Walking past the front door in the cabin on Father’s Day morning I caught a flash of white flying by and went to look out the window. There were two Eurasian Collared Doves coming in to land on the driveway. They were soon joined by one more and then another. All walked around the circle of the drive.
These birds are not native to our continent but they like it here. They were brought to the Bahamas in the 1970s and made their way to Florida in the 1980s. They rapidly spread from there. They are much bigger than the mourning doves or white-wing doves. They have a black ring that partially circles their neck, thus the name “collared”. Not everyone likes them, as they are can increase and compete with native doves, but I like them. They are very pretty. They have a loud harsh flight call and also a loud cooing dove call. They seem to pair up and they have settled in the trees near the cabin this year. We have had them for several years but more this year.
My Dad loved these birds, which is another reason I like them. They are a very soft gray, almost white on their chests. As my Dad’s health deteriorated and he couldn’t get out much, he spent a lot of time bird-watching out his dining room window. He was a plumber and had worked all his life. He missed getting out and seeing his buddies at the hardware store in his little town. The old guys gathered there every day to shoot the breeze and get away from the house. The fellas were dying out one by one and my Dad’s life was winding down to the end. His eyesight was failing as his macular degeneration progressed rapidly.
His one hobby was watching the birds and squirrels and their antics while he could still see them. One day he called me very excited! He said he had a white dove in his yard. These collared doves were rare then in that area and this was the first time he had seen one in his yard. My Dad was far from religious but he was spiritual. He had a Native American bloodline and an upbringing of hunting, fishing, and studying the natural world that was every Southern boy’s way of life back then. It still is in the small towns and on farms and ranches across the country. In the city only the folks that had exposure through their parents or grandparents hold on to this heritage; a knowledge of the natural and wild world is dying out there. But it was and is strong in those who lived it.
My Dad was a happy person. I know many people with fewer problems than he had and they see only the unhappiness in the world and complain all the time. But my Dad found happiness in his family and in the birds he saw from his window. His health had narrowed his world down to these two things and he found a peaceful joy in them. Happiness is not always jumping-up-and-down excitement, trips around the world, new cars and big houses. It comes from inside you and I learned long ago that only you can make yourself happy.
As you get older, you expect that you might miss your parents less than when you were younger. But it seems in reality you sometimes miss them more, maybe because you can identify more with them as you age yourself. On this beautiful Hill Country Father’s Day, my thoughts were on my Dad and I was wishing I could sit down and have a talk with him. As I looked out the window at the white collared doves walking around the driveway together I took it as a blessing sent to me.
“…..the body grows weak, the spirit grows numb. When these things beset us, he won’t forget us. He sends down his love on the wings of a dove.”
Thanks for the sign, Daddy. I threw some extra milo out for the white doves. And shed an extra tear for you.
Hal Ketchum sings On the Wings of a Dove
(Photos from top: Daddy with his brother Bob, Daddy and me, Daddy and my brother David, Daddy and my grandson Anthony)