By Norris Chambers

            A generous information dispensing adult told Clifton and me that if we wanted to catch a bird, all we had to do was sprinkle salt on its tail and we could pick it right up.  To two very energetic kids this didn’t sound too far-fetched, so we decided to try it. We had often thought that it would be fun to catch some of the pretty birds that flew around the house and barn. But until now we had not been able to get that close.

            We made a quick trip to the kitchen and loaded our pockets with salt. My mother didn’t know about this, or she might have protested the waste of salt.

            There were plenty of birds around the barn and we headed there to try our new bird catching technique. Of course it didn’t take long for us to discover that we couldn’t get close enough to put the salt on the tail. We retired to our perch on top of the shed and entered into a high level planning session. There must be some way to get the salt on the tail.

            Clifton suggested some sort of trigger with bait on it to attract a bird, then a container that would hold salt and drop it on the bird. Some of it was likely to fall on the tail, then we would rush up and catch it. That sounded reasonable, so we agreed to try it.

            The first thing to consider was the container for the salt and some way to make it spill. A nice sauce pan with a handle seemed a good choice and a sneaky trip to the kitchen to borrow the pan and get some salt was the next step.

            We found some stiff wire, circled two pieces around the pan and twisted it on each side with a pair of pliers, leaving about two inches of wire protruding on each side. We twisted a small circle on the ends of two pieces of wire, slipped them over the protruding wires and hung it from one of the rafters in the shed.  A sudden pull on the handle would surely spill the salt on the birds below! It was a simple matter to tie a string to the handle, run it through a staple on one o the lathes and then take the end to the house where we could pull the string and empty the pan quickly.

            A handful of grain under the container would soon attract birds and we could pull the string from our comfortable perch in the tree in the yard. Our plan was working beautifully. The area beneath our salt was soon covered with birds and chickens. We pulled the string and the salt floated down on the unsuspecting diners. We rushed to the barn to catch our birds.

            As we approached the shed the birds flew away and the chickens scattered. The plan had failed.

            “We must have got some salt on the bird’s tails.” Clifton complained. I agreed that there was no way we could have missed. We wondered if Uncle Zeb could have been wrong about the salt or if perhaps we had used the wrong brand. Maybe we didn’t get enough on the tails. We decided to ask him how much it took.

            When we explained our experiment to Uncle Zeb he laughed and said. “Boys, the idea about the salt is that if you are close enough to the bird to put the salt on the tail, you can catch the bird without the salt.” We thought about that for a few minutes and decided he was right.

            A few years later we did catch birds, but we used traps! The moral in this story is: don’t always take the easy way – the hard way might get better results. And if neither way succeeds, think of all the fun you had trying!