I have occasionally pondered who was happier, the swallows who observed their hatchlings leave the garage or the farmer who could restore the bespotted Model T to its prestige antique form. But, one season, on the day of departure the mother barn swallow encountered a dilemma—call it the case of the reluctant baby.
At a given time the mother had decreed that the birds should embark on their maiden flight. She swooped under the door, perched momentarily on the wire where five nestlings peered over the edge and urged the little ones to line up next to her. The wire swung with greater velocity than usual, a precursor to flight. Then, with a chirping that only the birds understood, she exited as she had entered and soon four offspring followed, curved wings spread for their maiden flight, continuing the tradition of parents, grandparents, perhaps great grandparents who had taken off from that garage.
Four baby swallows. Four? But hadn’t there been five in the nest? The mother noticed and depositing the four on a rusted metal gutter on the far side of the barn she returned for the progeny missing in action. She found the last of the swallows with only its head exposed and, spotting the mother, the little bird hid behind the mud wall of the nest, clearly not wanting to take off. A cacophony of sounds echoed from mother to chick and although I cannot decipher the language of birds I surmise the mother was asking, “How long will you remain hidden in that nest?” in a not so gentle tone. The chick refused to budge, unwilling to enter an unknown world. More arguing. More refusal. Eventually, the mother, hovering over the nest , coaxed the baby to at least assume a tenuous position on the wire. Slight progress.
Finally the mother lost her patience and with a flapping of wings darted for the door. Baby, you are on your own! I can’t wait around! The chick flew hesitantly off the wire. Returned. Flew. That chick was not convinced that the gift of flight was meant for swallows. But, gradually, the chick gained confidence and, led by the mother, exited under the door to join its siblings on the edge of the metal gutter.
Flying into the unknown may not be for everyone—or every bird!