One Man-Four Barn Shallows



An ongoing battle between myself and four Barn Swallows, referred to as Bird One, Bird Two, Bird Three, and Bird Four, is commonly considered a legend, a mere folklore that began 5 years ago. Historians asked that the events be documented in order to call the tale for what it really is — a true story.

            This war began several years ago near a small village called Makanda. While some view this as a battle between good and evil, the truth says otherwise; a war built on love and respect and fueled by the need for survival. I protected my property while Birds One through Four fought for a location to populate their family.

            Every soldier realizes the importance of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. Only then is victory possible. I researched my opponent, looking for ways to win the war. While a worthy foe, the size of a Barn Swallow is somewhere between a small and medium size bird; some twenty grams — the weight of 8 pennies — and can fit in a man’s hand. A wingspan of 12.6 to 13.6 inches allows the bird to fly in a zigzag manner at an approximate speed of 11 meters per second and a wing beat rate of 7 to 9 times per second. They fly close to the ground or water surface allowing them to eat some 60 insects per hour while in flight. The Barn Swallow is a beauty in flight with its blue back, wings, and tail; a cinnamon-colored forehead; and an orangey underbelly. It is a rainbow in motion as it speeds 10 to 20 feet above your head, and sometimes much closer.

            While researching Barn Swallows One through Four, I fell in love with my opponent. The mere beauty and aggressive nature of the warrior is amazing. So, why would I feel  determined to keep the birds off my property? It’s the nest, the messy combination of mud, grass, and feathers form an open-cup shape. Give it 20 hours to set and I have a concrete-like structure stuck to the inside of the porch. Gallons of soapy water cannot remove the nest without leaving a stain on the wall; a stain requiring two or more coats of paint.


             I was inspecting the property and more importantly the front porch. This was the time of year, and the spot where they launched their annual attack.

            OMG! A long row of mud was stuck to the top of the wall. The key, as I discovered during an earlier time, was to counter-attack immediately. DON’T WAIT UNTILL IT DRIES. I connected the water hose, turned on the hose to its most powerful flow, and headed to the battle-site. Fortunately, the mud hadn’t dried, and the removal was easy. But knowing Barn Shallows One through Four, I knew they would be back. So, the plan was to have the water hose ready and check on the porch every 30 minutes. With four birds, a nest can be rebuilt lickety-split. If I stayed with this plan for a few days, Barn Shallows One through Four would likely give up and look for another structure to build their nest. After all, the baby birds will need a home. That was the plan.

            Sometimes I retreated inside my home and looked out the window. Other times, when my testosterone was in a state of rage, I stood at the steps of the porch and spayed a steady stream of water at the birds and yelled profanities. Their response was to reach their maximum speed and dive-bomb me at a distance of 2 feet before I launched a counterattack causing Barn Swallows One through Four to pull back. The give and take between the soldiers were similar to ballerinas jumping and spinning on a New York City stage. Poetry in motion, that’s what it was.

            While the counterattacks continued, my grass had grown to the point where I needed to start up my riding lawn mower.  What was about to happen was predictable. It happened many times before. While I mowed, Barn Swallows One through Four dive-bombed me over and over and over.  I yelled and screamed and eventually began singing in an operatic style with a loud voice.

            In a previous year, I had purchased a large plastic owl designed to scare Barn Shallows One through Four. Nice thought, but it didn’t work. As soon as the birds figured out that the owl was plastic, they flew over and to their target. So, I thought of another idea — take a 6 foot ladder and place the owl on top leaving little space for Barn Shallows One through Four to fly. While it’s too early to declare Mission Accomplished, 2 days have passed without another attack. It’s likely that Barn Shallows One through Four found another target, possibly my neighbor. And that’s okay since my neighbor said that Barn Swallows One through Four were smarter than me.

Published by llfranklin12

Larry L Franklin holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. He performed in the U.S. Navy Band located in Washington, D.C. from 1967 to 1971. From 1972 to 1975, he taught music at Southern Illinois University. In 1976, he completed requirements for a certified financial planner designation and maintained a successful investment business until 2007 when he retired to devote his energies to writing. In 2003, he received an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Franklin is the author of “Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory,” published by Xlibris; “The Rita Nitz Story: A Life without Parole,” published by Southern Illinois University Press; “Cherry Blossoms & Barron Plains: A woman’s journey from mental illness to a prison cell,” published by Chipmunka Publishing Company; and “Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” published by History Publishing Company. He currently resides in southern Illinois with his wife, Paula.

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