Jose’s Martins #1

Jose greeted me today with a hearty “Hola!” and an invitation to have his Jell-o. He only likes the red Jell-o and he only gets the green. He tells me he has made several complaints-to no avail. I could tell him that hospitals and “homes” usually never give red Jell-o but I decide to nod my head in understanding. He finishes off his lunch and I wheel him to the courtyard.

I had many questions reeling in my head to ask him. About his martins, what brought him to Florida, his life in South America, his family or apparent lack there of. Today though, we will talk of Purple Martins. A subject free of any sadness or memories that can cause pain. He talks of his memories of hundreds of thousands of birds flying free and his spirits rise like they are lifted up by the martins themselves.

Jose was a handyman by trade. Odd jobs, car repairs, unlicensed electrical work was his forte. He laughed at my reaction to at least 4 stories of how he checked for current to electrical outlets and light sockets. I suppose whatever investment it would take to purchase a volt meter was out of the question. He would stick his finger in the socket. My disbelief is still quite strong even after his vehement and at length explanation on the difference between amps and watts and volts and I don’t even know! But on to the Purple Martins.

All his houses were handmade. He would use scrap wood and made great use of wooden pallets which he found in large quantities. Legally, I hope. The wood was rather thin and of poor quality but with a slathering of paint would last multiple seasons before needing repair or replacement. The rough wood was well liked by the martins. I showed him photos of my gourd rack and he snorted, “They look like Calabaza.” (A spanish pumpkin) I explained they were actually plastic and that brought another snort. He tried to explain his housing to me and the best I could understand is that they were 2 story square, flat roofed box type houses with no porches and round entrances. He did make the nests accessible but had a hands off approach. Usually 8 compartments per house and they were about 10 inches deep. He never used “plans” and would vary the housing depending on his whims. He estimated, at his height of “Land lording” he had about 100 pairs. “Puedia pero no queiria”, he explained. (I could have but didn’t want to) When referring to having more housing and Martins. The ‘explative’ Halcon’s (Hawks) made my life a misery, he recounted in Spanish. This was the only time when sadness entered our conversation. He told me of a season when he had fledgling’s taking to the air daily, only to be met with deadly talons and beak. His solution? “I went over into my neighbors yard one night and poisoned those trees…then I offered to cut them down over the winter for free. I was a big hero and everyone was happy.” The legalities didn’t seem to phase Jose or concern him in the least. I guess when you are 80-something you have worse things in your past to worry about than a few trees. “Susanita, can you find me help to the bathroom?”

Of course Jose…and I will see you soon.

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