Saturday, February 19, 2005

An Irish Tribute and Father Bird-In-Hand

I am copying this little tribute from a plaque that was found at work in honor of our Irish Pastor . It has no author on it or I would give the credit where due. No offense is meant to any ethnic or racial group!

An Irish Tribute

God then made man.
The Italian for music and art,
The French for fine food,
The German for intelligence,
The Swedes for their beauty,
The Jew for religion,
And on and on
He looked at what
He has created
And said,
"This is all very fine but
No one is having any fun.
I guess I'll have to make me
It is an old plaque and surely reflects some older attitudes. But I think that in my experience, it is correct about the Irish . Now I know that there are some cranky Irish people out there, but as for the Irish clergy... well, more often than not they are a fun-loving group.
This does not mean that other nationalities are not also fun. I don't think that Mary is entirely Irish, but I am sure that there are some Irish genes in there somewhere! And believe it or not we have had two Polish priests in residence that have been a hoot and a half. I have mentioned Fr. Ed in a previous post. He speaks several languages and oversees our Hispanic ministry. He spent some years in Peru, so he is quite fluent in Spanish. I'll save some of his stories for another time.
A new character I would like to introduce to you is another priest, of Polish descent, which I will refer to on this blog as Fr. Plk, not to be confused with Fr. JP, who is Korean. (we are very culturally diverse!) Fr. Plk came to us to replace Young Father. Young Father was transferred to another parish a couple of months after the horse head incident (see Feb. 16 post), where he stayed for a few months, took a sabbatical (time off) and then left the priesthood. I wonder if we had anything to do with that? I hope not.
I have to admit that Fr. Plk could give any Irishman a run for his money. Fr. Plk's main pranks usually seemed to revolve around leaving something is someone's office. We had numerous brick-a-brack that made the rounds to most offices, but his best was a giant blow-up frog that he left on the toilet in the female staff's bathroom. It is a small bathroom... a one seater... so it was quite startling first thing in the morning. I think Mary was the second one to discover it... I'm not sure who the first one was, but I did hear the scream and then the laughter. I was amazed that no one wet their pants in the process.
Fr. Plk had a thing about birds. He set up a bird feeder just outside his office window so that he could watch them. I think that he had some idea of getting some wonderful birds to watch. What he got were some very dumb Mourning Doves (they are all very dumb) some pidgeons, sparrows, wrens, an occasional South American Parrot (escapees have started large colonies in Florida), and once in a while he would get a Blue Jay or Cardinal. Mostly what he got were Squirrels. That brings us to Father Bird-In-Hand.
One day, after reading some information about birdwatching, Fr. Plk got the idea that he would like to get the birds to a point where they would take birdseed from his hand. Maybe he should have been a Franciscan, or thought he was. Anyway, he procured a lifesize cardboard cut-out of a man, set it up on some sort of post, and proceeded to dress it in some worn-out black cleric shirt and pants... priestly collar included. It even had an extended wooden hand in which to place the bird seed. After a few days, he decided it also needed a hat similar to the one that he would wear sometimes in the cooler weather (in Florida?).
Father Bird-In-Hand was placed in the garden area outside of his window towards the center of the garden so that all the little birdies could get used to it. Every week or so he would move it a little closer to his office window. He was certain that this would work. The squirrels loved the easy feed, the Pidgeons and Mourning Doves pooped on the hat, and the smarter birds basically ignored it. As Father Bird-In-Hand got closer to the office window, the bird poop got deeper on the window sill. Irish Pastor indicated that perhaps the bird poop was becoming a bit unsightly, so Fr. Plk added to his list of things to do--the weekly scrubbing of the building and sill outside of his office window.
