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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER XII THE PIGEON COTE.
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 The pleasure of looking at the lake and enjoying its water falls and the water fowl2 that played about in the lower end most of the time, did not wear away in a few days, but the desire to constantly stand on the shore and gaze at the water, began to pall3 in a few days’ time. The scouts4 never ceased to love and appreciate the spot; and almost every evening the three girls from the village, the scouts from the camp, and the girls from the house, met under the pines to enjoy the cool of the evening on the lake shore.  
Janet had added pigeons to her stock by this time, but they would not remain at Green Hill. The first day she allowed them their freedom, she watched with pleasure as they flew up in the blue sky. But then they made straight for Dorothy Ames’s farm where they had been reared.
Janet wailed6 and got Frances to drive her over to Dot’s house without delay. There were her pigeons strutting7 about with the others, and pecking deliberately8 at the corn on the ground. They were taken captives again that night and brought back to Janet.
In a few days she let them out of the coop again and again they flew in a bee-line for home. The girls laughed at this escape, but Janet was angry and asked Dorothy what could be done to keep them at home to attend to their business of raising a family.
Dorothy now made a suggestion that sounded well but it meant more carpenter work. “You might try a small cote for the different kinds, Janet, and see if they will stay if they have to keep house alone in pairs.”
Janet spoke9 of this idea when she returned to Green Hill, and Norma eagerly added: “Oh, that is just what Mrs. Tompkins told me today. She says we ought to have our pigeons separated from each other, because the pouters and fantails never agree, and the tumblers and the common pigeons always peck at each other and are dissatisfied in having to live together.”
“I suppose that means I must start a lot of carpentry work again, and build separate houses,” sighed Janet.
“No, Mrs. Tompkins showed me a cote she made for her ordinary pigeons, and it looked fine!” said Norma. “She took a big sugar barrel and after making separate rooms in it, had it mounted on top of a tall pine tree that had been blasted by lightning.
“Now I looked around our back yard, Janet, and I found a high telegraph pole that had been split off near the top. As no one uses it now for wires, or other needs, we can use it for a pigeon cote. I know just how to fix that barrel, and all you have to do is to have Frances bring one from Tompkins’ store. I asked him to save a good one for us and he said he would.”
“Well, that isn’t so bad, if you will make one cote, and some of the other girls make another, and so on, until I have enough ready for a dozen pairs of pigeons,” laughed Janet, relieved and optimistic once more.
Mrs. Tompkins said that the birds didn’t mind feeding on one common ground, and they even flew into the chicken yards to eat the corn that is scattered11 for the hens, but they object to living in the same quarters. “That is why they fly home again—to get away from their neighbors.”
“What snobs12 they must be!” remarked Natalie.
The girls laughed, and Mrs. James said: “It is because they never learned the Golden Rule. Maybe it will be our work to teach our pigeons to be socialists14.”
“I’d rather build separate coops and let them live their lives their own way,” retorted Janet.
“Mrs. Tompkins says that once you get the female to set on her eggs and keep the male penned in with her until the squabs are out, they will never try to fly away again. But she often keeps hers in prison for months before they will start raising a family and settle down in their new home,” said Norma.
So the sugar barrel was brought home from the store and Norma began work on it exactly as she had been shown. Janet and the other girls assisted, and in a day’s time the cote was ready to be mounted on the old telegraph pole.
It had been partitioned off inside to make several coops. There were three floors in the barrel, and each floor was divided into two apartments. The doors opened outward so that no one door came directly in line with the others, and this was done to keep the birds as much apart as possible.
Perches15 and a running-board were placed at each door; and there were perches projecting out beyond each end of the “verandah.” Then a narrow roof was fastened over each door to keep the rain from beating in at the opening.
“If only we had a nice cone16-shaped roof on the top of the barrel like Mrs. Tompkins has on hers,” sighed Norma, looking at the flat top of the barrel head.
“Girls! I have it!” cried Janet, jumping up and starting for the barn yard as if on wings.
