Hawk Dancer

Short Story

Short Story Feature

A new short story is posted on a random schedule of monthly or near quarterly. These are my short fiction works in most cases. 

The Bird Farm
A  bit of old school: A short selection from my first novel Hawk Dancer

boy in tight jeans
Unrelated photo: Me at age 14 or 15 in 1965/66
A combination of Old School values and modern progressiveness

    The following short story is taken from a section in my first novel, Hawk Dancer. Richard White is the protagonist that opens the novel. He is a recently orphaned seventeen year old in 1934. He moves in with his rather free spirited Ojibwe Uncle John Bird.
The Bird Farm

    With a fresh snow followed by a bright sunny day, their eyes squinted and danced in pain following the road due east into the rising sun. Mr. Bird attempted a few conversations with his nephew, but Richard gave short two or three worded rejoinders.
Uncle John stopped in Birch Clump’s village center for his mail, massaged his face and drew a breath. “Want to come in and meet some of your new neighbors?”
    Richard just looked at him. The old man’s face bore sharp, deep creases; his eyes were narrow, dark brown, almost black. A lot of life was still in those eyes. He disappeared leaving only bright reflections of light from the snow at the window. Seasonally defoliated trees beyond the roadside were but a blur to the youth lost in thought. Pondering the name “Bird” again, as the uncle tramped through the snow banks to the general store housing the post office, Richard was grateful his grandfather took the name White. Growing up as a Bird might have had repercussions. Although the combination of Richard Bird had an air of distinction to it, his friends called him 'Rich.'
     Rich Bird was too comical a name for success. He was headed for the Bird Farm to live.
    “Where do you live?” an imagined schoolgirl asked while Richard waited.
    “In the Bird house.”
    “What bird house?” she would ask, strictly out of politeness.
    “We run the Bird farm out on county road.”
    “A bird farm,” she might say, “how very interesting. What do you raise on a bird farm?”
She signaled the other schoolhouse seniors over to meet the new boy at school.
    “Nothing yet,” Richard admitted, “but we’re working on something. See, Uncle John is a scientist, a chemist. He spent years developing paint formulas for Henry Ford in Detroit; well, actually in Dearborn, nearby.”
    Surely this big city connection would interest the backwoods country girls. So he went on building up the story, “The fumes affected his health and he was starting to slip up a bit, if you know what I mean. So Mr. Ford offered him a pension and suggested to Uncle that he move out into the fresh country air. Last year Uncle John tried planting chicks, but nothing came up …”
    “Chicks?” the girl questioned.
    “Baby chickens,” Richard clarified. “He figured that the frost this far north stayed around longer than in southern Michigan, so the little chickens were frost bitten. He ordered another thousand chicks last June and planted those, but still nothing came up. He wrote and asked me if I had any ideas. I suggested he write the Agricultural Extension Agency. Each county has an office. Well, they wrote back in late August, much too late for planting a third crop of chickens, and asked if he could send them a soil sample to test.”

    He was still staring out the driver’s side window when Uncle John Bird’s tall frame darkened the car fragmenting Richard’s daydream.
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