Like robins, stretch your wings

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

A Wing and a Prayer

Step inside our front door and turn to the left. There you’ll find two steps that lead up to a small landing. Turn right and climb up 11 steps and you’re upstairs. There is nothing too interesting upstairs.

The real show is happening on the landing.

There is a small 8-sided window on the front wall of the landing. A few years ago, an industrious robin decided to use the small brick ledge just outside the window as the place to build her nest.

During the incubation and growth of the baby robins, that little octagonal window was the perfect viewing spot. From just inches away, we could watch them gobble down worm parts and grub gunk.

It was disgusting, but fun.

This is the third year that that little brick ledge has been the nursery site for a robin’s nest. The nests always seem to dry up and fall onto the porch during the late-summer months, but by then, the baby robins have already grown-up, feathered-out and flown away. But it sure is fun to watch the process.

Several years ago, a far less cautious mama-robin was teaching her baby birds how to spread their wings and flutter-fly around in the backyard. Little did she know we had a doggie door that allowed for our little Jack Russell, Puchi, to have free reign of the backyard.

Puchi used her super-doggie hearing to hear the flapping commotion and she darted out the doggie-door. Just as fast as our furry-little-four-legged-girl could run, Puchi ran and jumped 5 feet into the air.

“Snap! Chomp!” A baby bird bit the dust. Almost immediately, another baby bird tried to test their new wings.

In the wink of any eye, Puchi scored another hit. It only took a few seconds for all the carnage to occur.

As we watched from the back-picture window, Debbie screamed, “Make her stop!” I told her (in a semi-calm voice), “Well, Puchi is just doing what dogs do. She’s a hunter.”

Thankfully, the Jack Russell rampage ended with the second bird. All I could do was clean up the mess.

It was the following year that we first had a mama robin build her nest on the window ledge by the landing. When her little fledglings were old enough to jump from their nest, there were no snapping jaws waiting in ambush. Smart mama bird.

Every year, as the beginning of June draws near, others are stretching their wings and preparing to fly from the nest. This year, my granddaughter is one of them. She will be a high school graduate.

Throughout our community, young people are planning and preparing for the next steps in their young lives. Many will go on to college where they will explore opportunities and prepare for a career.

Their minds and majors will change frequently as they experience life. Only about 27 percent of college students will end up working in a job that required their major. Others will head in different directions. That’s OK.

My granddaughter will be leaving in the near future for her basic training in the Navy. Most naval recruits train at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center just north of Chicago. After that, she will head south for advanced training in Pensacola, Florida. Amanda has plenty of time to spread her wings as she heads into her future.

Besides college and the military, there are numerous paths a high school graduate can take to achieve a successful future. Two-year colleges are an excellent starting point for a fulfilling future. Vocational training can provide the tools and experience needed to get an excellent job and life.

One of the keys to a successful, happy life is to never stop learning. Never give up on a dream. Never be afraid to change paths. Keep the yearning for growth and keep excitement alive in your heart. Don’t be afraid.

We currently have three baby robins growing in the nest out on the ledge. As soon as the mama robin gets near, they perk-up, open their mouths and start chirping. Within a week they will probably make their first fluttering, flying attempts and then they’ll be on their own.

I can just imagine the mother bird saying, “OK. It’s time. Shut your mouths. Quit chirping and get out there. It may not be easy, but you can do it.” I hope the baby birds listen.

That same advice could be given to our own graduating children and grandchildren. Be careful — but stretch your wings and fly.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist