Life in the Breakdown Lane

A Chinese proverb says, ‘The longest part of a great journey is the first step’ or something like that. In our case, the first step should be to the cell phone to call AAA for a tow. That’s because we migrate more creatures with wheels than we do winged ones and the way things have been going lately, we may soon have to trade in our Triple A card for one from Quadruple A. Not that my two day internship at the southern Virginia Ford Dealership getting the trailer towing pickup repaired while on the trip from St Marks to Patuxent will do my resume any harm. “You’d make a crackerjack used car salesman!” a guy once told me. I’m glad he wasn’t my high school guidance counselor.  “Yep – It used to belong to an old lady who only used it to drive to church on Sundays.  HONEST!”

Interesting to note that where I broke down was not too far from where Joe and Liz broke down a couple of weeks earlier on their way from Florida to Canada. Must be the “Virginia Triangle”! But when you spend your days working on a project attempting to recover an endangered species from Mother Nature’s “Breakdown Lane” you have to expect to spend some time there yourself. That was last week and as the poet said, “Time waits for no breakdown.”

Meanwhile, as every craniac will tell you, there are five seasons in a year: summer, fall, winter, spring and Chick Season. The latter being by far the most special, for it is the season of new beginnings and second chance start over’s. Each new chick represents just that. But to enter Chick Season at Patuxent is to enter a bee hive of activity, a world where time speeds up and warp speed is only second gear and where Mother Nature always has her index finger planted firmly on the fast forward button.

Whooper chicks are needy and demanding and grow with time lapse photography speed. The starting gun goes off each and every time a chick hatches, so once those eggs start to hatch, it’s incoming! Kind of a Road Runner vs. Wiley Coyote thing, with a “peep peep” instead of a “beep beep,” only the Road Runner always runs away from you.  Whooper chicks run over you… work wise that is.  If you don’t stay ahead of them, they will turn you into road kill in a heartbeat and you could easily find yourself the main course at a roadside convention of turkey vultures.  I can hear them now. “Ah crap!  Rubber chicken again!”  Point is, he who hesitates is lost.  But losing isn’t an option here and the Patuxent crane crew has been catching any and all pitches Mother Nature throws at them for years.  Fast balls, curves, sliders, change ups… doesn’t matter.  As for myself, I’m still looking for my darn catcher’s mitt! (could I have left it at Wal-Mart?)

We now have seven little whooper chicks and counting.  Two are from Patuxent pairs, two from ICF and three are from the four eggs collected at Necedah. #1 is a sandhill chick being raised to supplement the aging Patuxent sandhill flock so #2 is the first whooper chick.  I throw this in so as to avoid any future confusion about the numbers. It’s good, though, because like the old  TV rental car commercial used to say, “Number two tries harder.” Besides, as I remember it, 1940’s movie detective Charley Chan’s Number One Son couldn’t find his butt with both hands!  #2-14 is 7 days old and had his first ON/Off trike engine conditioning today and honestly, the engine noise bothered Geoff and I more than it did him!

#3-14 got a class trip to see the trike Monday for his 6th birthday. #4-14 hatched May 15, #5-14 and #7-14 hatched May 18 and #8 and #9 hatched on May 19.  There are 11 more eggs on the calendar here and an egg call meeting which took place yesterday will take us a step further in the process of knowing how many eggs will be available this year and which projects will be allotted which eggs.  Meanwhile, the Patuxent crew, always mindful of the fact they have a Creepster from Jersey in their midst, have borrowed a Chick Scanner from Advanced Telemetry Systems and make Geoff and I walk through it every time we leave the chick building. Can’t say as I blame them. I last saw Geoff heading off to the sandhill pens with a can of white paint!

There’s a lot more to tell but not a lot of time right now to tell it, so this update is just an initial humble effort to get the top spinning, with the promise of a future swirl of updates and pictures to follow.   It’s like that when the breakdown lane suddenly turns into the passing lane.  Let ‘er rip, Knute!

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  1. Sharon Leigh May 21, 2014 6:44 pm

    This thrills my heart! Class of 2014 you are in my prayers— Oh yes, and all you wonderful OM peeps are too!!

  2. Margie Tomlinson May 21, 2014 3:07 pm

    Dear Brooke, Always so glad for the updates! I think we’re all spinning together now! WHOOP (peep), WHOOP (peep), WHOORAY!!! (peep, peep)

  3. Betsy Kellenberger May 21, 2014 2:11 pm

    Thanks, Brooke, for a fun and informative report! Hope all you have is open road in the future and no more breakdowns!

  4. Patti May 21, 2014 12:59 pm

    Whooop!!! Great news about new chics-can’t wait for this new season to begin!

  5. Peggy M May 21, 2014 9:45 am

    Can’t wait! 🙂

  6. Ruth Mitchell May 21, 2014 8:52 am

    And so the next season begins…I am so excited!!! And Brooke….next time…pictures…we need PICTURES!!!!!! 😉
    Seriously….God bless you all for the wonderful dedication and love you show to our little whoopers…you all are the BEST!!!!

  7. Russell Allison May 21, 2014 7:42 am

    And I have trouble knowing what day of the week it is. Have a great new adventure and be safe. Pat the new chicks on the head for me and we will be listening for this years migration to Florida.

  8. Warrenwesternpa May 21, 2014 7:22 am

    21 May 2014 Life in the Breakdown Lane Brooke Pennypacker

    Ahh … The moment we’ve been waiting for: Chicks at Patuxent! Loved the comment about Geoff and the white paint …don’t forget a sprinkle of cinnamon!

    Yes, breakdowns happen …the best laid plans of mice and men. But it makes for archives, I guess.

    Our best to all of you. Thanks for another great FJ Report!


  9. Lori (loriearn) May 21, 2014 6:10 am

    Let the fun begin!! Whoop!!! (Peep)