The other girls watched her go and waited wonderingly until she returned with a large tin cone in her hands.
“There, I bet it will fit on top just as we want it to!” laughed Janet, inverting17 the cone and capping the barrel as if it had been made for it.
“What is it? Where did you get it?” questioned the curious girls.
“I remembered seeing it kicked about the harness room, and Sam said it was an old broken hopper that had once belonged to a feed chopper. The pipe and funnel18 are missing, so it was worthless to the old tenant19 when he moved away.”
Norma looked in the hole at the top and said: “We can cork20 it up with a bit of fitted wood, Janet.”
“Sam can do that to a dot, ’cause he loves to whittle,” added Natalie.
“We ought to paint the cote before it is mounted on the pole, Janet,” suggested Belle21.
“I am sure we have enough paint left over from the bird houses to do this barrel,” was Frances’ idea.
So Janet ran down to the cellar and brought out the several cans of paint, with a little in each tin. “Not enough of one shade to go around, though,” said she, after examining the tins.
“Listen, girls! Let’s mix all the paints in one pail, and add enough turpentine or oil to thin it out as we need it. But keep the green paint separate to use to trim the cote and roof.”
“Sam has some brown-red paint at the barn that will do to paint the roof red. It will look better if it is a contrasting color from the trimming,” suggested Janet.
“All right, Jan, you run and bring the red-brown can while we mix these other paints together and see what color it makes,” said Natalie eager to experiment.
Janet went for the red roof paint, while her friends mixed the other paints thoroughly22 together, and then called on Mrs. James to bring them some oil and turpentine. She went to the kitchen catch-all closet and found the two bottles, then took them over to the busy girls.
“Don’t use much linseed oil, girls, as it will keep the paint from drying quickly. Turpentine dries almost instantly,” said Mrs. James, handing the bottles to Norma.
When the mixing was finished the girls were delighted to find that the tiny bit of russian blue in a can, the small amount of ivory black, the dab23 of scarlet24, and the half pail of flake25 white paints made a soft grey almost like a dove’s tipped wings. This was applied26 to the barrel sides and bottom; and then Janet returned with the red-brown paint.
The cone was fastened to the top of the barrel and when it was painted no one would have known what it had been before it became a roof on the pigeon cote. Then the verandahs and perches and roofs over the doors were painted green, and the stakes that projected from the top and bottom of the barrel were also painted green.
“It will take until tomorrow to dry, girls,” said Mrs. James, when the painting was finished.
“Meantime, we are going to Tompkins’ store and see how soon we can get some more sugar barrels. This cote is so pretty it will be a decoration to our back garden,” said Janet.
“And when we go to the store, remember to get some more wire netting to nail these projecting stakes in order to keep the birds in their prison until the family is started,” reminded Norma.
When the cote was dry and the wire was fastened about it to keep the inmates27 from flying away, Sam was called upon to climb the long ladder and saw off the end of the telegraph pole, so the cote would be about twenty feet above the ground.
This was no trouble for him, for he had been sawing so much since the day he tried to square off the clothes pole that he soon had the high pole evenly sawed and ready for the cote.
Several heavy iron brackets had been secured at the store to insure the safety of the cote once it was on top of the pole. Then Sam climbed the ladder again and the girls hoisted28 the barrel cote up to him by means of a rope and pulley.
At last the nice-looking cote was up and it looked very good, too. Sam suggested that the old grey pole be painted a dove color but Janet discovered that there was no paint left in the can. Some one had kicked it over in their zeal29 to pull the barrel up to the top of the pole, and the remaining paint had trickled30 out upon the ground.
“Oh, that pole is near enough the grey color of the cote,” called Natalie impatiently.
“We can give it a coat of paint next year, if we think it will look better,” added Janet.
“But Norma wanted it to look good for the rest of this summer,” ventured Mrs. James.
“Yes, it is in my garden, and I don’t want any old things to ruin the appearance of my flowers,” admitted Norma.
