Dad’s red caboose birdhouse almost seemed to float down upon the branches of the old maple tree.
Dad’s Red Caboose Birdhouse
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My dad was a great model train enthusiast. When Dad was a teenager, he began building this very elaborate train setup in the hallway in front of his bedroom. Then came the Second World War. Dad’s brother Edward enlisted in the US Navy. Uncle Ed’s ship was hit and he officially became “lost at sea.”
That inspired my dad to convince his mom and dad to let him sign up with the US Army Air Corps, at the young age of 17. Dad was assigned to the Seventh Army Air Corps at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii. By the grace of the good Lord, Uncle Ed was found by a British Naval Ship, nearly dead in the Atlantic Ocean.
When Dad came home from the war, he poured his heart and soul into his favorite hobby, model train building. Somewhere, I have a photo of a portion of Dad’s train setup. It was quite elaborate.
My sister Patti, gave my Dad a birdhouse that looked like a small red train caboose, for his 70th birthday. Dad simply loved it. Dad’s 70th birthday was September sixth of 1997. It fell on a Saturday. So, the next day, after church, Dad and I began the work of hanging his new red train caboose birdfeeder up on the old maple tree in our backyard.
This was the very maple tree that I had built my tree fort on when I was a boy. The plan was that I would climb the old maple tree, tie a heavy line of string from one of the bigger tree limbs, and then Dad would tie the birdhouse to the hanging end of the string.
I remember how strange it felt to climb up the old maple tree. I hadn’t climbed the old maple since the summer of 1973. I was 19 years old at the time. I remember that I had climbed the old tree back then, just one more time to remove the last three wood planks from my old tree fort.
I was now 44 years old. As I climbed the old maple tree, a myriad of emotional memories flooded the inner fiber of my being. I had read comic books in this old tree, when it was my tree fort. When I was the Patrol Leader of the Beaver Patrol in good old Boy Scout Troop 170, I often held my patrol meetings in my old tree fort. I had read a great portion of the book, “Look Homeward, Angel” cradled in the branches of this dear old tree.
I remember this moment so well. I was shimmying along one of the thick, high limbs of the old maple tree. Dad was down below watching me. For one split second, I slipped and almost fell. I caught myself just in the nick of time.
Instinctively, Dad put out his arms. I remember feeling this deep emotional tie with my dad at that sacred moment. For, even at the age of 44, Dad was still looking out for me. Ready to catch me, if I fell. I don’t know what it was, it’s hard to explain. I remember that it profoundly touched my heart.
I tied a taut-line hitch knot on the string around the massive tree limb. Then Dad climbed up the step ladder that we had set up. Dad tied his beloved red caboose birdhouse onto the hanging string. I distinctly remember that he also used a taut-line hitch knot.
Over the years, Dad came to appreciate and love the red caboose birdhouse that my sister had given him. Often times, we would pull into the driveway and Dad would look up at the birdhouse as he walked into our home. Sometimes, Dad would even sit on the big porch and watch the birds hover about the red caboose birdhouse.
Life is funny at times. It’s often the simple things in life, that bring so much endearing pleasure to our lives.