it could have just been a freak swashbuckling accident. I know which way I’m leaning.