HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

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HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:39 am

In a living tree, branched like a hand, was a sparrow's nest.

Woven of grass and old dryer lint, dog hair, cat fur, cotton and twigs, and sturdy enough to withstand the wind, Mama Sparrow laid three eggs. With her downy breast, she sheltered them from the rain and the late falling snow. This is their way and sparrows being a very ancient people, do not change the tried and true.

In such a nest hatched a little cock sparrow named Hopsing...
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:00 pm

Papa and Mama had built quite a few nests and reared many children. Sparrows grow so fast that the babies are ready to fly in just a matter of weeks. Even so, the parents care for each as if it were the only one. They know everyone is needed if they are to survive as a people; none is unwanted, no one is unloved.

Names are at the heart of their traditions. Names honor the dead and bestow greatness upon the present. They would call the brother Fledge, after Papa Sparrow’s grandfather, and name the sister Skye, after Mama Sparrow’s mother. The smallest they would name Hopsing, which had been Mama’s name when she was a girl. Hopsing is a popular name for the youngest child, no matter how many nestlings there are. Sparrows can’t count, so more than one is ‘lots’.

Now, Fledge and Skye were one day old when Hopsing began to hatch. Mama and Papa were hard at work catching insects for their brood and had just returned. In Papa’s beak, was a huge black cricket, so big that Mama had to fly in front of him – he simply couldn’t see around it! But as the last of the last shell was pushed aside, Hopsing could see. Hatching is hungry, hard work and just as Papa’s toes touched the floor of the nest, Hopsing stretched out his skinny, naked neck, grabbed the bug in his brand-new beak and swallowed it whole!
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:48 pm

“Hey! That’s mine!” chirped Fledge and Skye. They were both an atom from bursting, but the mere glimpse of that cricket filled them with greed.

“Goodness!” said Papa. “Amazing!”
“Yes!” said Mama Sparrow, piping with concern. “Are you all right, baby?”

“Yes, Mama, more! Want more!” Eating so fast had filled up Hopsing before he knew it. However, his mother knew better.

“I think you’ve had enough,” she said. “Any more will make you sick.”
“Yes, Mama.”

Hopsing was disappointed, but a few minutes later, his head did catch up with his belly and both agreed he needed a nap. His brother and sister had already dozed off, and Hopsing joined them under Mama’s wing…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:36 pm

Over the next few weeks, the babies woke up, stuffed themselves and fell back to sleep. Now, you might think that such a lifestyle would quickly turn them into the avian equivalent of sofa spuds.

Sparrows do have this concept of laziness, and they refer to such individuals by a word which is highly insulting in their language and completely unpronounceable by humans. A mean translation of it in English, at least, is “(he who is) better off in (the) egg and smashed on (the) rocks.” But the work of sparrow chicks is to grow as fast and as well as they can, and the proper way to do this is by eating and sleeping and nothing else. Once grown, their work ethic states that all people find a suitable mate, and rear young; to do otherwise is unimaginable.

To you and me, this sounds rather boring. But after meals and before their naps, Mama would regale her brood with stories – tales from her own chickhood in the neighboring trees, how she met Papa Sparrow, humorous ones about her nestlings’ elder brothers and sisters, and somber ones about the demise of those loved by cat and squirrel, preying birds and the hard, round stones spat from the spitting sticks of human boys.

But their favorites were about Bright-Eyes, the bold and crafty, who saved his family and confounded the enemies with his keen eye and swift wing. Bright-Eyes, said Mama, saw as clearly with his wit as with his eyes, and both are very necessary in this world shared by others who prefer their sparrows still and cold.
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:53 pm

The stories took on a more urgent tone as the children grew. They soon lost their barely-there down and the first feathers were coming in. No longer hatchlings, their feet could hold them on the edge of the nest, and Skye had managed to cling to a nearby twig, much to her mother’s cautious delight. “So beware, my darlings,” Mama’d say, at the end of each lesson. “Be quick of eye, sharp of thought and fly like the wind. For the cat comes at will, and the raven never knocks.”

Hopsing loved the stories, almost as much a crickets. He’d begun to dream that he was Bright-Eyes – swift as lightning, bold as thunder and sharp as a summer rain. More than a match for snake or tabby, they fled before his menacing dives and cowered in dread of his fearsome beak. Bloodied and bowed, the enemies trembled, desperate to escape the return of their feathered tormentor.

“Are you subdued,” shrieked their black-capped foe, “or shall I subdue you more?” His beaten prey opened their pleading mouths and said:

“Hopsing, dinner! Eat it while it moves!” It was his mother.

