NANCE KLEHM on a curious episode of inter-specie imprinting

Plucky Is as Plucky Does
by Nance Klehm

About a month ago, while I was stalled in heavy traffic on the expressway, bored of the cars that hemmed me in, my eyes drifted to a pigeon. She was walking the edge of the concrete underpass. She was wobbly and kept sitting down. And then she’d stand back up and stumble forward. The top of her skull was ripped open and bloody. I put my truck in park, jumped out, chased her down, wrapping her in a t-shirt and kept her in my lap until I got her home. She was young, not fully feathered. I set her up in my rabbit’s old cage with a lot of straw and some water, oatmeal and flax seed. I figured she could die there under less stress, and I could plant her in my garden. I named her *Plucky*.

A little over a month later, her crusty helmet of scabs having popped off, her skull miraculously fused, her feathers in everywhere but her head, I decided it was time for her to rejoin her tribe. I wrapped her loosely in cheesecloth and snuggled her into my backpack, leaving the top open for aeration, and my intern Sarah and I took Plucky to Ping Tom Park in Chinatown where we figured RIVER + TREES + STEEL BRIDGE + DUMPSTERS OF CHINESE FOOD = perfect pigeon habitat. And then we spent the next hour trying to lose her. She wouldn’t leave us. Plucky would wander around the little medicine wheel we set up to send her off and then fly and perch on our handlebars, or ride on my shoulder. The two little girls that were feeding the Canadian geese Kool Aid-colored breakfast cereal ran over to us wide-eyed, “How’d you do that?!” and we just smiled and shrugged.

I didn’t ever feed Plucky by hand—her contact with humans was only an occasional hand dipping in and out with food and water, which caused her to screech and run. So how did this inter-specie imprinting happen?

And so I gently wrapped her back up in the cheesecloth and rode her home. I am planning another release. This time, into a huge flock that cruises Douglas Park, cleaning up the bits of old tacos littering the ground after soccer games. In the meanwhile, I have transferred her to my rabbit’s old cage, under a large plum tree with loads of head room so she can build her flying skills.

Recently it occurred to me that if I had named her ‘Sad Betty’ which is about as bad as she looked when I picked her up, she probably wouldn’t have done so well. Plucky is as Plucky does.

Categories: "Weedeater" column by Nance Klehm | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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