Thursday, December 30, 2010

Riding In Cars With Vultures

Somewhere between Hawthorne and Palatka, I began to hate the vulture sitting on the seat beside me.

Now that is a strong word, much too strong ... for what I was feeling.
Yes, that's it.
I couldn't really hate a helpless, injured bird, but I am just selfish enough to resent his company.

My pre-vulture plans were:
Get up early, drive to St. Augustine, hit the beach first, and then slide over to Mom and Dad's where there was a porch rail to install so Dad's polio leg has some help going down the front steps.
Heck, I might even load up the kayak and hit Guana lake.

And then ... the vulture entered my life.

The first thing to go was the kayak.
Since I would have to stop at the wildlife rehab center, quite a detour and delay, I slashed kayaking from the plans.

There was still the beach after all.

Soon it was time to leave the house with a JEEP full of tools that might be needed for the porch rail project.
Somehow, I had to fit a full grown black vulture in there too.

There was absolutely no room in the back of the tiny JEEP with 2 sawhorses, a power miter saw, a drill, a tool box, a rolling bar stand, my overnight stuff, camera tripod, monopod, various bits of weaponry, and a tape measure.

It looked like the vulture would be riding up front with me.

Oh wait! Maybe he died during the night.
It could'a happened, ... you know, destiny and all that, ... nature taking its course, ... the circle of life, etc.

I stepped out on to the porch and lifted the beach towel from the top of the Rubbermaid vulture container.

Two shiny black eyes peered up at me ... and he hopped.

(Okay, yes, I was glad he survived)

I returned the towel.

Back in the house, with a pile of Christmas boxes still sitting in the den, there was not one vulture sized box.
So I grabbed a roll of shipping tape and my Gerber scissors, the ones I hide from everyone else around here, and McGuyvered a box that would both hold a vulture and yet fit on the passenger seat of a JEEP.

I lined the bottom with old GatorBait magazines to prevent poo leakage. After cutting a pair of air holes in the top, I placed the vulture in it and taped down the cover.

We left shortly after that, this vulture and I.

I had one quick stop at Junior's apartment in Gainesville which I accomplished quickly and in no time I was heading for Florida Wildlife Care over near Paynes Prairie.

I pictured a slight detour, a quick drop off, and zip! Back on the road again.

It WAS a pretty picture, but I waited too late to call them and got an answering service and a second pager number to call.

Pagers? In 2010?

Uh oh.
I cruised down to the rehab center and parked nearby, determined to wait a little bit and give the volunteer rehab folks a chance to call back.

Time passed and I really needed to get to St. Augustine, so I made the decision to push on.
Somewhere along the way, there would be a Vet Clinic and every Vet has a wildlife rehab connection.
Surely, the Vet would say, " Why, yes, drop your foul-smelling carrion eater here."

And I would be free.

Have you noticed ... there's never a Vet around when you need one?
I drove East, scanning each little community I passed through ... desperately seeking a Vet clinic.

Sometime later, when I had gone too far to turn back, Leslie of the Florida Wildlife Care center called me. She had gotten the page.

It turns out she and the other volunteers had been out rescuing an owl caught in fishing line. That certainly had priority in my opinion, and I told her not to worry, that I would get this vulture to a safe place.

I meant it at that moment, but as time wore on ... my attitude changed.

In the JEEP, with the heater keeping the very cold morning at bay, strange and pungent odors wafted up through the two large air holes in the vulture box top. They permeated the tiny JEEP and hovered right at nose level.

I swear I could almost see the vapors.
I think they were greenish yellow.

So it was that somewhere East of Hawthorne, I began really resenting the vulture and his intrusion into MY plans. Briefly I entertained the idea of pulling down a side road, out of sight of traffic, and dumping this stinky vulture out.

Let nature take its course and all that.

That didn't feel right now that I had already intervened and as everybody knows ... as soon as I dumped him, there would have been a Vet Clinic around the very next bend in the road.
Isn't it always that way?

So, the vulture and I pushed on.
I pushed my nose deep into my extra large McDonald's Coffee cup and breathed every so often to escape the vulture stink that filled the air around me.