He was up with a start, but too late. Skye and Fledge were just gulping down the last of the catch, and with the sun setting, there was no more hunting to be done.

You really can’t blame them. As you’ve been told, growth is the job of your baby sparrow, and while Mama & Papa will provide, it’s up to each individual chick to get its share. Hopsing knew it was his fault for not being ready to eat on time, but he kept any upset to himself. And it’s a good thing he didn’t know where his hunger would lead; I sincerely doubt he’d be quiet about that…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:25 pm

The night air seemed especially chilly, when paired with an empty stomach, even though Mama’s warm body was just as much a comfort. Hopsing tried to sleep, but couldn’t. In fact he had never been awake while the others slept, and discovered for the first time how Papa whistled through his nose, and why he woke up some mornings all black and blue.

Fledge kicked in his sleep, and Skye tossed from side to side.
Once in a while, Mama could be heard to murmur – “Oh, those squirrels!”, “Millet, again!”, and “You’d better get gone, you nasty old crow!” – among other things.

“I know what I’ll do,” thought Hopsing. “I’ll climb out onto the branch next to Papa and sleep there. That’ll make more room in the nest, and Mama will be so proud! I’ll be just like Bright-Eyes!” So, gently he lifted Mama’s wing and slowly slipped out from under. He hadn’t yet learned how to keep his balance, but after watching Skye – “How hard can it be?”

The night air sliced through the sparse feathers on his back and stung his tender skin. He almost changed his mind, but the mere thought of Bright-Eyes emboldened him, and he stepped from nest edge to the branch beside his father. His feet were not yet strong enough to grasp, and the branch he’d chosen in the dark was too large. Flapping his tiny wings, he tried to stay upright but hunger made him dizzy, and the last thing he heard, was the rustling of the leaves…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:43 am

He came to on the ground. A clump of dense grass had broken his fall, and except for feeling a bit dazed, he was unhurt. All he’d ever known was the nest, snuggled in its close-fitting branches; all around him now was open, flat and grassy. What little light there was from nearby buildings, showed the tree trunk rising up beside him and in the lowest branch he spied the something bent round and sitting by itself.

“That must be home,” thought Hopsing. “I wonder how long I’ve been here.”

He flapped his wings, and for less than a breath, he cleared the earth. But the effort exhausted him, and he fell like a stone. Nothing looked familiar. As young as he was, he knew that calling for help would only attract enemies – Mama had taught them all that – but he suddenly realized, that he didn’t know what a cat or a snake was. Now the chicks had seen squirrels and their parents had pointed out some of the birds that shared their tree, but other animals were just words in his mother’s stories. For the first time in his life, Hopsing was alone, hungry, cold and very much afraid. Panic was taking on a life of its own, and he fought hard not to scream…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:44 pm

Be Bright-Eyes

The voice was soft but firm, making him more curious than afraid. He sat very still and listened. But it did not speak again, and he soon gave up. It was growing lighter, and he’d soon need a place to hide. Across a wide span of earth he noticed a bush with tight leaves, growing close to the ground. Hopsing took a deep breath and hopped with all his strength – through the grass, over the sidewalk, through more grass – until he was right under the belly of the little bush. He’d been a careful as he could not to make a sound and was sure he hadn’t been seen. But even so, he was so tired that he really didn’t care.

A pile of dry leaves lay all around, leathery cast-offs from the last season. Layers deep, they were pliant at the top, and bouncy. Hopsing poked his nose under those and shut his eyes…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:24 am

“HEY!”

Something poked him. Hopsing was up with a start. He whirled around, knocking the leaves about and kicking up the ones underneath. Then he saw it, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Wiggling on the cold, damp ground was the longest, fattest, juiciest worm the sparrow chick had ever seen. Like lightning, he pounced and his tiny toes locked around the monstrous middle. The worm was covered in slime and writhed so violently that Hopsing almost let go – and if you’ve ever seen a rodeo, Hopsing was the cowboy on the bucking bronco worm. He held on, and held on, and held on some more. Finally, after what seemed to Hopsing like a very long time, the worm reared, shuddered and was still.

Now, worms are an acquired taste – even for some birds and animals, they don’t always taste good. It has to do with the fact that worms eat dirt and dirt – well, that’s what they taste like. But if you haven’t eaten in a long time, like Hopsing hadn’t, it makes a big difference to your appetite. Ordinarily, sparrows prefer insects, seeds and grains, not worms. Maybe it was because he was starving, and he had caught it himself – a feat that puffed him to no end – but whatever the reason, he had never tasted anything quite that delicious before. He ate to his heart’s content; for the first time since the day he was born, Hopsing had almost more than his fill. Yawning contentedly, he cleaned and preened his stubby feathers until they shone.

