Written and Illustrated by David Walters
One day Ellen’s mother fried some bacon on the stove. Ellen really liked the smell of the bacon crackling in the grease that was collecting in the pan and Wire Dog liked the smell too. When all the frying was finished mother poured the liquid grease into a cup. Father asked mother if he could have the grease that was left over. Mother was happy to give Father the extra grease but asked him what he was going to do with it. Father just smiled and said, “Oh, you’ll see.”
Father then set the bacon grease aside to cool. Next he shook all the crumbs out of the toaster onto a cookie sheet. Ellen had never seen her father do anything like that before so she got a little more interested. Wire Dog did too. Next father shook crumbs from the bottom of two boxes of crackers in the cupboard and dumped them onto the cookie sheet too. Then he found some left over rice in the fridge that no one wanted and added a couple spoon-full’s to the crumbs on the cookie sheet. Ellen looked at Wire Dog and Wire Dog looked at Ellen then they both looked at Father again to see what he would do next. Father found a loaf of bread that was nearly all gone. He then pulled from the loaf the two ends that some people call the heels. He then broke the heels into tiny little pieces and mixed them in with the rest of the crumbs and rice on the cookie sheet.
Ellen and Wire Dog were now completely confused. They had never seen anything like this before and they were not sure what to expect next.
Father then took the cup of bacon grease that had cooled but was still very soft and mixed it with everything on the cookie sheet. By this time Ellen’s brother was interested too as they all watched their dad use his hands to press the mixture of crumbs and bacon fat into lumps like popcorn balls.
“Are you going to eat that, Dad?” asked Ellen in a doubtful tone.
“Well I could,” he replied “but this is not for me.”
“I don’t want to eat it,” said Ellen and her brother at the same time.
“It’s not for you either,” laughed Father. Wire Dog looked at the two children then barked as he looked back at Father who was still pressing the crumbs and grease together. “No, Wire Dog, it’s not for you either. Come on I’ll show you who gets to eat this tasty treat.” Father then cleaned his hands and picked up the tray of greasy crumb balls and led the curious troop outside into the back yard.
It looked like a parade with father in the lead with brother right behind followed by Ellen and finally Wire Dog at the tail end. Father walked to the apple tree where he set the tray on the ground and picked up one of the crumb balls. He then reached high up into the tree and placed the ball in the crook of a branch. Next he got some string from the shed and tied it around a large pine cone that was lying on the ground under an evergreen tree. He then pressed one of the greasy crumb balls into the openings of the large pine cone and tied it to a branch of a tree with the string.
Ellen and her brother now figured out who the crumb balls were for and asked if they could help. Father said “sure,” and soon all three were placing the balls in the tree or pressing them into pine cones and hanging them from branches.
Wire Dog ran from one person to the other watching, wagging his tail, and occasionally barking. When all the crumb balls were in the tree the group stepped back and admired their work.
“Will birds come and eat the bacon fat and bread crumbs?” asked Ellen.
“I hope they do,” said Father.
“When will they come?” asked Brother.
“It might take a few days for the first birds to discover this new treat but when the first ones find it they will probably share their little discovery with a few others. So, we will just have to wait and see,” replied Father.
“What kind of birds will eat it?” asked Ellen.
“Well, Magpies for sure,” said Father; “and probably Northern Flickers too. Flickers are a kind of woodpecker but they like bacon grease and bread crumbs. If we are lucky we might see a little Downy Woodpecker and maybe even a Nuthatch or some Chickadees. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Poor little Wire Dog. He listened to every word that Father said to the kids but he didn’t understand a thing. All he knew was that they put the crumb balls in the tree and then they looked and pointed and talked about them. Wire Dog was pretty sure that something was going to happen in that tree pretty soon but he wasn’t sure what it was going to be. All he knew was that those crumb balls were very important.
When everyone else went in the house Wire Dog stayed outside and watched the tree. All evening he patiently watched and waited but nothing happened. Finally just like Ellen and her brother, Wire Dog finally accepted the fact that sometimes you just have to be patient and wait. It is a lesson that everyone needs to learn so, when night time came Wire Dog went to sleep and dreamed about what he might see in the tree the next day.
To be continued.