“Why won’t a lot of vines look fine, if you train them to climb up the pole?” asked Belle. “I’ve seen the poles in country gardens covered with morning glories and other vines!”
“That’s just what I will do, Jimmy!” declared Norma, turning to her adviser31 for approval.
That same day, Janet brought home her prodigal32 pigeons for the fifth time, but this time two pairs of the ordinary kind were placed in Norma’s cote and left there to start housekeeping. When the ladder was finally removed and the girls stood smiling at the fine result of their work, and the way the pigeons would have to remain at home after this, Rachel walked across the grass.
“I’m wonderin’, Honey, how you-all is goin’ to feed dem birds, ef day is wired in dat away?”
The girls gazed at each other in blank astonishment33, and Mrs. James had to sit on the inverted34 butter tub and laugh. No one had given a thought of how the birds were going to be fed.
Sam had started for the barn yard with the ladder, but he was suddenly recalled. He dropped the ladder to come back and see what was wrong, but Janet called out: “Bring the ladder with you.”
When he had rejoined the group, Rachel laughingly said: “Dese wise pigeon trainers done gone and forgot how to feed dem birds, Sam!”
Then her nephew laughed as loud and as long as Mrs. James had done. Still that did not solve the problem of feeding the pigeons, so Sam wiped his eyes and studied the cote from where he stood. Finally he made a brilliant suggestion.
“You hoisted dat coop like it was a fedder, and I don’t see what’s to hinder you f’om hoistin’ corn and feed to the roof and den13 yankin’ on the rope to turn over the tin what holds it. Let the cracked corn and other feed roll down onto the piazza36 floors for the pigeons to pick up.”
“That’s a great idea, but how about the drinking water?” demanded Mrs. James.
“Well, I dun’no about dat. Let someone else remember a great idee for dat,” was Sam’s reply, as if he had performed his duty in thinking of a way to settle the feed problem.
“Now that it is up and the birds living in the cote, I don’t see what else you can do except to leave the ladder against the pole and have Sam climb up twice a day to feed them,” remarked Frances.
“Water once a day, and feed night and mornin’,” said Sam, as if learning a lesson by memory.
“We’ll just have to leave it that way until I see Mrs. Tompkins and ask her what can be done,” said Norma resignedly.
“Do they only need corn while they are caged?” asked Janet anxiously of every one.
“Mrs. Tompkins said we had best give them the same sort of food they would get if they were flying about at liberty. They need grit38 and lime and sand mixed in a dish and placed where they can get all they want of it. We must sprinkle sand and gravel39 over the floor of the promenade40, too, for them to scratch in, all they like. When the hen bird lays her eggs and starts brooding over them, the male bird will feed and care for her. As soon as the little ones are hatched we can remove the wire and let them have their liberty,” said Mrs. James.
“Suppose the pair on one floor of the house start a family, before the other birds think of it, and you remove the wire. They will fly away again, just as they did from the barn,” said Janet.
“We won’t take away the wire from the front of the coops unless all the birds settle down to raising their families. Only one pair of birds will be given their liberty at a time,” said Norma.
Several barrels were secured from Tompkins’ store after that, but the others were small half-barrel sizes which the girls preferred, because they would only have to have two families in one cote, and that would simplify the troubles of a flat owner.
The new cotes were placed upon much lower posts and poles, too, so the problem of feeding the pigeons while they were in captivity41 was easier to solve.
Sam had found a small American flag in the roadway one day, and this he stuck in the top of Norma’s large cote, where it flew patriotically42 and made the pigeons sit with heads on one side eyeing this emblem43 of their native land.
In about a week’s time after the first pair of pigeons were kept captives, Sam shouted one morning: “The lady bird done gone laid two aigs! Hurrah44!”
The news was so thrilling that every scout5 in both the patrols had to climb that ladder and have a peep at the expectant mother, but the male bird scolded and snapped at their faces so daringly, that they really saw nothing after they had reached the top of the ladder. So each one came down again.
