Sunday afternoon, July 20, 2014:
On the San Antonio Riverwalk
I walk, sit for a while, and enjoy the beauty that is everywhere, then repeat. This process allows me to enjoy the heated paradise know as San Antonio’s Riverwalk.
Quaint footbridges arch over the stream intermixed with less picturesque spans speeding along motorized traffic. I’ve found a shady spot under one of the latter, and rest my lungs and knees. Interludes like this allow prime people-watching opportunities.
A group of teenage girls – hair swinging, giggles ringing – sway in their short-shorts toward me. One young lady scoots ahead of the group and stomps at unwary pigeons. The birds light upon the walkway whenever there is a break in walkers, hoping for a quick treat. They flit away whenever a human gets too close, however this child does not allow the bird their chance at a snack. She scares them. The birds herky-jerk into the sky, wings flailing in a mad rush to escape her. The critters aren’t used to this kind of treatment. The youngling laughs with delight. I am not amused.
The flange of girls just about reach where I’m sitting, when a pigeon lands several feet to the left of me: The teenager pulls her stunt again followed by peals of laughter from her friends.
“You should be careful about doing that,” I say.
She turns wide eyes my way. The entire herd of girls stop. “Huh?” She asks.
“Yes,” I say, “I wouldn’t scare the birds like that. It’s not the creatures themselves that would concern me. It’s the Great Bird Spirit, the protector of all pigeons and sparrows.”
The girls look at each other, glance at a pigeon that has flitted down from its roost under the bridge to perch a yard away on my right. The bird’s glossy head tilts like he’s listening, too.
I continue: “The Great Bird Spirit was here long before the white man moved into Texas – long before the first Native Americans set foot here. She watches over her flocks.”
The girls stare at me, then at the pigeon, who, as though understanding all, fluffs his feathers, and turns to gaze at the teenagers with his other eye.
“You keep scaring the birds,” I wave my hand at my blue-green feathered friend, “and the Great Bird Spirit will find you.”
They gasp, and step away from the pigeon and I.
In an ominous tone, I speak again. “You won’t like what she does to those who harm her friends.”
One of the girls asks, “What does she do?”
I take a deep breath, like I really don’t want to talk about this. “It’s not for me to say, but Ill give you one little warning: Beware the night. She sends—things—” When I say this, the bird squeaks, lifts his iridescent wings, and soars away. We watch him leave the security of the underpass, and head off down the river.
“Beware . . .” I begin again.
“Shit,” says one of the girls. “Santa Maria. . .” begins another. They all cross themselves and skedaddle, leaving me alone under the bridge.
I could see them for about twenty-thirty yards before the curve of the river took them from my sight. Not once did a single girl frighten another bird.
Never mess with a critter-loving writer.
Imagine they will never forget, either.