I am rarely home before dark, and so if the swallows swarming over the woodpiles is a regular nightfall thing, I had missed it.An evening spent in Poxabogue means I can hear how many people try to get air over the railroad trestle. One roller-coaster-like scream goes out from the car, and I think of my own mother, who, with a load of very game children, finally did puncture the oil pan.
It’s Monday, though—you cannot judge other nights in Sagaponack based on tonight, because Monday is drumming night, and this phenomenon alone means people don’t pause before trying to pronounce it. Sagaponack sounding like a faraway place is now left to the fundraising telemarketers.
These tomatoes are just beginning to ripen, and so far I’d say the birds, sparrows and crows have gotten more fruit than me. I see the English sparrow, his whole massive family having a picnic here. One alights on a stake, as if I pounded it there for his convenience. His beak is dripping with fresh tomato juice. They too know how to pick the ripe fruit, a talent that makes their greedy assault that much more insufferable.
If it were just the English sparrows, I would shoot at them. But here and there I see a song sparrow emerge from the vines and perch on a stake; looking innocent and beloved as any bird could be, he sings. I am disarmed. Frustrated, but disarmed. I’ll resort to my presence, a working human scarecrow.
An agricultural existence has taught me that few problems have just one root. A solution, should one exist, is likely to be plural as well. As I make my way down the rows looking to remove the damaged fruit, I find a few green tomatoes that have a different sort of injury: holes, the kind cabbage worms leave. When I reconsider the song sparrow, and the way I watched him hop along in the lower canopy, it occurs to me that the menacing birds could be supping on caterpillars. I wonder if their benefit outweighs their impact. If so, would that be called a natural balance? And then my question would be: Between the two diners, would there be enough for you and me?