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I had just fed the dogs and was about to bring in the cat’s dish when a truck came down the lane. “Hush, Cullen,” I said. “It’s just Gayle.” Though why she’d come so early for our walk, I didn’t know. I still needed to get dressed and brush my hair. I would have liked to have a cup of coffee first.

But as the truck got closer, I saw it was not Gayle, but our farmer-neighbor.

“Oh, Jim. You caught me in my jammies and without hearing aids.”

Jim hopped out of his truck, smiling broadly. I cupped my hand around my ear. My hand-hearing-aid works surprisingly well in a pinch.

“The buffalo are out,” he said, by way of greeting.

I smiled, momentarily disoriented. I thought he meant they were on display, and we should go see them, maybe in a parade. But why so early in the morning?

The buffalo farm stands three crooked miles from here. We often drive by and watch them in the pasture, usually in the distance. On rare occasions, they forage up near the fence, the calves come close by. We like to impress visitors with this view.

“They’re in the corn,” explained Jim. “We’re telling everybody.” And then I knew they were not on parade, but at large.

“Oh! I’ll get the dogs in,” I said, and Jim agreed it was a good idea.

I texted Gayle and a few other friends that Jim might have missed. Gayle replied, “Oh, that’s what all that shouting was this morning. Shouting and ATVs zooming around.”

Gayle lives even closer to the herd than we do. I spent much of the morning peering out the window. When Michael got up, I told him we would have to forgo our usual coffee walk to survey the yard, but my husband was not about to let a few old buffalo scare him. He went outside despite my warnings, scoffing at my idea that a buffalo or 12 might stampede out of the corn. Later, we could see the flashing lights of the sheriff’s cars blocking our road by our grass waterway. The top of a box truck was visible over the corn.

Michael walked down to visit with the folks on the road, who told him they had found some in our field back by the timber, so my worry wasn’t that far-fetched. Buffalo could, in fact, come rumbling out of the corn. But now someone had spotted a few of them with a drone up by the cell tower. The latest dispatch from the sheriff’s office said that all but four of the 40 had been caught.

I don’t think we’ll walk in the woods today. Meanwhile, I’m keeping the dogs close to home and looking over my shoulder in the yard. The corn is beginning to turn golden, and the winds rattle through the leaves. It’s easy to imagine a poor, lost buffalo shouldering through the stalks to stand in my yard, perhaps stepping over to browse the black-eyed Susans.

Later, Michael was making his afternoon rounds of the yard and came to find me in the house. He made his hand motion that means, “Come quick. I have found something you’ll want to see.”

I followed, protesting that I was in my socks, and if it was a buffalo, I’d rather watch from the window. He led me to the chicken coop where the chickens were gathering, preparing for dusk. He pointed to the top of the wall, and there, caught in the chicken wire, was a hummingbird.

He ran to bring me a stool to stand on, and working from both sides of the wire, we released the poor thing. I got its head out first, but it wouldn’t let go of the wire. Michael gently tapped its claws from the outside, and it loosened its grip.

It lay in my hand, so weak. Its feathers were iridescent green. We carried it to the hummingbird feeder, and I stuck its beak in. It was too weak to hover, so it lay in my hand, pulsing, with its breath or heartbeat or swallowing the sugar water; I couldn’t tell which. When I pulled it out, it gave a tiny beep and plunged its beak back into the feeder. I let it feed a few minutes more, and, with another beep, it took sudden flight up over the ornamental quince bush. We withdrew from the feeder so it could come back for more.

Roam in Beauty; Release Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing. Shoutout to Dedrick, Lori and Neil.