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Our made-in-Canada version of bats in the belfry

We were very new in Canada; it was our first winter; our first acquaintance with the giant contraption in the basement, the furnace. Not used to its workings, I confess to jumping back with a yelp the first few times the flame below ignited with a hiss. But slowly, we were getting used to it, like we were familiarizing ourselves with other aspects of living in Canada.

That night, many years ago, however, was different. I can still recall the fright I got when I heard the scraping, tapping sounds emanating from our furnace.

My first response was to beat a hasty retreat. But my husband was working late and I was home alone with our sons, who were then just eight and three, respectively. I had to be brave, I told myself. I had to investigate the noise.

Steeling myself, I crept closer. The furnace was silent. I tapped the surface tentatively and set off a flurry of flapping and squawking. My own squawk drew the kids to the basement.

“Mom, look, there’s a claw!” whispered the older one. And there it was, a little bird claw, visible through the grill. Now the three of us stood, clutching hands, trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t know enough about the furnace to open the front panel to release the bird. At the same time, I didn’t know how long it would survive, trapped inside.

Thankfully, my husband walked in just then. We thought calling the gas company was the best thing to do.

My husband called and explained our predicament to the representative who picked up the phone.

“There’s a bird in our furnace and we don’t know what to do.”

“Well, sir, if I was you, I’d eat it,” responded the man.

Not stopping to think that he must be joking, my flustered husband protested. “We’re vegetarians,” he said.

The man apologized and told us there was nothing they could do, to call the Humane Society or look in the Yellow Pages for someone who got rid of raccoons and birds, etc.

The Humane Society was closed for the day, so we got hold of someone who claimed to get rid of ‘critters’.

He was over in less than hour, well equipped with gloves that went past his elbows and a net, etc. He shooed us out of the basement, opened the furnace and let the poor bird out. Fortunately, other than being scared, it was not harmed by its ordeal and hopped away when let out.

The man told us it was a starling. And that birds, squirrels and yes, raccoons, sometimes seek warmth near a chimney and if it’s not capped properly, they fall in. Our chimney cap had shifted, and was duly fixed.

When we told relatives back home in India the cost of this adventure – close to three hundred dollars – we got a lecture on the follies of not being more handy with tools.
– S. EASWAR

Posted: Feb 3, 2011

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