If you have read my previous stories about Irish Pastor and Mary, you might have an idea of the teasing that Fr. Plk got from our staff regarding his failed attempts to train the birds in the garden... on a daily basis. Watching him dressed in his clerics scrubbing the building down was a sight to be seen. Someone on staff even gave him a Tweety Bird Chia Pet to place on the window sill. It grew grass-like hair which he hoped would attract the birds. This all went on for months! The latest cantankerous maintenance man, let's call him Carl (Joe retired and died), constanly complained about the mess and the sprouting uneaten seeds, the yard men were not happy about having to mow around it and weed the growing uneaten seeds, the bird poop was building up faster than Fr. Plk could get it cleaned off, the cleaning lady was constanly knocking over and spilling the large bags of bird seed in Fr. Plk's office, and the staff was constanly in Fr. Plk's office to harass him about the whole scenario and point out to him that his bird seed had bugs in it.
This definitely provided much amusement to the staff and was the source of many jokes, but perhaps the happiest was the assistant mainenance man. We will call him Bob. Bob was known for his love of the birds and squirrels in the gardens. Now he didn't try to hand feed the birds as Fr. Plk was attempting, but he did spend a lot of the day talking to the birds and squirrels (when he was not carrying on a conversation with himself). He could even hand feed the squirrels. Bob is a bit slow mentally, and in many ways is quite child-like. He can often be heard carrying on a conversation with himself, which he may or may not have started with an actual person. The birds and squirrels seemed to like him and were used to having him around the garden. The birds usually did not fly away if he came close. Picture this comparison. Bob, simple, happily strolling about the garden instead of doing his work and talking to the creatures there, and Fr Plk., intelligent, well-educated, and totally frustrated at the failure of Father Bird-In-Hand and Bob's success.
Finally one day, Fr. Plk gave up. I am not sure exactly how it happened, but in the end Fr. Bird-In-Hand was a bust. Fr. Bird-In-Hand was seated in various offices for awhile, and on occasion could be sitting in Fr. Plk's office chair on Fr. Plk's day off. And then one day he was gone... Fr. Bird-In-Hand not Fr. Plk. It was sad. But Fr. Plk was still cleaning bird poop off the building because the original bird feeder was back.
As usually happens, Fr. Plk was to be transferred to another parish. This is the way it goes for young priests. They get moved around a lot so they get the experience to become a pastor. On one of the mornings of his last week in our parish, I opened my office and clicked on the light. I then dropped everything I had in my arms and broke into hysterical fits of laughter... I believe that is what they usually call it when you laugh so hard and long that you are sure you are going to wet your pants or stop breathing or both. Anyway, there in the "guest chair" in my office was Fr. Bird-In-Hand, hat on his head, a stuffed animal that was supposed to represent the squirrels attatched to his pants covering the cardboard leg, and a goofy almost life-sized photograph of Fr. Plk's face where Fr. Bird-In-Hand's face would be. I had just caught my breath when Fr. Plk jumped into my office with a yell. Yes, I was startled. He proceeded to explain to me that he was leaving something with the people on staff that he was closest to (almost everyone!), and he had decided that the most appropriate thing to leave me was Fr. Bird-In-Hand. I wasn't quite sure how to take that.
Fr. Bird-In-Hand bounced around for awhile. He even made a stop one morning in the female staff's bathroom. I still have the photograph of Fr. Plk's face. Mary has the stuffed-animal-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-squirrel-but-actually-looks-like-a-beaver in her office. The cardboard figure with hat and clothes was eventually transferred to David's (the Youth Minister) office chair. From there the clothes made it to the box of costumes and the other remnants of Fr. Bird-In-Hand were no longer among us. So sad.
If you were to come by our parish now, and you were to wander into the garden area, you would however be able to see the tribute to Fr. Plk's time amongst us. There in the corner of the garden is Fr. Plk's bird feeder. It is by a different office window now, but on any given day you may see Bob carefully filling it with bird seed as he talks to someone or something... perhaps Fr. Plk , Fr. Bird-In-Hand, or himself. And you just might see one of his squirrels nearby waiting for a snack.
There once was priest who loved birds
The squirrels he attracted in herds
When the birds did arrive
He thought they would thrive
But alas, all he found were their turds.

1 comment:

L said...

I had no idea your job was so amusing :)