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Mourning dove

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

It is the end of the day and Greg and I are sitting in my favorite warm-weather place on earth, the front porch swing. One dog lies at the top of the steps, turning her head to each of the evening sounds.

The other two lie still, one under the swing, the other under the table, sleeping soundly. I suppose that I could get up and go water the strawberries.

Or I could even sweep the chicken droppings off the side deck, but I have no desire to move even the slightest muscle. I am perfectly content, lost in childhood memories of the call of the mourning dove.

I have always imagined that the pretty gray bird had gotten its name from the fact that it called its “who hoo, hoo hoo” in the early morning hours.

As small children, my brother and I would go to spend two weeks each summer at our Aunt Laura’s farm. She had never married, and did not have any children of her own and so did not really know how to care for children, much less city children. But our two weeks with her were like heaven.

We could hunt for fossils in the creek to our hearts’ content. We could make tunnels through the stacked hay bales in the barn. Never mind that the tunnels might collapse and we might be maimed or squished. We could have rotten apple wars in the orchard, and at night, we would fall asleep on the floor, without having even taken a taken a bath, snuggled up with the dogs, watching television. In the morning, we could sleep as late as we wanted, and when we did wake up, fresh eggs and biscuits waited for us in the kitchen.

But even before I would go downstairs for breakfast, I remember waking up and lying in bed in the room Aunt Laura called the flower room. I would open my eyes and lie still. I remember imagining that the bed’s line-dried sheets smelled like the sunshine that streamed across the window-sill. I would watch the sunlight splash across the corner of room’s bold flowered wallpaper. And I was never in any rush to jump right out of the high bed. I would lie there and smell the country smells and listen to the country sounds. And I remember listening to the call of the mourning dove.

A large tree grew right outside the flower room’s second story window. Eventually, I would sit up and ease my feet down to the hooked rug floor. I would tip-toe over to the window and peer out over the sill, looking for the plaintive dove.

Sometimes I would see the pretty gray bird, farther up in the tree, singing its sad mourning song. I remember wondering if it was called a “morning” dove, because with my city ears, I had only heard it sing in the morning, or if it was called a mourning dove, because its morning song was so very sad. I wondered, and never knew the answer.

Until tonight, that is, as Greg and I sat on our front porch swing. I was listening to the dove’s lonely call, at the end of the day. All my childhood wonderings came back to me. Certainly a “morning” dove would not be singing her sad song at night, so I reached for my smart-phone and typed in “morning dove,” only to learn that the rest of the world has always known the gently calling gray bird as a “mourning dove.” So now I knew.

I often think of Aunt Laura, my grandmother’s sister. I wish that I could show her around our creek world. I wish that I could know what she would think of this city child and the creek valley farm she shares with her husband, but I suppose that I know.

After her passing, all of Laura’s family got together for one last visit to the farm. We walked through the familiar rooms and each of us gathered up a special memory to take home. In the barn, I found an old wooden propeller. I slid it under the seat of our minivan, already packed to the brim with our own city children. I imagined that the propeller was a spare prop that had belonged to one of Laura’s long ago admirers, a dashing pilot, who would touch down in her fields for the occasional visit.

Aunt Laura’s propeller now hangs in our barn at the creek. We pull our farm implements out into the fields from under its imagined watch. And tonight I sit on the front porch swing, thankful for my memories, thankful for our creek mourning dove to have brought me back.

Christine Tailer is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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