The Taxi Driver’s Tale
The flames licked higher and higher up the utility pole and by then, the van was fully engulfed. Would the boathouse go up in flames, too?
When the fire alarm sounds grew ominously closer, I was photographing a juvenile osprey nestled high up amongst the pinecone clusters just down the channel and around the bend from the boathouse.
Quickly, I stashed the camera below deck and paddled rapidly back to the dock. Judging from the black billowing smoke, it seemed possible that the boathouse was the scene of the fire, and I was concerned for the dockhands there.
I arrived at the dock and discovered a van engulfed in flames just at the moment the driver escaped through the back door. The sirens from the fire trucks were getting louder as they grew closer, but the firemen weren’t yet on the scene.
A speeding motorboat swerved in alongside me and the driver launched himself over the bow and hit the water running like a military commando, dashing toward the vehicle, taking charge of the scene. It was a striking action scene like something from a film.
The firemen soon arrived and doused the flames in the van and the utility pole, and Alex and Jason had the boathouse under control – the electrical system was toast due to the burned utility lines, but no fire damage otherwise.
It was the last day of the season for the boathouse that year, and so I slipped back down the channel for a final circuit of the lake, a final good bye to the herons for the season – always a poignant afternoon for me.
Fast forward nearly a year. New England was experiencing one of its blistering July heat waves, so hot I took a taxi to the lake rather than walking there with all my gear.
The cab driver and I got to talking as people are sometimes wont to do in taxis, and he started to tell me about his bass fishing tournaments and then about the time he was at the lake and there was a fire.
I took a closer look at his cab photo then and realized that he was the speedboat commando who had pulled alongside me the day of the fire. Just to be sure, I asked him to describe his boat, and it was the exact boat I had seen that October day, and he confirmed that he had indeed dashed out of the boat to assist in the rescue. As it turns out, he was a retired police officer, so that sort of action in the face of a fire was ingrained by his training and experience.
We marveled a bit at the coincidence of having witnessed the fire together that day, and I mentioned that I had spent the rest of my time there that day photographing and saying goodbye to the herons for the year.
And what the taxi driver told me next made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
After I had gone in for the day, and after he was done assisting with the fire, he went back out fishing on the lake, and headed into the small cove between the two tunnels. There are a couple of semi-submerged pines laying on the surface, where there is often good fishing.
That day, however, he came across a great blue heron caught in fishing line on one of the pine logs. The line was caught in the heron’s wing and foot, and the heron was struggling but obviously very weakened by the time he got there.
The taxi driver idled his boat, and pulled up as near to the heron on the pine as possible, and got out of the boat. He cut the tangled line, freeing the heron, but the heron was too weak to take off, it was too weak to even lift its head. He then picked up the heron, and took it to the shore. He laid it down on the ground and cradled it, placing its head and neck in a good position so it could breathe easier. He stayed with the heron as long as he could, but had to leave before the boat ramp access closed for the day.
The next day, he went back to check on the heron.
It was gone, not on the ground where he had placed it.
He went about his fishing for a while.
At one point – I don’t remember how long he had been out by then – a great blue heron flew low and slow right across his bow, nearly touching his shoulder.
They don’t do that, you know.
The driver was convinced it was the heron’s way of acknowledging him, thanking him.
And I agree.
In the taxi the following year as the driver told me his tale, he showed me the photos he had taken with his cell phone of the heron, while tangled on the pine log and then on the shore. If I had them, I’d share them here. Since I don’t, I’ve posted my own photo here of the heron he saved.
What a magnificent creature she is.
And what a hero he is.
(The fire took place Columbus Day, 2009)
A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.
Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.
Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™
The Tao of Feathers™
© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)
Great Blue Heron, Kayaking
Posted on August 1, 2013, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, daily prompt, Great Blue Heron, Nature, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Weekly Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged ardea herodias, great blue heron, heron, postaday. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.