The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

George Is A Bird

By Dennis Hester © 1985

Issue: August, 1985

George is a BirdGeorge Scruggs and one of his bird houses."No George. I don't want to feed birds."

I had told George Scruggs time and time again, I had not time nor interest in feeding birds. But like a prevailing wind, every time I turned around George would ask, "Are you ready for me to bring you a bird feeder?"

George Scruggs and his wife Susie adore birds. Behind their home in Arrington, Virginia, located on highway 29 about 30 miles north of Lynchburg, stands a Bluebird house, a Purple Martin house and three bird feeders. Not to mention sunflower seed lying on the window ledges and corn scattered all over the yard.

It was nearly dusk when Susie chauffeured George into my driveway in the mountains of Nelson County, known for its beautiful apple orchards and the Crabtree waterfall, one of the highest in the east.

Smoke was rolling from George's pipe when he and Susie stopped in front of the house. George lets Susie drive. That way George can concentrate more on talking.

George greeted me with a "How ya doing boy?" when he slowly eased out of the car. He fumbled with his keys and finally opened the car trunk. He pulled out his latest large bird feeder with glass sides and a green wooden top. People come for miles to buy George's hand crafted bird feeders. And even in his 80's he can still make a sharp looking feeder.

With an old horse-trading smile George grinned and said, "Well Denny, here's your bird feeder."

"I don't want to feed birds, George," I said, trying to be respectful to my elder, but also trying firmly to get my point across.

George came up beside me and said as he gazed out across the snow, "I just can't understand how a man can set by and watch little birds starve to death."

Underneath my breath I was saying, "He's not going to talk me into looking after a bunch of birds. There's no telling what it could cost me each week."

"Birds can't find food when there's snow on the ground," said George. "They scratch and hop and hunt, but soon freeze to death. The winters are bitter in Virginia."

Piously I said, "George, the Lord will take care of the birds. Doesn't the Bible say that?" I really thought I had George in a corner with my proof text. But he came back like an old prophet. "Yea, the Lord will take care of them. And He's going to use you and me to do it."

George picked up the bird feeder and headed around behind my house, leaving his barbed words sticking in my mind. Before he got out of sight he said, "Grab that iron stake to place the bird feeder on. You can come back for the feed later."

Mumbling, I followed George behind the house. Like a weakened fighter with little confidence. I thought I would try to discourage George just one more time.

"George, please listen to me. I do N-O-T want to feed birds."

Scanning my back yard, looking for an appropriate place to erect my new feeder, George said, "I know just how you feel Denny. used to be the same way. It's going to cost me $25 to get you started into this bird feeding business, but I won't regret it. You won't either."

"George, I already threw the birds some scrap bread." I said, hoping it would impress George.

"Birds can't swallow chunks of bread, Denny. Don't you know that is dangerous. The crust is hard and it gets hung in the bird's throat. They can easily choke to death," said George.

George had me drive the iron stake into the nearly frozen ground. I screwed the bird feeder on top of the stake. I took off the removable top and filled the feeder with crushed corn. I stepped back and admired the feeder. George had placed it beside a lovely maple. I guess the birds could get sun as well as shade while feeding there. I didn't ask.

As George was leaving he said, "When those birds get to singing, they'll thrill your heart." He smiled, bid me farewell and was chuckling to Susie as their old Ford's tail light rounded the curve out of sight.

I stared at the bird feeder for the longest time. I pulled up my collar as I glanced at the mountains and went inside.

The snows did come. And with the snow came the birds. I have never seen so many types of birds in all of my life in one place. There were sparrows, finches, doves, thrushes, red birds, blue birds, black birds and birds I had never seen. Even a couple of rabbits occasionally dropped by to eat the corn the birds knocked out of the feeder to the ground.

As birds flocked to "my" bird feeder I would grin because I knew I was doing something worthwhile. I had seen birds in flight all of my life, but when they're 20 feet from you it's different. I felt I had become their friend.

I enjoyed keeping the feeder full and shoveling snow away from the base of the feeder. I'd blanket the ground with crushed corn and sunflower seed.

Sometimes in the morning I would be awakened by a bird symphony. Over a hundred find feathered friends would be singing a good morning song. And often I would say to myself as I sat in my study, concentrating on my birds instead of my work, "Just think, I tried to talk George out of this. Look what I would have missed."

Often George would call me and ask, "Hey Denny, you got any birds? I got plenty, but the old Blue Jays want to run them away."

Sometimes George and I would go to town and pick up feed for our birds and we'd talk about building fancy bird houses. Old George, I guess he's built hundreds of feeders for people all over Virginia. I often wonder if there are others who have fought George and refused to be converted into avid bird feeders. Then I think about what joy they're missing.

George was right, the Lord does take care of his birds because he used people like George to see that it is done. Just like the Greek proverb says, "God gives birds their food, but He does not throw it into their nests."

When George hears me tell this story he gives a hearty laugh as if to say, "I told you so." There's nothing like feeding birds. And there's nothing like a person like George whose heart goes out to creatures large and small.

Old George. He's quite a bird himself.