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?

 © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)  Great blue heron preening Columbus Day weekend.

Great blue heron preening Columbus Day weekend.

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.

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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.

  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Van fully engulfed in flames on road next to boathouse on Columbus Day weekend.

Van fully engulfed in flames on road next to boathouse on Columbus Day weekend.

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.

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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.

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Thanks for the Weekly Photo Challenge nudge Cheri Lucas Rowlands and for the Daily Prompt nudge Michelle W, and WordPress.
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(The fire took place Columbus Day, 2009)

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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

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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 , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Babsje, I am very impressed with this true tale, so many adventures in a day…. the fire and so on & the sad farewell to your beloved birds….

    Without just one nest
    A bird can call the world home
    Life is your career[Image]
    ~ Chuck Palahniuk

    now they fly to home … another one …. so far …

    and you now look to the flowers who are out there on your way & keep the Heron’s close to your heart * I wish you a nice day *hug

    P.S. thanks for this great narrative.

    • Thanks for the lovely insight of your comment… Yes, the Herons are very close to my heart. Today was spent in a cove with one heron for 3 hours. It is a meditation in stillness that makes my eyes sing. Enjoy your Friday, too.

  2. A great tale, I love positive news 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, I’m a big fan of happy endings.

      In a humorous way to word it, I’ve adopted and adapted Douglas Adams’ admonition to “always carry a towel,” substituting swiss army knife for the word towel. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used my little pink swiss army knife on the water to cut away leftover fishing line and lures that are entrapments for birds.

  3. A wonderful story. I like to believe the heron thanked him.

  4. What a wonderful story. And yes I am sure the heron recognized him and thanked him. Thanks so mucb

    • Thanks for your kind words, and I do agree. Birds can and do recognize humans, and this one would have had more reason than most to recognize that fisherman/taxi driver.

  5. My cell phone got away from me before I was done! Thanks so much for sharing this great story.

  6. What a beautiful story and told so well. I am sure animals, including birds, can and do know when they have been helped and acknowledge it i their own way.

  7. Wow, amazing story Babsje – so happy for the happy ending!!

    • Thanks, Tina, I love happy endings, too. I still get goosebumps thinking of that story whenever I kayak in that area of the lake here. I was there this afternoon, and thought once again of the happy heron rescue, how fortunate the heron was that the taxi driver was out fishing that day.

  8. Somehow you found my blog on photography.. Gosh, I am so glad you did so I could see your picture of the great blue heron and read your story…I had to interrupt my wife’s reading so I could read her your tale. Now that I know about you I get to spend some time wandering thru your blog.

    • Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad I found your blog and also glad you found mine and that you liked this heron story. I hope your wife didn’t mind being interrupted, though. Hopefully she likes herons, too. Glad to meet you here on the blogs.

  9. This story makes me happy, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  10. Almost daily, we watch a heron at the point of the island where we have a cottage. Occasionally, we’ll canoe fairly close to him. He seems to be acquainted with us, we don’t pose any danger. He/she is a beautiful bird. Sometimes we see him in flight. ~ Dennis

    • They are beautiful, aren’t they? And you’re fortunate to have a resident GBH near your cottage.

      They can become quite tame, and especially accustomed to certain humans. The danger is that not all human encounters are safe for the wild birds, I have seen a tame heron ensnared by an unknowing fisherman’s line, with fatal consequences for the heron, and I know of a photographer who unwittingly contributed to the death of a fledgling by interrupting its feeding activities too many times – the bird starved – and so my philosophy is to encourage everyone follow the guidelines at the various links in the Protecting Birds module at right.

  11. There is immense heroism on both man & bird, thank you for sharing. Lovely capture … the arch & lines blend so well.

    • Many thanks for your kind comment, I’m so glad you like this post and photos. I agree, the taxi driver was truly a hero that day! Unforgettably so.

  12. Amazing story…. Fishing line is a problem for so many wildlife species. I try to get the word out and hubby patrols the pond for it… Amazing story…. Michelle

    • I thought you’d like this story, and thanks for getting the word out about the dangers of fishing line. I always carry a knife when out, and remove any fishing line within reach of my kayak. I wish it were biodegradable, that it would deteriorate in time, for the good of the wildlife. Thanks for your kind words.

  13. Fabulous story, Babsje. Because of such good people in this world, we can wake up each morning with renewed hope for this crazy world. 🙂

    • Many thanks for your kind words, and I agree – there are good people in this world – like this taxi driver – who make such a big difference. And I found it remarkable the way he mentioned the Heron doing a very close fly-by the following day. Wild birds and animals can recognize specific humans, and I have no doubt that Great Blue Heron recognized the man who rescued it. Best, Babsje

  14. Great and wonderful story

    • Thank you for your kind comment. The Taxi Driver was a hero that day and it was very touching how the Great Blue Heron seemed to “thank” him the next day. Communication between wild creatures and humans is fascinating. Best, Babsje

  15. Gorgeous photo and information

    • Many thanks, glad you enjoyed this story. It was very heart-warming to see the photos he took of the Heron with his mobile phone. He saved tbat Heron from certain death and is a hero in my eyes. Best, Babsje

  16. Thank you for linking to my great blue heron blog from yours. Congrats on your capture of the black-headed heron. I share your excitement that you we able to see and photograph it. Congrats!

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