Last updated: November 30, 2015
Today’s picture is from the museum collection. Simply entitled “Bluebird.”
Not many days later, Clara received RuDells letter and was very happy to make his dreams come true.
Adorned by Clara's girlhood home, Meadow Shade is a lovely place near the city suburbs — lovely, especially in spring, when, all dappled with daisies, it is stretched out in a thin green blade toward the distant fringe of pines and dogwoods. A tiny stream fringed with dog-fennel and tall reeds crept timidly thru the meadow as if it were afraid of becoming lost in the crowded sewers of the near-by city.
Near the center of the meadow was a tall “dead pine,” a lone survivor of a once mighty army of trees. In this tree one might have seen almost any day, two blue-coated birds, busy, lute-throated little creatures, athrob with the tumult of spring. Closer inspection would have revealed about midway of the tree, a small circular hole into which, at intervals, the bluebirds bore bits of leaves and grass, and, occasionally, a feather and a piece of wool. This work con-
tiued for several days, the bluebirds entering into it with zest and enthusiasm. The very greatest care was observed in the building of the nest, for, somehow, the little creatures knew that much depended on the proper arrangement of everything which entered into its construction.
But quiet as was Meadow Shade, and peaceful as were many of the glorious spring days, there were times when the work of the builders was interrupted by untoward circumstances. For into all lives, whether human, or beast, or bird, some shadows must come.
In answering his letter Clara began :
“Beloved RuDell: Your letter makes me indeed happy, and today Meadow Shade is sunnier than ever before — sunny with my golden thoughts of you, and us — our future home — and our mutual happiness.
“Kendric, I have just been watching the building of a new home — a nest by two happy
bluebirds in the dead pine in Meadow Shade. You will recall the description of the place in
my previous letters, and perhaps you remember the bluebirds also, as they build here every
year. But Kendric, I pray that we may never undergo the difficulty in the making of our new
home as have the bluebirds in building their nest. I feel so sorry for them that I could cry.
As you are so interested in birds — and as I have also come to love them — especially these
bluebirds, I shall here attempt to describe their difficulty in building their nest and their cun-
ning and sweet maneuvers.
First, it was a troublesome sparrow-hawk, a slim, swift sleuth of the air, who seemed to take peculiar pains to meddle in other birds' business. One morning just as the little home-builders were giving the finishing touches to the nest, the sparrowhawk perched himself on the topmost limb of the “dead pine” and sat there preening himself, as if to say, “I am just smoothing out the wrinkles in my coat, and will soon go down to breakfast.” Just then the bluebirds emerged from their ‘front door,’ and
swift as a flash, the hawk swooped down upon them; his cruel claws poised for the fatal grip. It seemed that fate favored him; that no speed of wing could escape the lightning-like dive of that graceful pirate of the air, but the bluebirds knew a few tricks, too. At the very moment when escape seemed most hopeless, when the hawk's claws seemed closing upon the bright blue jacket of the male bird, the plucky little wife, with a courage quite unexpected, made a sudden dart at the enemy's head. This disconcerted him for the moment, and before he could recover his equilibrium, the bluebirds had made good their escape, flinging defiance at him from the far end of Meadow Shade. The very much disgusted and disconcerted sparrowhawk flew slowly on his way to more promising fields.
Nor was this the end of their adventures. One beautiful moonlight night, as they were sleeping side by side in their cozy nest (for they preferred the safe shelter of the hollow to the uncertain protection of the trees) a great swamp
owl flitted silently to the top of the old dead pine. He sat there very silently and solemnly, listening with all his ears and watching, watching ever so closely with his big bright eyes. Suddenly he dropped down to the limb near the hollow in which the bluebirds were cheeping contentedly in their sleep, and peered into the darkness of the bird home, a cold, cruel gleam in his bold, robber eyes. Eagerly he sought to poke his head thru the door, but, wise as he was, he had miscalculated the size of his head, and was utterly unable to do so. Again and again he made futile efforts to reach the bluebirds. Finally he departed in despair. And the little birds slept on till dawn came stealing out of the east like a dusky maiden with a lap full of roses.
“Sounds like a story — these birds, but Kendric, I rejoice in their triumph, and their home seems so typical of our future home; for the bluebirds seem so happy in their content.
“Yes, dear Kendric, my answer stands for
our happiness — two lives as one; and like the dear bluebirds, may we ever be triumphant over all things that would seek to destroy our domestic joy. I shall expect your visit real soon — shall wait impatiently your arrival. Please inform me by return mail, when to expect you. Ever your own, “ CLARA”
Before addressing an envelope for her reply to RuDell’s letter, Clara received the following letter from a plumber in the near-by city.
“Dear Madam: — Since the slack of business in town permits, I will be out this coming Monday to repair the water-pipe. A great rush in the city has necessitated the delay.
MATHEW BULLOCK, the plumber.”
Immediately Clara replied to the plumber as follows :
Dear Sir: — Yours of recent date to hand. In reply, I beg to state that the matter to which you refer, has been attended to by another man. Yours truly,
Spring wore on into summer, sweet with the incense of the woods and fields. Meadow Shade
was ahum with bees and aquiver with bird songs. Here and there violets lifted their blue eyes in grateful response to the warm kiss of the sun. There was a silvery tinkle of joy in the voice of the tiny stream. And because it gave joy to others, it had good reason to be glad; for morning, noon and night the bluebirds came to drink and dip their wings, flirting the shimmering water over their beautiful blue robes. In the nest in the hollow far overhead, four little birdlets constantly stretched their hungry mouths, and it taxed the resources of both father and mother to keep the wants of their flourishing family even half supplied. They were constantly flying to and fro in search of food, often exposing themselves to danger for the sake of the helpless birds in the nest.
But they thought only of the welfare of their young, and were willing to brave almost any peril for them.
Everything went smoothly for awhile, and the young birds were fast feathering. They
were hungrier than ever now, and it seemed a hopeless task trying to satisfy such ravenous appetites, but the faithful little parents did their very best, often denying themselves. One day, just as the mother was returning from a long journey a mile or more beyond the border of the meadow, a boy with a rifle sighted and shot her to the ground — almost breaking the poor bluebird 's wing. No sooner than the cruel act, Clara, seeing the wounded bird's peril, ran to the scene, bade the boy to leave, and took the mother-bird to her home where in a few days, the girl had nursed the little life back to health — permitting her to join her mate and birdlets in the nest. Healed it seems, by the kind care and kisses of a tender lover, the mother-bird and the remainder of the happy bluebird family, continued to chirp sweetly and happily. Meadow Shade would seem strange and unnatural were they not there to enliven it with song, to harbinger in its spring, to gladden its summers, and to soften the sternness of its cold white winters.
In a lead up to that most romantic day of the year, February 14th, we will be continuing William Popham’s 1911 book, “Yellowstone Park Romance.” If you do not see any new posts, you may need to refresh your browser page. Images are taken from the Yellowstone Park Museum. They may not have been taken in 1911 but we hope that they help to illustrate the author’s wonderfully descriptive prose.Please note that many of the practices the author writes about (including feeding the animals or tramping near certain features) are no longer allowed today.