The One-Legged Quail

We lost the one-legged quail today. I took him to the brush pile so he would be cremated. I couldn’t allow a varmint to dig him up or eat him.

That quail lived a long time. His leg was taken off when he was just a youngster and he lived his life with a stump. It slowed him down some and he was prohibited from living a regular quail’s life, but nevertheless he endured. His life was a testament to tenaciousness.

The little quail’s death hit especially hard because he was the last living reminder of a good friend who died a few months ago. James was a dairyman who lived about two miles down the road. My daughter milked for him and took care of the rest of his animals: chickens, ducks, pigs, and the quail. As often as I could, I visited the dairy; pitching in by washing eggs or feeding.

James was a man with big dreams. He had grand plans for his little farm. The quail played a minuscule part in that dream, but he had his appointed role in the scheme of things. James called him his “guard dog”; at night the quail raised a ruckus if anything came around the yard. Then a burst blood vessel cut our friend’s dreams short.

The dairy shut down right after James’ death; all the animals were sold. Saying goodbye to our friend went from difficult to impossible, as we saw all his dreams dismantled.

My daughter brought the crippled quail home. No one else would look after him. To me, the tiny bird stood for a little piece of our friend living on.

He didn’t have a wonderful life; with only one leg he rarely got out of his cage. But he sang nearly every morning and chittered softly whenever we went by. His attitude was always upbeat, and he gave me pleasure just caring for him.

Then one day, he was still, lifeless, and silent. Perhaps the heat was too much for him. Or it was just his time; he was three years old by then.

Losing the little guy was sad. Hardest to take, though, was losing this last reminder of my friend. It brought his loss back to my mind to be felt all over again. I have good memories of James; stories to relate and episodes to relive; buckets and tubs and milk jugs as reminders. But the empty space his death caused is a little larger at the loss of the quail.

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