Surely, I thought as we approached Palatka, ... surely I will pass a Vet Clinic on the drive through town.
If there was one, I missed it.

Over the St. Johns River, through Hastings, and then, there it was! A Vet Clinic in Elkton.
Rustic and looking more like a ranch than a critter hospital, but the sign said Vet Clinic!

I pulled in, and a very nice lady called the local rehab folks (no, she did NOT say, "Give us your foul fowl.").
So, I was still "with bird", but she did give me the address of a Vet clinic that took injured birds ... AND ... it wasn't too far out of my way.

Thirty minutes later, I was handing over the vulture box to a cute, perky gal at St. Johns Veterinary Clinic in St. Augustine.
She even said, " Oh, he's in luck, the technician on duty today loves these vultures!"

I filled out a little information form and walked back out to the JEEP.
On the passenger seat, a small brownish damp spot shone in the morning light.

Gingerly, I swiped it with my finger tip and sniffed.

Gaacckkkk! Ugh.

The box had leaked.

More proof that "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished".

My tale ends with a dash into Winn Dixie for some paper towels and Febreeze.

Because of Winn Dixie, (wacka wacka) the JEEP smells a little girly, but not vulturey, which is just fine with me.

I suppose I won't ever know how the vulture's tale ends, but in my mind ...

... it turns out just fine.


Elen Susan said...

Beautiful vulture's photo.
Wishing you a happy new year!

edifice rex said...

Well, I'm glad you persevered and got him to help! That's like my story when I tried to help that cormorant that came to me. I guess I never told that one...anyway, I ended up driving that bird like 60 miles, one way, through a monstrous thunderstorm to get him to a rehab center and then the people there called and harassed me for 2 days about where I got the bird. Like I kidnapped it or something. They wouldn't believe that it walked up to my door and stood there until I noticed it. 'Course, I know that sounds kinda crazy. lol!

Deb said...

Thanks for a good story to start my morning! You definitely have some good karma coming your way for all you did. :)

Pablo said...

You're a good man, FC. (I don't care what everyone says!)

threecollie said...

FC, you are a much better man than I would be. We have rescued...or transported to rescue folks.... Carolina wrens, budgies and a couple of other song birds, but....

robin andrea said...

Great job, fc. Not many people would be so kind to a stinky vulture. You did good!

Anonymous said...

Awesome. What Robin said. You are my hero.

Plus you now have beaucoup de good karma points.

Happy New Year to you and the family, especially Bear.

swamp4me said...

Laughing my head off right now because I have had my own injured vulture tale of woe. My car broke down while I was delivering my kids to school on the way to the vets. This was well before cell phones so I had to use the phone in the school office to call work and tell them I would be late. Then I had to call someone who would be willing to transport both me and the vulture. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the folks in the school office. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

You were a good guy!!! Sorry about the Jeep accident. I'm sure he didn't mean it, but hey -- I've had some pretty scary Jeep rides. Maybe he was just a little nervous --- you know, not being able to see where he was going and all.

And I can tell you, the Febreeze smell eventually goes away. Some day I'll tell you about the fish head incident.

Dani said...

You da man!

roger said...

we did a little research on vultures after we saw several walking around our place. their main defense is acidy (neologism alert) barf.

your adventure could have been worse.

lisa said...

I bet the vulture will forget the lovely ride he had with you. Its to bad your ride so memorable. Just think the memory is just that a memory. Your such a good rescuer ;-)

Sharon said...

Hats off to you, compared to yours, my heart is 12 sizes too small! LOL

Caroline said...

Check Julie Zickefoose's blog and look for the "The Vultures Knew". It is under the Letters from Eden button, click on Writings. I know it will make you feel much better.

nfmgirl said...

I hope the best for him. I haven't had very good luck with most birds that I've taken to the local rehabilitation facility (one of the best in the country!) Vultures have a special place in my heart, and I would love to study them if I ever got into wildlife biology. Thanks for the extra effort and olfactory challenges you endured on his/her behalf!

who wouda thunk it?? said...

hahahahaha. I was thinking when I read the part about preventing poo leakage.."nothing will prevent bird poo leakage: thats why I keep a rubbermaid tub handy!

Florida Beach Basics said...

