By Sandra Allmon
I met Harry by chance... and fell in love with a red headed male. The first time I saw Harry, or rather heard Harry, was when we first moved over to Sunshine Drive. I had just come back from visiting my friend, my best friend Melissa for a month, when I heard we were going to move. At first, I grumbled, growled, and thought unpleasant thoughts about the move. That is, until on the first night when I was back at home, I was awakened by our neighbors' fifteen dozen yapping poodles. By the time that week was over, I was beyond ready for a total relocation. Oh sure, I'd miss the squirrels running down the power lines, or watching them sit in the tree tops and fuss at me. But I knew I wouldn't miss seeing them turn the day dark whenever they hit the transformers, and I knew I wouldn't miss the smell of burnt squirrel, either. In fact, I couldn't wait to see what kind of animals were on Sunshine Drive.
The following week we packed our stuff and scrubbed the house down. With the help of my brothers and nephews, we loaded the vehicles up, and drove over to the new house. We spent the first night there. The next day, I went outside to see what I could see and hear. I even decided to go for a walk down the dirt road. As I walked, I kept hearing "Chur! Chur! Chur!," and the most awful chuckling that a person could hear. For a moment, I stood on the road mesmerized by that sound... wondering what kind of animal could make that kind of noise. When I didn't see it, I went back inside. I told my mom and grandmother about the noise and they both said it was a woodpecker. I grew excited about seeing this creature of the trees. On the next day, my mom went into town and bought some seed and suet for our auspicious guest. Once Mom returned, she automatically went outside and hung the suet on the tree. For a long time, I sat watching for Harry to show up. In a brilliant red flash, a flurry of feathers and his resounding call of "Chur! Chur!", Harry appeared. Of course, I was amazed by the way Harry could actually bob up and down the side of an oak tree, and I thoroughly enjoyed his antics at the feeder.
I got a special kick out of watching Harry and Slick, the alpha male cardinal of the neighborhood, play Mexican stand-off. Sometimes the two would stare at each other around the feeder until one or the other flew off. It was really quite funny to see Slick chasing a full grown woodpecker around the house and up a tree. After the chase was over, Harry would sit up in the top of the trees and holler, "Chur! Chur! Chur!" Simultaneously, Slick would sit across the way, singing "Picture! Picture! Cheer up! Cheer up!" Each one catching their breath. But the next minute or so later, they'd be at it again... chasing each other up the trees once more.
The first time I saw Harry throw a fit was on New Year's Eve Day. We had hog jowls, black eyed peas, green beans, and turnip greens for lunch. In Missouri this type of meal is supposed to bring you luck and prosperity for the coming year. Mom had some leftover hog jowl, and after lunch, she went outside and nailed a piece of it on Harry's tree, which stands at the end of our patio deck. Mom came back inside because we had an inch of snow on the ground, and it was cold, too... and she was freezing. We sat at the table: grandma, mom, and me, waiting to see what would happen. Nothing. Disappointed, I went to my room to write. While I was writing, I heard the unmistakable, "Chur! Chur!" And I looked up to see Harry wrestling to pull the hog jowl off the tree. I didn't think he would get it off; but much to my surprise, he did. He jumped, kicked, slung it in the air and fussed and chuckled until he wore himself out. I sat at my desk, laughing! I never knew a bird could actually throw a fit! And at that instant, Harry really captured my heart, making my love affair more personal with this gregarious woodpecker. I just knew this love affair would continue for as long as we lived here. And it has!