Belize Books, Birds, Boys and Girls

“I promise not to kill any more birds with my slingshot.”

“Again. This time, I want you to mean it.”

“I pledge not to kill any more birds with my slingshot.”

The teacher smiled approval.

So did the Guest Speaker.

So did the birds of the Village of Crooked Tree, Belize. The Vermilion Flycatcher could perch on his wire in peace. The White-fronted Parrots could forage among the mango leaves in safety. The Brown Jay could snap up her berries without fear of being dropped by a stone.

And the children of Belize learned the birds they killed for sport were held in high esteem by the rest of the world. Their birds. The birds they grew up with. The birds they heard every morning on their way to school. The birds they teased as targets for their boredom. But on a hot morning in February 2008, they learned to embrace the bounty of beauty in front of them every day of their young lives.

The birds. The birds that brought people from across continents and seas and nationalities. The birds that brought men and women wearing strange clothing and speaking other languages and sporting binoculars. They also brought something else. Something the rest of us take for granted. We pick them up at airports and supermarkets, then toss them aside when we are done. We pay cash for them, borrow them, give them away, complain we have too many of them.

But on this day, a birder and her family brought what the children hardly knew existed. A book about birds. Not just any birds, their birds, the birds of Crooked Tree, Belize. The red birds, brown birds, yellow and black birds. They heard their names for the first time: Red-throated Ant Tanager, Spot-breasted Wren, Great Kiskadee. They learned people came to their country and gave money to their mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles in exchange for food and lodging just to see their birds. The birds whose worldly names they did not know because there were no books.

But the Guest Speaker changed that by bringing three copies of the Birds of Belize by H. Lee Jones. She also brought them an idea. The idea was simple and the books would make it possible. There were men in Crooked Tree who were feeding their families by doing it. Not only that, some were traveling the world doing it, while others made a living at it right in Crooked Tree. They were in popular. They were in demand.

The children could use the books to learn to be bird guides. They could be the ones walking with the people from other countries who stayed at Bird’s Eye View Lodge and who needed help finding the birds the children knew so well. Their slingshots had proved that. But the Guest Speaker had taken away their weapons and replaced them with a book.

“Learn their names,” she advised. “Not just boys can do this, but you girls too. You can be girl guides as well.”

The children giggled and whispered to each other, eyeing the big book with the colorful pictures. They recognized the wing patterns, the scarlets and golden yellows. And now they could learn their names.

“There is something else the children need,” the teacher whispered.

The Guest Speaker leaned forward.

“Of course.” She agreed.

What else would the children of Crooked Tree need to ignite their lives into the wonder of their own back yards? Tune in tomorrow for the next update….

This entry was posted in Belize, birds, books, children, Crooked Tree, guides, Kiskadee, names, need, red, vermilion, wings, world, yellow. Bookmark the permalink.

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