Finding Leo

Most playgrounds have only two or three slides--or maybe a few for the “little kids” and then three or four varieties for the older ones. Grassland Park is different. It has a playground with eleven slides. I know there are eleven because each visit there with a grandson means that they are all counted and recounted to make sure each one has been touched, skimmed, and scooted down. And Grassland Slide Park is also different because sometimes magical events happen there.

A month ago, my oldest grandson, Grant, was visiting from his home in Utah. A grownup eight-year-old, he is still a slide fanatic. “…When can we go to Slide Park, Grandma…” he pestered daily and so finally one late afternoon, off we went in my red truck. Once there, Grant took off and I planted myself on a nearby bench to enjoy the moment.

As I sat there, I noticed a rather large white bird with a crest on its head. It landed nearby in a flurry of white feathers. The bird eyed me for thirty seconds or so and then began to walk briskly toward me. Sometimes a cardinal will approach if I am putting seed in our backyard feeders, but never had one continued towards me, seemingly unafraid.

“Oh goodness. This is not a cardinal. This is a cockatiel! Grant, come look at the bird.” 

When Grant knelt down, the bird hopped onto his foot, and then, up onto his bent knee. This was a little too much bird for Grant, who began flapping it off with his arms. The bird flew a few feet away onto a nearby slide, eyeing us intensely. It made no sound, and did not attempt to move if we got closer.

 “I think this bird is someone’s pet, and it is lost. We should help it, Grant.” 

“How, Grandma?”

 While Grant remained with our new feathered friend, I made a dash for the truck, finding one of my canvas shopping bags. It was actually no problem to grasp the cockatiel and stuff him in the bag, which I zipped closed, except for a one-inch margin for air. Grant held the bagged bird and we started home in the truck.

We made our way to the intersection of Manley Lane and Hillsboro Road when Grant shouted, “Grandma, it’s escaping!”

The yellow crested head of the cockatiel was working its way out through the unzipped margin, and quickly the entire bird was free and flying around in the small truck cab. All the while I was trying to shift gears and ease us on to Hillsboro Road, with cars honking in all directions and Grant flapping frantically.

Suddenly the bird flew out of the truck through an opening in the window behind the seat. I sighed at our loss, but by then I had had about enough of a lost bird, a flapping boy, and a standard transmission truck, so I felt relieved. The bird sat on the edge of the truck bed looking in at us, then, suddenly it flew back into the cab.

I grabbed it around the neck and stuck it between my knees, meanwhile shifting into third gear and gunning for the one-mile stretch of road towards home base. Scooting in to the garage and closing the door after us, I felt as though I had just emerged from a reenactment of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” 

We put the bird in a tightly taped cardboard box then Grant and I headed back out to Sonic, our original destination when done playing. Along the way, we put up “Found Bird,” signs in the neighborhoods surrounding the Slide Park area.

“What happens next?” Grant asked me the next morning,  the cockatiel still scampering in its box.

“I guess we should check the classifieds in the Tennessean and see if anyone has advertised for their bird.” 

Picking up the Williamson County classifieds, I found nothing. Turning to the Davidson County ads, I saw “$5000 Reward. Blue parakeet. Owner depressed.” The thought of dunking our bird in blue dye struck me as a good idea for about thirty seconds, but I doubted that the dye bath would shrink a cockatiel to parakeet size.

 

“Look, Grant. This one says, ‘Lost cockatiel, Monday night. Southern Woods area. Answers to ‘Leo.’ Please call.’”

 “Call, Grandma. Call.”

No answer at the first number, so I called the second number.

“City of Franklin offices.”

“I’m calling about your ad for a lost bird. I have found a cockatiel. It’s white.” 

“I don’t see how that could be our Leo. He could never have flown from our house on the east side of Brentwood to Grassland. That’s got to be 15 miles,” then the man hesitated. “My wife is real distraught. I’ll call her at work. I’m sure she will want to get the one you have and try to find its owner.”

 

Five minutes later, my phone rang, and Cecilia anxiously inquired if Leo was there?

 

I hadn’t thought to ask the bird its name.

 

About an hour later, Cecilia arrived with a “traveling cage” and a photograph of Leo.

 

As soon as we entered the kitchen, where the bird was still housed in the cardboard box, he heard her voice and began to chirp.

 

“Is that you, Leo?” Cecilia spoke with a tremble in her voice.

 

By then I was crying and my hands were shaking as I tore off the tape and watched in amazement as Leo and his owner reunited. He was thrilled to see the cage and especially the birdseed. He jabbered away in happy birdspeak and then settled down on a perch. In the daylight I could see that Leo’s feathers were definitely yellow, with gray markings, and the bright gold crest stood straight up.

“He doesn’t look any worse for his 48 hour adventure in the wild,” Cecilia said, grinning with relief, as she phoned her ten best friends to tell them of her happy ending. As she and Leo drove off reunited, I already began to miss my little friend. Grant went home to Utah a few days later, and now I wonder what will be the next magic in the Grassland Slide Park?

Ginger Manley

July 23, 2005                                       

Published in Brentwood Journal