Now that he was rested and fed, Hopsing noticed the sunlight peering through the branches under which he stood. “It must be straightup,’ he said to himself. Sparrows tell time by the sun’s height in the sky and ‘straightup’ for them, is noon for us. “Mama and Papa must be so worried.” If his parents called out to him, Hopsing’s answering back would uncover his hiding place. It was up to him to catch their eye as they went about their daily business, and he decided to try…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:11 am

Looking all five ways to make sure it was safe, he hopped to the edge of his shelter. He saw green grass, the flat white-stone of the sidewalk, and beyond the grass there, the trunk of his family’s tree. The tree looked so inviting that he rushed out to meet it – forgetting to look down, behind, left, right and up. It was good for practice under the bush, but where he really needed to do it, he didn’t.

He dashed out in such a hurry, that the people coming up the sidewalk narrowly missed stepping on him! There was a man, a woman and a little boy, just big enough to walk on his own. They ‘oohed’ and ahhed’ with pleasure when they saw him.

“Look, Mikey! It’s a baby bird, just like in your book!” She stooped as she spoke and Hopsing knew he was in trouble. The people were between him and the bush. Instinctively, he froze, but that only works if you haven’t been seen. Frantically he tried hopping away, flapping his wings as he went, but the woman caught him easily, scooping him up with one hand and covering him up with the other. His head poked out between her fingers, and she talked to him – nothing he understood, of course – and lifted him up to show the little boy.

He was as terrified as he had been the night he fell out of the tree. Quickly, Hopsing went over his mother’s lessons:

People – tall, two legs, no wings – have things that catch instead – don’t eat sparrows. Nature of is unpredictable, can be cruel – most are not, some are stupid, all best to avoid.

None of that reassured him. Hopsing struggled, but the woman only tightened her grip and spoke softly as she held him close to the little boy.

“Want to pet him?” she said. “Feel how soft he is.” But, the little boy only stood and stared, and not at all at the baby bird. The man reached over and stroked Hopsing’s head with one long finger. It didn’t feel unpleasant, and the hands felt warm – much warmer and far more comfortable than the nest – but he’d never tell his mother that.

As time passed, Hopsing realized that if they’d wanted to, they could have eaten him many times over. He couldn’t escape and that made him resigned. Whatever they were going to do to him, he wished they would just do it and get it over with. In what he believed were his last moments, he called on his hero for assistance:

“O Bright-Eyes! I know I probably won’t get out of this alive. But, on the off chance that I might, I promise and solemnly swear, that I won’t ever do anything ever again without looking! I really and truly swear to you – just get me out of this – and I won’t ever forget to look, ever again…”

Just then, as if in answer to his prayer, he felt himself being carried back in the direction he had come, and was slowly lowered to the ground. The woman opened her hands and Hopsing flapped out. He was back under his bush! He had been lucky, extremely lucky, this time and thanked Bright-Eyes from the bottom of his heart. He renewed his promise to the great sparrow, that he would always look all five ways and never forget to do so for the rest of his days…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:14 pm

The day was coming to an end, and his parent’s still hadn’t found him. But the leafy bottom of his little bush was crawling with beetles and bugs of all sorts, and he taught himself how to arrange a cozy bed where he slept when the sun went down. He was up with the sun each morning to begin his daily hunt for food. But whenever he looked to the tree, there was no sign he was ever missed.

“I’ll just have to be more patient,” he thought. Even so, he missed his family very much and Hopsing hoped he’d see them soon.

But today was like yesterday, and tomorrow was the same. He passed the time studying the bush, and – after looking all five ways first! – hopped inside of it from branch to branch. He stretched his wings, preened his growing feathers and went over his mother’s lessons from bottom to top. He was lonely, but content. It was only a matter of time, he’d say, before he was found and his parents will be so proud of how he managed on his own. More than once, he’d hear the still, small voice say, “Be Bright-Eyes”, and that always helped. In fact, he had grown a great deal in these many days, and as straightup came and went, he watched and waited…
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Re: HOPSING'S BRIGHT-EYED ADVENTURE!

Postby shireling » Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:20 pm

Then, he heard something. A branch, and it creaked.

It was a very tiny creak, probably you and I would not have noticed, but he did. And it wasn’t in the bush, but way high up in the nesting tree. On the limb, directly above the nest, Hopsing saw the biggest, ugliest creature imaginable. It had no feathers and walked in a manner most sneaky. It wasn’t a squirrel, that he knew, but neither was it a bird and it had no business being where his family should be.

