I went to the local feed store yesterday to buy birdseed. I use large 25 pound bags of it to assist in the indulgence one of my favorite activities: watching the wildlife in the field in which my house was built.
I also needed a small quantity of wood shavings. I use that to line the bottom of the 6 birdhouses I have scattered throughout the field. Shavings are safer than straw or sawdust as they allow air circulation and therefore stay drier. Don’t want wet birdies. In fact, it could kill the nestlings. Hypothermia. Bad.
So. I asked the fellow at the counter if he had any. He replied laconically “Yep, by the bale.” I knew that was far too much for me, as I needed less than 1/2 a grocery bagful. I asked if he had any sweepings in the back. He chuckled and moved on to the next customer.
That fellow promptly ordered 2 bales of shavings. I turned around, smiled and exclaimed “Wow!” I then asked if I could buy a small bagful from him. He had plainly heard my request of the salesman. His response was a brusque “No.”
Period. Harumpf. No laughter, no smile, no sorry, no friendly explanation of what he was going to be using it for. Nothing. No.
Out in the parking lot amid the Saturday morning throng of pickup trucks and SUVs we caught each other’s eye. He walked directly over to me and said “You want wood shavings? All you need is a pine board, a knife and some time.” What I wanted to say about the lovely, sharp and pointy stick I might whittle, remained sealed in my brain. What I said was “Yes, or a nice guy.”
It was lost on him.
I got in my car and drove to a nearby pet store. I used to buy food for my dog there. I suspect the owner didn’t remember me as my hair has grown a lot since Willow died and I now wear it back. I asked if they carried wood shavings. He asked “like for hamsters and guinea pigs?”
I said, “Well, yeah, sort of like that.”
He asked me to follow him. I did. We got to a row of shelves upon which were, among many other things, two different sized bags of wood shavings. He lifted the smallest bag, about the length and width of my whole arm, and said “It’s compressed. This one will fill the whole bottom of that (huge) aquarium.”
I replied that it really was a bit more than I needed as I was only going to pad the bottom of 6 birdhouses in my backyard. In the short moment I stood silent about to ask the price, he smiled and said “Well, then, let me give you some.” We strolled off to where they keep the live animals.
I noted cages of blue and yellow parakeets, sweet pink-hued doves cooing, a gorgeous, brightly diamonded brown snake, and a white ferret who was very excited to see us. I inquired about the snake asking if it was a milk snake. I knew the head was the wrong shape for a milk snake but, I admit, I was trying to impress the young man that I knew something about snakes. He relied simply “No, a boa.”
Not wanting to get sidetracked, or impose further on his generosity, I fought the urge to ask if I could hold it.
He filled a small, elongated plastic bag, the type one might use to carry home several new fish to pour into an aquarium. I thanked him and noted to myself how the entire time I was with him, it never once crossed my mind to whittle a sharp and pointy stick and offer to put it where the sun don’t shine.
Schematic of Pointy vs. Sharp stick courtesy of Charlie B.