Lifes Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

The summer morning mist is rising as you rock on your front porch, coffee cup steaming, and listen to the mourning doves softly cooing. Joining with the song of the doves is the distinct whistle of “bob-white, bob-white”. It makes you feel comfortable, safe, and it makes you smile, sort of like a vanilla ice cream cone. That’s what I love about life in the country.
Listening to the bobwhite quail makes me think of a story from Walzie’s younger days – way younger, like when he was ten years old. What do the quail, ice cream, and gravity have in common? You are about to find out.
Walzie and his brother escaped from the school bus on that last day of school in 1959. They moseyed up the dirt lane toward the tiny shanty they called home. The lane was dusty and overhung with thick berry bushes and tall pines. The call of the bobwhites and the flutter of their wings told the boys that they were home free for the summer.
Within the brush were several nests and within those nests were tiny eggs: eggs that the boys watched with anticipation. Walzie was a sucker for baby animals. He had already raised groundhogs, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, deer, and pigeons. Why not a cute little bobwhite quail?
As the late spring days melted into summer, the boys played under the bushes, hollowing tunnels and crawling all around those nests. The bobwhite parents seemed to accept the boys as just a part of the scenery. When the babies hatched, they had already been accustomed to the boys playing around those nests so they were not afraid.
Mama called for the boys to come in for a mid-afternoon snack; Dad had brought home ice cream. Now, this was a rare occasion and they rushed home. As Walzie reached the front porch he heard a tiny “bob-white” whistle behind him. Following him was a tiny quail. He scooped it into his hands and set the little fellow on the table. (He knew it was a boy by the white feathers around its eyes. Girls have golden feathers.) Immediately, it began to peck at the ice cream. Wow, this was too good to be true – a new pet without the hassle of training, and it liked ice cream! How cool is that? Oh yeah, and what did he name his new buddy? What do you think? Of course, Bob.
Just like birds-of-a-feather, Bob and Walzie flocked together. Everywhere that Walzie went, Bob was on his shoulder. They slept in the same bed, ate at the same table, and traveled to the same outhouse. Although, Bob’s business usually got done on Walzie’s shoulder. So what? Not every kid had a pet quail; Walzie felt special.
For the first few years of Walzie’s childhood, the family kept their food in an icebox. (I swear he lived like it was the Depression instead of the fifties.) Finally, they joined the modern age and got one of those “new-fangled” refrigerators with a built in freezer so ice cream could be kept as a staple not just an occasional treat. Now when Walzie and Bob wanted a snack they could help themselves. Walzie knew when Bob wanted ice cream; that quail would go to the refrigerator and peck at the door. Honest! Then he and Walzie would share a dish of whatever was the flavor of the week.
But then one day dad threw in a surprise. The Acme had a two gallon bucket of cherry vanilla on sale. One would think that two gallons of ice cream would be a pleasant surprise, but I’m afraid it wasn’t. You see, the freezer was not frost free. The two gallon pail sat precariously atop an ice mound. Bob chirped happily at Walzie’s feet and looked upward, wanting his daily ration of ice cream. Walzie opened the door; the ice cream pail slid from the freezer. I suppose one could not expect a tiny bobwhite quail to catch a two gallon pail on his little head and still live to see tomorrow. I wonder what Bob’s thoughts were as that ice cream torpedoed toward him, “Hallelujah, here comes the mother load!”
Had gravity not come between friends, they’d still be enjoying ice cream to this very day. Well, except for the fact that poor Bob would be about 200 years old in bird years and I would be sharing my bed with a dad gum old bird. Come to think of it, I guess I do share my bed with an old bird. He still loves ice cream, and if necessary, he can duck a falling pail faster than a speeding bullet!

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