It was a beautiful morning when Susan and I traveled out into the country to visit our friend Sherry and watch the martins. Sherry had invited us pretty urgently, cautioning us that she thought they were about to leave for the season. In fact, there weren’t as many that day as there had been earlier, she said, but it was still a great show.
Charles and I have tried to attract martins but never with success. We’d love for them to feast on our mosquitos. But now I know we didn’t try hard enough. If you erect a whole community of martin houses in the open with lots of sky view, they will come. That’s what Sherry and her husband, Jerry, have done, Sherry having the vision and Jerry the skill and muscle to make it happen.
Sherry served us coffee and muffins on her generous porch. From there, looking across the peaceful blue swimming pool, we could see the martin condominiums with birds flying in and out the openings. Some would take to the sky while others were taking care of housekeeping.
“There really aren’t many today,” said Sherry anxiously. “Ya’ll should have come sooner when the place was packed.”
“We didn’t come just to see the birds,” Susan assured her.
“And anyway, it seems pretty lively to me,” I added. “We certainly don’t see them at our house.”
“There’s a nest with eggs about to hatch, I think,” said Sherry pointing to one of the martin mansions.
“Well, they’ll have to stay a while longer then,” I said. “They’ll have to wait for those babies to grow enough to fly with the rest.”
“That won’t take long,” said Sherry. “You know how fast our children grow. They grow up overnight.”
That brought on discussions and stories about grandchildren. Pictures were passed around. We became so enthusiastic we almost forgot about the birds.
Then I noticed the sounds of chickens clucking and chuckling around the porch, tending to their morning’s work.
“Hens laying these days?” I asked.
“We get some day by day. Enough for an omelet now and then. Jerry gathers them. One day when I was fetching the eggs I found a big gray snake in the nest with an egg half swallowed. I let the snake have it. Had nothing in my hands to finish him off with!”
Susan remembered her own recent snake story. “I went in a shed at the back of our house to get a tool. Reached up and plucked it off a hook and turned to go out when suddenly something came down across my head–a sizable snake!”
“How long was it?” asked Sherry.
Susan held up her hands to indicate eighteen inches, then laughed. “Johnny says it was only this long,” she said sizing down to about six inches.
Sherry insisted on our getting more coffee. She, being very short of breath because of a lung disease, let us serve refills for ourselves.
The martins were busy again, some wheeling in the sky, others flying into their homes. Some were sitting on their porches, like us. We talked about their distinctive shape, their deep black shimmery color and their ability to one day simply pick up all their luggage and go to a distant land in Central or South America. We marveled at how God has made every creature able to take care of itself. How can the birds know where to go? How do they make such a long journey? We’d never be able to do that (without all our super aids). But “we” can build martin houses–and skyscrapers!
“One day we’ll look out and there will be no martins,” said Sherry. “Just all their empty houses. And Jerry will go to work repairing and cleaning out their homes. So they’ll be ready when the birds come back.”
“And about when is that?” I asked.
“Maybe about March. Early spring. We look out one day and there are a few scouts flying around, then soon there’s a flock wheeling, building nests and all.” She laughed. “One day I was sitting here watching and this one bird flew up to his door with a stick about a foot long. It was a show watching him force that stick into the small hole but he did it.”
It was a very good morning. Susan and I agreed it was one of the most fun visits we’d ever been on. As we drove back to town full of coffee and muffins and blessed with good conversation, we remarked that this was really life, taking time to stop and watch the birds with friends.