Copyright 2008  B. L. Schappell


Stop me if this story sounds familiar.


On a particularly hot, late-Spring Friday afternoon, the beginning of the 2007 Memorial Day Weekend, most folk had already pulled the plug on business activities, and  had begun the mad rush to the mountains, to the beach, to the ballgame, to the hammock,  to whatever would be occupying their time over the long weekend.

 The New Earth Band had an upcoming concert engagement, for which I needed to swing by Zeswitz Music, one of my music apparatus suppliers, to pick up an essential item.  I was but a moment inside the store, and as I emerged, my wife, who had been waiting in the car said, “There must be a fallen bird over there, because the office employees leaving the building, are asking, ‘Is that bird  still there?’ ”

 She had heard remarks such as, “Awww,  that’s a shame,”  and,  “Why don’t you take him home?”, followed by,  “Uh-uhhhh“, and, “Not me, man!”, and the slamming of  car doors, roaring engines and vanishing tail lights.

 Cautiously, I asked her, “Would you like to take a look?”   To my surprise, she responded, “Sure!”

Hunkered down on his little belly, all alone on that sizzling macadam parking lot, was absolutely the tiniest baby bird I had ever seen.  No bigger than a golf ball, and naked as the proverbial jay-bird, he had no plumage, save a tuft of fuzz crowning his little head, just a wisp atop each shoulder, and a teeny stub where he would eventually require a tail.  I could see blood vessels through his semi-transparent pink and purple flesh.  His wings resembled miniature marimbas – merely two little racks of delicate bones.  His eyes were closed in exhaustion, and he heaved slowly as he labored to breathe in the scorching  afternoon sun.

Scattered around him on the ground were pieces of dry, broken nesting materials.  Both nest and occupant had apparently tumbled from a high ledge beneath the overhanging edge of the roof.  There were neither siblings nor adult birds anywhere in sight.  The little dude was more than just “in a pickle”.  Without question, our fragile friend was in dire straits and out of options, with time rapidly running out.

Does this have a familiar ring to you?

 “Goodness!  This little nipper is being slow-cooked on the tarmac,” I whispered to my wife.  “Yes, and he’s apparently been out here most of the day,” she replied.

 From an immense, yellow, wrap-around bill, there emitted a weak, “Cheep”.

I remember a time in my life when I had fallen from a lofty height, and the sudden stop at the bottom had knocked the wind out of me.  I was broke, alone, and thoroughly exhausted from an extended, fruitless struggle to regain my footing, and there appeared to be not a wink of  hope on the horizon.

 “Maybe I should move him to a cooler spot – maybe in the grass over there in the shade,” I offered.  The nurturing side of my dear wife added, “We should at least give him some water.”

I gently picked up the little fellow, cradling him in my fingers, and laid him in the cool grass on the shade side of the building.  Then I trotted back inside the store where  a compassionate salesman filled a pop bottle with cool water, and pirated a small cardboard carton from the shipping department.

Seeking a delivery system for the water, I carefully scanned the surrounding landscape, and there it was! The perfect weed!  It was long and slim, like a little bottle brush, with rows and rows of tiny blossoms on a three-inch-long head, perfectly suitable for capturing and holding dozens of droplets of water.  Dunking the weed into the bottle, I touched the tip to his bill, which immediately opened for me to shake in a shower of refreshing moisture.

 “Cheep!”, he said, which we naturally recognized as bird language for “Do that again, Bub!”.   So I did – again and again.  Then, as I stood up and stepped back, my wife and I looked at each other for an extended moment, then uttered in unison, “Well …”

 “Cheep!  Cheep!  Cheep,” came the frantic call from the ground. 

Returning our attention to the our distressed friend, we were pleased and surprised to see that he had risen from his hunkered-down posture and was now wobbling weakly on his little toothpick-like legs.

 “Cheep!  Cheep!,” of course translated to, “More H2O, please!”.  I eagerly accommodated his request.

 “If we leave him here, he’s sure to become somebody’s supper tonight,” I droned  morbidly.  “You know, he’s got the same Breath of Life in him as we do.”

My compassionate female companion came back with, “Do you want to take him home with us?”  I tell you, she’s the greatest!

 In the aftermath of my fall, a friendly face was hard to find.  There was an occasional sympathetic look, a brief word of encouragement, and then a rapid exit.   My rescue finally came when I called on the One Who has promised never to leave me, nor forsake me.  He took me in, He supplied my needs, He restored my strength, and then He set me on a brand new path.

I knew we were buying ourselves one serious project, but still, how could we ever have closed our eyes and tried to sleep that night, knowing we had left the little guy defenseless on the ground?   I do believe The Maker was pleased with our decision, as we pulled up fistfuls of His grass and carefully lined that corrugated box to cradle its fragile occupant comfortably.