The day after Norma had finished her cote for the pigeons she began turning her full attention to her flowers, once more. Not that she had neglected them past all hope, but they had not been the sole ambition of her time during the extra diversions of water gardening and cote-building.
It was during the week that followed the parents’ visit to Green Hill, that Janet went with Frances and Belle for a visit to a distant farmer’s who advertised young squabs for sale cheap. Janet decided45 that it would be far easier to raise some other owner’s squabs than to try to keep enough pigeons on hand to hatch out the young birds at home.
When she returned from that shopping trip, she plainly showed that she had made a daring venture. Frances and Belle were hardly able to keep from laughing at what they knew, so Mrs. James said:
“Come, tell us what it is all about, Janet!”
“Well, I’ve gone and bought a ewe and two dear little twin lambs!” declared she, with the air of a king who can do no wrong.
“Oh, really!” exclaimed the two girls who had remained at home. “How cute they must be?”
But Mrs. James seemed concerned. “How can you take care of them, Janet? Are they grown enough to feed themselves?”
“Oh, no, but that is the cutest thing about them, Jimmy! You should see them follow the mother about and try to get a drink. She actually cuffs46 them over the ears when she thinks they have no need of more milk,” laughed Janet.
“When are they coming here?” asked Norma eagerly.
“The man said he would deliver them tomorrow morning. I only paid him for the squabs, Jimmy, as I had no money left. I wonder if you can loan me the price of the ewe and lambs?”
“Certainly, Janet. But do not neglect Susy now that you have a few new toys. Poor Susy went hungry this morning because you forgot all about her. So Sam gave her her breakfast.”
“Oh, my darling Susy!” cried Janet, turning to run for the enclosure where the calf47 was kept.
“All that endearment48 won’t do any good now, Janet,” laughed Belle.
“All the stuff you fed Seizer that morning did him more harm than good,” added Frances, hoping to impress Janet with her serious responsibilities.
The ewe and lambs arrived the next morning, and the man left them in the pasture lot with Sue, although neither member of Janet’s increasing family cared a fig49 whether there were lambs to gambol50 about the field or not.
Sam and Janet hastily constructed a shed and yard for the lambs and the ewe, and that night they were closed in to sleep upon the nice fresh straw.
In the morning, when Janet went to gather the new-laid eggs, she stopped to have a peep at the lambs. They were constantly running after the big ewe, but she kept out of their reach and slyly managed to dodge51 their every effort to get at her.
Janet hurried back to the house and reported on the ewe and lambs, then added: “They were blatting so pitifully I wonder if anything is wrong?”
Thereupon every one started for the barn yard to visit the lambs. Just as Mrs. James reached the fence of the enclosure, a harrowing sight was presented to the interested watchers. The ewe had slipped back and forth52 so many times to elude53 the lambs, and they kept jumping about to reach her and nurse from her, for they were hungry, when the old one suddenly turned and butted54 her solid forehead against the nearest lamb.
It was instantly flattened55 against the side of the shed, while the old ewe turned her attention to the other teaser. The butted lamb bleated56 such mournful cries that the girls felt like crying for it. While the ewe was dealing57 justice to the second little lamb, the first one managed to creep up unawares behind her and try to snatch a drink of milk.
The ewe then kicked lustily and sent the little wobbly thing sprawling58 out on the ground.
“Oh, you inhuman59 mother, you!” shrilled60 Janet angrily.
“Isn’t she horrid61 to her children?” added Natalie.
“We’ll just make her feed those darlings!” declared Norma, as she saw Sam crossing the yard, and beckoned62 him to come over.
When the story of the wicked mother had been told Sam, he said wisely: “Mebbe she wants to wean ’em.”
“But she just can’t, Sam, until they are old enough to feed themselves,” returned Janet.
“I’se seen lambs fed in a bottle till they was big enough to pick fer themselves,” ventured Sam.
“A bottle? Like a baby?” chorused the interested girls.
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