I firmly believe that Heaven is run by critters and old people - you're in!

Happy 2011.

debbie said...

I feel your pain. I've also experienced the "no good deed goes unpunished" situation, more than once. You'll get a lot of mileage out of this funny story in the years to come.

LaDivaCucina said...

Ooooh, NOTHING smells better than Fabreeze on top of stinky garbage vulture smells! Ick! Good luck with that!

Is "McGuyvered" like "gifted" or "friended?! Noun as verb, tsk, tsk!!

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

Ewwww, you used your finger? Keep some napkins in that JEEP!!!

You're a good man to cart that vulture across the state. Hope he makes it.

Have a happy New Year. Hope you get to take the kayak out this weekend.


Floridacracker said...

Thanks! Welcome to Pure Florida!

Good for you for doing that!
Cormorant kidnapper!

I think THEY say that because they know about the things I DONT publish here.
Thanks for your support.

LOL! Not the most glamorous of birds I admit.

Robin and roger,
Thanks! We do what we can, right? roger, that stain may very well have been barf.

Bear says woof!
Thanks for the karma alert :)

Believe me, I can picture their faces very clearly!

True, Jeep rides can be pretty hair raising! Febreeze is only slightly better than vulture poop.
One of my teacher friends calls the smell of Febreeze "pretty poop".

It's hard to ignore them once you come across injured critters.
Life would be simpler if it were!

LOL! I am sure your heart is plenty big. This vulture was like one of those cracker wrappers in a restaurant that sticks to you due to static electricity. Hard to get rid of.

Thanks! Will do. Love the Zick's writings.

I hope he manages okay. St. Johns county has a really good group called HAWK that has done rehab since the 80's.

Who Woulda,
Next time, there will be Rubbermaid!

Um, I'm a critter right?

Yes, I will save this one in my pocket for those moments when a conversation lags ... " You know, I once ..."

La Diva,
Oh please darling, you never tweak recipes? I tweak this AmerEnglish language constantly with this blog.
Word creation ... sometimes known by commenters here as "FCisms" litter this blog like conch shells at Sanibel.
Have a delicious new years eve, I know this is a big deal for culinary/party professionals!

I washed my hands.
No, really, I did.
I did buy some papertowels for the JEEP after this event.

Prem Subrahmanyam said...

I had to rescue a black vulture once with a broken wing and leg. I was out hiking in the ANF near our home in Tallahassee when I saw it flopping about in the bushes and trying to hop away. I ran home and got a canvas insect net to capture it.

Thankfully, there was a place in Tallahassee that did wildlife rehab (it is said that the vets they have can pin a broken hummingbird wing--we rescued one of those once as well). The vulture was not able to be rehabilitated and finished out the rest of his/her natural life at the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science (aka The Junior Museum).

The Florida Native Orchid Blog

Gin said...

You are a far, far better person than I am or ever hope to be. I once had a buzzard urp on me. GACK! You couldn't get me within range of one now no matter what.

Floridacracker said...

I da careless man! I left you off my response yesterday :( sorry!

Good job! I hope my vulture has a happy ending like yours.

No, I'm not. Just more stink tolerant maybe? LOL!

Island Rider said...

This is a great story. I felt like I was riding right along with you though not in the passenger seat! LOL! When will you get that book done?


Can't stop laughing long enough to get past this point:

"I lined the bottom with old GatorBait magazines to prevent poo leakage."


bluebird of paradise said...

a wonderful story, your kindness will be repaid....

Ericka said...

um. febreeze is not cleanser. you should probably clean the seat too... with cleanser. maybe a steamer. something.

good for you for the rescue, though. and you're right - no good deed goes unpublished. that may be the story of my life.

Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) said...

Love this!

Boxes always leak. At least if the contents are stinky or icky, they do. Every time. Put plastic underneath.

LauraO said...

I really enjoyed this story. I worked at a seabird rehab hospital in 2009 and your post brought back memories of all the lovely aromas. You're lucky you got through with only a small pile of poo..vultures really like to hurl globs of rotten partially digested carrion when they feel threatened. I guess he liked you or at least appreciated your efforts! Good job.

KLS said...

Loved the story.
And the humor.