Harriett the Pelican Adventures
Sand and Animals
It was a most generous wellspring of sea water gradually seeping into the shallow cistern Harriett had dug. She never seemed to tire of this past time; just a few more moments and it would be filled with sea water and the sides would softly cave and level leaving the pudding-like sand saturated yet with enough substance for another hole; although she had been told sand is any deposit big enough to grain between the toes and smaller than a match head, to her it was a mystery because it never seemed to completely stick together like river bank mud. Wind would shape and sometimes move dry dunes and when moist as it was here, she could easily remove it from the forms she wanted; a square this time…more difficult.
She was popping the few clams into her mouth she found while she concentrated and planned the intricacies of the excavation when she heard an unfamiliar voice speak in a tone and language she did not recognize. Looking up she saw a sheep standing nearby. On Nesting Beach! On the sand! A Sheep! Harriett had flown over their pastures on excursions inland but neither spoke to nor inquired about them, she thought. “Their feathers are strange; their feet are not webbed so they must not swim; I know for a fact they do not fly, they have four feet instead of two and no wings”. Quickly she glanced about to see who else might be around but she had intentionally used an isolated sandy spot for her “diggings” past time so there were no other pelicans. Since the sheep’s language was unfamiliar she did not respond. Even though she tried to resume her activity, Harriett was upset about the unusual animal on the beach and unable to understand anything it said. It did not appear threatening to her actually, as she calmed herself she realized the sheep seemed lost and unhappy.
Old Henrietta pelican had never said anything other than calling them sheep, she sighed. If she did I don’t recall a conversation so it could not have been much. I certainly would have remembered had she spoken that language. The sheep began walking towards her startling Harriett so she ran down the beach away from it, forgetting in the moment she could have flown. If you are a pelican, sheep up close are huge! Something about this creature fascinated her though; that, in itself may somewhat account for her not flying; yet she was unwilling to get too close.She lifted circling around the sheep scolding it for frightening her and it startled, turned and raced to rejoin others following. Then she flew to an old pier piling and landed observing the little flock all the while trying to remember anything helpful about these animals. Their tracks in the sand led across the hard top rock where the land crawlers (fast, earth bound humming machines with startling, melodic cries) mostly traveled. Leaving them she lifted again and flew in the reverse direction of the tracks and crossing the hard top rock she could see they had made their way from the shore line for a long stretch which eventually led to an open rail fence; just as she had thought. Circle Ranch the sign read, and in smaller letters Cabin Repair, then underneath Blankets. That’s it, she squawked aloud. I knew they looked a little strange, it’s molting, or ah, shearing time and they probably left open the inside gates for shearers who arrived on their land crawlers. She knew sheep lost their feathers in the spring to allow others to grow during the summer; she had seen them after shearing and inquired about it once when she was a young pelican still mastering flight patterns around the cove; then she remembered Old Henrietta saying something about wool not feathers.
To find a way from the beach and back to pasture was really the question. Harriett never asked herself if this was an activity she had to assume; she just did what she thought she would have liked if some day the wind was too strong for her she was tossed into their pasture. And horror of horrors, what if she had injured a wing! No, she thought they must find their way out of Nesting Cove before night falls and the pelicans return, besides the sheep might very well get hurt or tear up the nests if they became too upset. She knew if the sheep did invade the nesting area it would not be like with foreign bird intrusion, there would be no rebuilding and the colony would abandon the area and never return. She must help them all!
Now for a plan: Try to frighten them again she thought, but they were not stupid and knew she was small and would consider her mostly all squawk and flap. I could call for others but that would complicate things and probably cause mayhem with fearful sheep running around and the pelicans above circling, screeching and all…if Hank found out (and he would) he might have a good laugh in the egret colony over it. Finally, she thought, “Well, it will take a lot of effort but it is the only solution I can find on the spur of the moment,” and off she flew. She arrived at the farm house just when a woman was putting on gardening gloves and walking toward the small back yard vegetable garden. Harriett flew close and landed on the small patch of grass nearby. “That’s odd,” the woman said “Pelicans don’t often come in so close.” Harriett took that as her cue and hoisted herself straight into the air screeching and flapping, certainly catching the woman’s attention all the more. “Have a nest around here?” Harriett landed softly on the grass again. Then, she repeated the process this time flying toward the open gate and fence then back again. She repeated this process until almost exhausted and ready to give it up when the perplexed woman began to inquire about the sheep or whether she was hungry. Well, Finally! She thought. Now, if I could just get the sheep to turn toward and go to the hard top rock.Well, when she returned she saw the sheep had formed a line and were fortunately trailing a short distance from where she wanted them; she squawked loudly, circled crying and nose dived a distance from them (allowing sufficient time to land without injury) and began flapping around and digging the sand flipping it and flopping herself in every direction she could imagine. Hoping just the sheep would pay attention and no predators would be fooled by her deception, she continued the activity until the sheep stopped and gazed at her. They really think I am a Loon, she thought. But, as luck would have it, they were actually curious about the commotion and gradually moved in her direction and nearer Hard Top Rock. Someone else had spied her antics too, and the large crawler slowed to a stop. The man who opened the door and got out was dressed in a plaid shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows and jeans with dust and wood shavings on them; he saw the sheep and began calling to them, “Peggy, Polly, Mack, Millie… come on! So there you are! Hurry, it’s dangerous for you here; we’ll go home for a bite of fresh clover and dandelions.” That might sound good to them, she had seen them try eating the sharp edged sea grasses and give up. They have names, thought Harriett as she sat on a distant dune and watched the sheep in single file, follow the man to the crawler boarding without hesitation. Then from above there was another voice, “Well done!” It was Hank. Someone other than the man and sheep had seen her acting; at least this heron wasn’t dangerous.
Hank and Harriet watched as the crawler pulled away with the sheep and Harriett lifted to follow. Reaching the rail fence she perched as they slowly and carefully made their way to the barnyard and eastern pasture. Harriett saw the man wave to her and put a dish of something on the drive. Sardines! She could detect sardines from ninety paces; she flew over and graciously accepted the gift. Although they were a little too spicy for her taste, she began eating in delicate bites, Harriett felt this was a way of saying thank you and she accepted it as such. She would return to check on the sheep from time to time; although they could not fly, sheep were quiet creatures and quite possibly friendly in their own pasture, that is. Perhaps when not dismissing nest chores, searching for food within the waves and digging wells in the sand, she would consider seeing them again. She decided to discuss this plan with Old Henrietta; come to think of it she had seen pelicans around the graveled drive, maybe she knew them.
What Harriett did not know and Hank did was the man with the sheep had received a call on his cell phone from a neighbor who knew of the missing animals and let him know the direction they were going as they had passed them in their crawlers earlier. He did not tell her but laughed to himself a little recalling her “swan diving”. Still, Harriett felt compensated for her efforts and all was well, wasn't it? The Circle Ranch carpenter often left food on the drive for the local birds so where’s the harm if she felt especially rewarded; she had put a lot of effort into helping them, hadn't she? For once, Hank resolved to keep this morning's event to himself, and did.
...to be continued, Chapter 4, The Sea's Own