by Patricia Agnew
Eli watched the bird tumble out of the gray Missouri sky as the sound of the rifle shot faded. He ran forward and picked up the bundle of feathers, already dulling in death.
“Pa, it’s that old passenger pigeon folks talk about livin’ in the forest back of the Dawson place.”
“Pretty good shot. He was high, movin’ fast,” the man shucked the shell out of the chamber and caught it in his hand.
Eli stroked the rosy breast feathers, then drew back his hand, realizing he could not brush the dust from the creature’s scarlet eye.
“What if there ain’t no more, Pa?”
“Then I reckon we’ll eat them little Bob Whites. Takes a lotta them to fill the pot, though.”
“Is it true there was once so many of them passenger pigeons that the sky was black when they flew over, Pa?”
“Yep. They’d fly over for hours at a time, just one flock, back in your granpappy’s day. Used to be fun to shoot up into that bunch and see how many would fall. He talked about seein’ piles as high as a man’s head.”
“How could they eat that many?”
“Well, they couldn’t. They just took what they wanted and left the rest.”
“How come they shot ‘em all, Pa? How come they didn’t keep some? Like we don’t kill all our chickens. We keep some and they make more.”
“Well, it jes don’t work that way with wild things, son.”