“We’re going to call you Rocky,” I assured him as I lowered him gently into his makeshift nest , “because  you’re one gnarly, little scrapper.”

On the way back home, I used my cell phone to call some friends of ours who are very knowledgeable about  wild birds.   Karin, suggested we grind up some dry cat food for him, because it is high in protein.  But then, when her husband, Ken, heard what we were planning to do, he opined, “Nah, he won’t make it.  It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to survive.”

Now, Ken’s comments made me all the more determined that Rocky would emerge victoriously.  I understood that I had elected to interfere with nature’s course and  I was fully aware of the responsibility I had placed on my wife and myself.  So what’s a guy to do in a situation such as this?  Well, he prays, that’s what he does!  So we earnestly, fervently, asked God’s guidance and direction in caring for His precious little critter.   Then we knuckled down to the task.

To replenish the water he undoubtedly lost during his long day in the sun, we came up with a more efficient delivery system than my “bottle-brush” weed.  It was a medium-sized eyedropper from the medicine cabinet.  Rocky grasped its intended purpose at first sight, and promptly opened the hatch whenever he saw us approaching with that dropper in hand.

For Rocky’s first rehab meal, my wife prepared a concoction of crushed, dry cat food, mixed with a little bit of raw egg, a generous spoonful of wheat germ and a goodly measure of All-day Energy Greens, a powdered food supplement, along with a small dash of milk.  When mixed together, those ingredients morphed into a gritty, olive-green pudding, which  didn’t look very appetizing to us, but then, we’re not birds.  Aesthetics aside,  there was a powerhouse of nutrition in it, so I offered the earth-toned muck to the little guy on the skinny handle end of a spoon.

Well, he was unable to hold his head up to take the food.  But, in a delightfully inventive maneuver, our unfeathered friend wobbled over to the side of the box, where he rested the bottom of his bill in the corner, propping his head in an upward-facing position.   Immediately, that enormous yellow beak opened wide and Rocky proceeded to waffle  down that gourmet dinner mixture like a piranha!

We took turns feeding our scrawny guest every hour or two, with copious amounts of water interjected between his mealtime blitzes.  In just a matter of a few days, patches of downy fuzz began to appear on his wings and on his back.  In addition, he was beginning to navigate his way around the box with ease, and soon was climbing up the front of my shirt to sit on my shoulder or nestle into the crook of my neck.

Rocky, whom Ken identified as a European Starling, appeared to grow with each passing day.  Just a week into his rehab, he had outgrown his little carton!   So I took one evening and built him a spiffy 2-foot-cube cage, furnished with a network of tree branches, strategically positioned to facilitate climbing, hopping and fluttering around his new home.  Rocky seemed to acquire these and additional skills from one day to the next.

After three weeks in rehab, the good news was that Rocky had grown into a strong, healthy, great-looking Super-Starling.  The bad news was that he loved that olive-drab pudding concoction so much that he really couldn’t give a flip about insects, worms, and more conventional bird-fare.  Besides, Rocky had become so tame that he permitted us to scratch his belly, rub his head, and even help him pick dried food from his face.

I knew then that it was time to take the next step.  I phoned a wildlife shelter in the adjacent county, told them our winged amigo’s story, and asked whether they would be willing to prepare him and return him to the wild, where he truly belonged. 

It was a long, somber, most memorable 90-minute, final ride in my pickup truck that afternoon.  Rocky clung to my right hand most of the way, while I drove with my left.  But there’s no question that it was the right thing to do. 

Two weeks later, we received a kind email message from the folks at the shelter, notifying us that Rocky had been released outdoors, on the grounds of the shelter, along with several other starlings, and that he seemed to be doing just fine.

I firmly believe Our Heavenly Father led us to Rocky at the music store, then blessed us with the living experience so that we might gain a more complete understanding of what He has done for each of us, and for Adam’s entire fallen race.

More than a year has passed now, and we still often talk and laugh about Rocky, re-tell his saga to others, and show his photos.  In fact, just recently, we agreed that, given the opportunity, we would willingly do it all again, because of the tremendous satisfaction we received from rescuing a precious life from certain demise – and most of all, because Someone had first done the same for us.

*   *   *

One Friday afternoon in late June, I walked around the corner of our house to enter the back yard and nearly stepped on the tiniest, new-born, silver-gray kitten, nestled there in the cool grass.  Without hesitation, I called to my wife, who came out immediately.

“Ooh, you’re so adorable!”, Elsa breathed as she cradled the teeny ball of fur in the palm of her hand.  “Oh my, she’s missing an eye.  Ooo, I think she’s blind.  Her mommie probably abandoned her.  Come with me, Sweetie, we’ll clean you up and give you some milk.” 

 Thank you, Heavenly Father!