Of Herons and Heroes
Southern California has recently found itself besieged by rain, and the Los Angeles River runs higher and swifter than any can remember. Today Latigo Flint was enjoying a leisurely stroll across a pedestrian enabled overpass when he heard a frantic call for assistance. He dashed to the far side and found a woman screeching and pointing upriver at something bouncing along with the muddy torrent.
"A great blue heron has fallen in! Someone must saaaave that great blue heron!" Then she noticed Latigo Flint was standing by her side. With a snarl she whirled and shoved me through a large hole in the chain link fence. "Fucking save it!"
I came disastrously close to a nasty tumble down the concrete slope, but was able to regain my balance. "What are you standing around for? You fucking save it now!!!" I followed her pointing finger with my squinty eyes - Eyes much keener than hers apparently.
"Madam, I do not believe that is in fact a great blue heron. I am actually quite certain it is an old, plastic tricycle with a trash bag caught in the spokes."
She threw a fit. "You vile hillbilly, it is a great blue heron on the verge of drowning and it needs rescuing this instant! Or are you a filthy coward!?"
I sighed and eased my way to the water's edge. The "rescue" was beyond perilous. I stood chest-deep in roiling, murderous water, my trembling left hand clutching a piece of rebar that jutted from the bank, and managed with my right to snag and toss the old plastic tricycle with a trash bag tangled in the spokes to shore. I looked up at the woman and shrugged. She glanced at the tricycle, gave me the finger and then kicked a stone down the embankment at my head.
Neither the woman nor I could have possibly been more surprised when a loud squawking suddenly sounded from upriver and a drowning great blue heron tumbled around the bend and collided with my face. I somehow got both of us to shore, staggered up the hill as the terrified bird pecked and clawed at my eyes, and collapsed at the woman's feet.
"Told you so asshole!" She kicked me in the kidney and dialed Channel 7 Eyewitness News.
The TV reporter conducted an extensive interview with the "heroic" woman, the two of them kneeling compassionately next to the rescued heron who sat cozy and warm, wrapped in a big yellow blanket. I lay next to the fence, two hundred feet away, moaning softly as I feebly tried to extract a muddy hypodermic needle that had somehow lodged in my shoulder blade. When the interview was finished they all ran to their vehicles and drove away - they took the blanket with them.
I managed to raise up onto one elbow. The great blue heron was stumbling around in the middle of the street, watching the cars disappear. It squarked sadly to itself.
"Hey big fella, got a name?" It turned at the sound of my voice, trotted over and stood majestically above me. Then it went for my eyes.
"No!" I weakly cuffed it upside the head. "Friends don't go for each other's eyes damnit!" I thought a moment. "I shall name you Billy - Billy the Great Blue Herron." Billy squarked agreeably. I fished around in my buckskin pouch, found a piece of jerky and took a bite. "Billy, my name is Latigo Flint." I offered him the other half and he eagerly ate it.
Then he went for my eyes again.