The hen must have escaped from a poultry truck. She crouched in the middle of the lane, trembling as passing cars whooshed by her. A couple of them whooshed over her.
My daughter, Molly, was driving. She gasped and pulled into the parking lot. It was a scenario that had been repeating itself for years.
As a child, she was forever spotting turtles in need of rescue on the highway. I can still hear her authoritative little 5-year-old voice pronouncing, "Put him down in the direction he was heading, Mom. Otherwise he'll start back across the street."
There was a parade of motherless kittens and baby birds who had been blown from the nest. It took all of my persuasive powers to convince her that a baby jay was better off if we left him at the base of the tree and locked up the cats so his mother would have a chance to find him. She was fully prepared to turn her Fisher Price playhouse into an aviary.
Now, at 25, she was on a mission to save the pullet. This mostly consisted of parking the car and urgently pleading, "Do something, Mom!"
That's how I found myself in the middle of Cleveland Highway, praying the FedEx truck that had just rounded the bend would slow down. I grabbed the bird and dashed to the curb. She was surprisingly heavy. I sat her down on the grass and then moved into "what now?" mode.
Right about then, a couple in an SUV pulled up. They looked like they had probably led a homecoming court in 1985 and then gone on to start a horse farm. They looked handsome, assured, capable. Thank the Lord.
While we discussed what to do about the runaway hen, a Hispanic lady drove up in her truck. "That yours?" she asked, gesturing to the hen. So there was our solution.
Horse Farm Barbie picked up the pullet and handed it in through the truck window. We all went on our way and Molly mused that she might try vegetarianism again.
I thought about that little daily drama later in the week when I read about an incident in Virginia.
An 11-year-old girl rescued a fledgling woodpecker from a cat. She was unable to locate a nest, so, in true Molly fashion, she turned the bird over to her mother. They decided to take it home and then figure out what to do with it. On the way, they stopped at Lowe's. Because of the heat, they took the bird inside with them.
There they were approached by a fellow shopper who identified herself as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She informed the two that woodpeckers are a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Therefore, it is illegal to take or transport a baby woodpecker.
I had no idea. Neither did the girl or her mother. So as soon as they got home, they opened the cage and the bird flew away. In an effort to set things right, they reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and were assured they had done the correct thing. End of story, right?
Oh, but no. As proof positive that no good deed goes unpunished, two weeks later, that same agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appeared on their doorstep. She was accompanied by a state trooper. The woman received a notice to appear in U.S. District Court for unlawfully taking a migratory bird. She was also slapped with a $535 fine. There was also the possibility of jail time.
Of course, as soon as the story hit the Fredericksburg airwaves, the agency started backpedaling. They claimed it was all a big mistake, that the citation was supposed to have been canceled, that it was just a clerical error. Oh yeah. I'm buyin' that. Actually, I strongly suspect if the media hadn't stepped in, they would have happily taken that family's $535.
I suppose this story angers me because it could have easily been me. We have woodpeckers all over our neighborhood. Judging from the number of them peck-peck-pecking on our wood-sided house, they're certainly not a rarity. I knew the hawks soaring over the lake were protected, but woodpeckers?
If my girls had found a one of those babies I would have started running around trying to find someone who did wildlife rehab and, in the process, violated who knows how many state and federal laws. It's a minor miracle that I never ended up doing federal time with Martha Stewart.
Oh well, knowledge is power. If Sparky, our catch-and-release Siamese cat, brings a baby Woody in the house, it's between him and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I'm staying out of it.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.