Hopsing had no idea that this was only a curious kitten. The little one had climbed up the side of the tree facing away from him, and had no idea how to get down. In fact, it was so concerned about its predicament that it could have cared less about the sparrow’s nest. But all Hopsing saw was an enemy out to destroy, and that was enough for him. He knew exactly what Bright-Eyes would do, and looking all five ways, he hopped out into the open, flapped his wings with all his might and lifted right off the ground!

Hopsing was flying!

All of his patient, hard work had paid off. Narrowing his eyes, he aimed for the kitten’s head. He barely missed crashing himself, but it worked! The cat swiped a paw in his direction and lost its grip. Down it fell, landing in almost exactly the same grassy patch that had broken Hopsing’s fall all those days before, and only its dignity was wounded. Happy to be back on the ground, the kitten walked away as if nothing had happened.

“Oh, no you don’t!” sputtered Hopsing. “You don’t get off that easy!” He went after it with a vengeance, and the cat ran for its life. It dove into the row of shrubs that edged the property and vanished. Only then did the little boy sparrow give up the chase, and with a heart bursting with joy, flew back to the tree and his family nest…

“I’m back! I’m back! Here I am!” sang Hopsing, rising above his egg hood home. But when he got there, it was empty.
Hopsing was stunned. At first he thought he was wrong. It was such a small place. It didn’t seem possible that he could have lived there, let alone with his mother and two siblings. I must be dreaming, he thought. He shook his head, blinked twice – even bit his foot – but everything looked exactly the same. No mother, no father, no sister or brother – they were gone.

“Hopsing?” He turned. And there, smiling on the branch beside him, were his parents.
“Mama! Papa! Oh, how glad I am to see you! When I – I thought – I was afraid that…”
“No, sweetheart,” said Mama Sparrow, “we’re fine. Fledge and Skye left last straightup to start out on their own. They said to tell you goodbye.”
“We just came back to see how you were doing,” said Papa.
“To see how I was doing?” asked Hopsing. “You didn’t know where I was…”

“Of course we did, sugar, all the time,” said Mama. “When you fell, we all woke up and have watched over you ever since.”
“The whole time – on the ground – with the worm, the people…”
“The whole time…”
“Never missed a second,” said Papa.

Hopsing was furious! He paced up and down, ruffling his feathers as he went. “You knew where I was, and never let me know! I-I could have starved, or been eaten up, or worse – and you knew!” He ranted about the lots and lots of straightup he spent alone, the dangers he faced. And all the while the wind whipped through the branches, echoing his anger. “How could you! How could you know and do nothing!”

His parents listened, patiently waiting until their son’s anger was spent. For a while, no one said a word – even the wind held its breath. Then Papa looked Hopsing in the eye, and spoke very gently, but very firmly, to his youngest child.

“From the moment you were born, your mother and I knew that you were unlike any other of our children. None of our brood has shown the strength and promise that you have. Oh, I admit we were worried when you were in the hands of the people. But you were picked up by the curious, the loving – they would never have hurt you. We didn’t abandon you, son.” Mama agreed.

“We saw that you could take care of yourself. You didn’t need us. But we watched over you, Hopsing, and if you were ever in danger, nothing could have kept us from you. After all, wasn’t it for our sakes that you climbed out of the nest that night? Wasn’t it to give your brother and sister and me more room? That was very thoughtful of you, honey. Very thoughtful indeed.”

It’s hard to tell when a sparrow blushes, but Hopsing was cherry-red right down to his toes.

“It’s funny,” he said, “but more than once I could have sworn someone said “Be Bright-Eyes”. After the first time, if I was having trouble, I just thought that. Sometimes, all I could figure out was what Bright-Eyes wouldn’t do. And even that made all the difference…” The wind rose up just then, and lifted him on his perch.

“Mama?”
“Yes.”
“Does it make sense to feel like the wind is calling you?” Mama’s eyes moistened, and she took a deep breath.
“I think so. I think you should go to it, Hopsing.”

“Goodbye, Mama. Goodbye, Papa.”
“Goodbye, darling…and be quick of eye, sharp of thought and fly like the wind…”
“For the cat comes at will, and the raven never knocks
…I’ll remember.”

Wings outspread, Hopsing leaned into the wind and let it take him. His parents watched until he was just a glint of sunlight. Cuddling together, they saw the sun dip below the horizon in a glory of gold and pink and they could see him no more.

“Well, Mother,” said Papa Sparrow, stretching with satisfaction. “That’s another empty nest to our credit – two excellent kids and one exceptional. I think we did all right, if I do say so myself.”
“So do I, Bright-Eyes,” said Mama, her eyes now a twinkle. “So do I.”

The End
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