Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bird Story #1: Moot Tor

                                                                                                 photo by Josh Russell

  When I lived in Carmel, we all used to stop off at the Carmel Cafe in the afternoons.  I am not sure if that is the same one that is there now on the corner of Ocean Ave.   This was in the late 70's when Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel and had the restaurant/pub called "The Hog's Breath Inn" where we congregated at night.  But I digress.

  In the afternoons, in Carmel, all the artists and writers downed tools and took a break.  I would be at the corner cafe sometimes with some friends.  There was a writer there called Robert Wright Campbell.  (I just looked him up and after that period in Carmel he became a pretty well known writer . )

But what I remember is that he was working on a book called: Where Pigeons go to Die .  That title stuck in my head because when we first moved to Nice a strange series of events made me believe that we had created that place....the place where pigeons go to die.

The first event was precipitated by rat poisoning put out by both neighbors on our flanks.  This resulted in the death of one of the couple of collared doves that lived in our garden.  He came on our terrace balustrade and hovered for a day and later was found under the bushes.  The couple of doves we feed now may be descended from that first couple.  One or two spouses have died over the years.

Some weeks later after the first incident, another pigeon came to us and let my husband pick him up and untangle fishing line that had wrapped around his leg.  He was so weak that we put him in the house in a basket and fed him for a night until he made it clear the next day (by standing by the door), that he wanted to take his chances.  He sheltered between two posts of the balustrade during that night.  In the morning he was still untouched by neighborhood cats, gained strength that day and flew away.

A year later, I saw the neighbor surreptitiously toss a pigeon over our fence into our yard.  Although we didn't talk to that Parisian neighbor much in those days, she must have sussed that we liked birds.

  It seems that this pigeon she tossed over also was tangled with fishing line.  We fully expected him to die because when his leg was finally unwound, it was black and lifeless. 

 We felt sorry and fed him.  He flew off that day and we expected never to see him again.  But he came back a few days later, missing a foot!

  After a few weeks of daily visits, we knew he had adopted us.

 My unique and wonderful Husband called him Mutor ( Pronounced Moot-Tor)  I accepted the name, never asking why.  About five years later I found out that it had something to do with mutation!  I have come to love the innocent and ridiculous names my husband finds for animals.  He is not a little boy very often , but in the naming of animals it is evident.

 Mutor stumped around on our terrace for over five years but finally stopped coming a year or so ago.   I think we gave him a few more years than he might have had.

 I am inclined to admit that I discriminate against pigeons in general.  One attracts another and you never get just two, except in the case of Mutor the outcast!

  But in the metaphor of life I am somewhat ashamed to say that I discriminate against these resilient and intelligent birds.  They take what life hands out.  They eat every seed you give them unlike the doves.  They never turn up their beaks and they wait patiently for hours for the possibility of a handout.

  There is a lesson here, somewhere.


  1. Boy..can you tell stories..images appear..time goes by..sleep comes..
    Thank you Mary!

  2. Lovely story, Mary. I've always liked pigeons,


  3. I love pigeons and I have quite a few where I live. People told me they were owls and to listen. Some of them nest in my eaves and are welcome to do so. One of my favorite features of men in general is their child-like perspective when I least expect it.