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Later we would make up his sighting reports: "8 robins, 4 starlings, 17 sparrows and a hawk [might have been a buzzard or a pheasant]." I was sure that the club members were stunned by the grandeur of these reports, and by the time the matter was put to a vote Grandfather's earlier blunders were forgotten and he was accepted as a full member, $5 due and payable immediately, thank you very much.
Grandfather threw himself into birding with an enthusiasm we hadn't seen since his baseball career. He studied the bird guides for hours, stashed feeders all over the place, tromped through the club sanctuary almost every day and took as a pet a crippled sea gull that had appeared on our lawn after a thunderstorm. Grandfather fed the bird sardines and crackers dipped in sardine juice, and the gull followed him around like a puppy. There was consternation one night when the gull disappeared, and Grandfather roamed the neighborhood until early in the morning poking his flashlight into all sorts of private places. In the Petersons' backyard he got a light in his own eyes in return, and a challenge from a policeman standing there with drawn pistol. "Whatchew doin' here?" the cop barked.
"My sea gull got away," Grandfather said.
The policeman observed that he hadn't quite got Grandfather.
"I said my sea gull got away."
"I don't know what you're up to," the cop said, "but you're in violation of Ordinance 347-B, the trespass and privacy statute, and it's my duty to warn you that anything you say—"
"Don't give me that police doggerel!" Grandfather shouted, and bolted over the fence toward our house. He was required to explain everything down at the station house, and his sins were forgiven by a desk sergeant whose total explanation to the other policemen standing around was: "He's a bird watcher."
Anyone who knew Grandfather (or, indeed, who knew our family) could have predicted that such escapades would only bond him closer to his chosen hobby. Soon Grandfather had become one of the most active members of the Vireo Club, explaining to me: "Your Rhoadeses are not a common clan of followers. We are natural leaders." Mother expressed it differently: "Every Rhoades that ever lived," she said, "tries to take over everything. They're like garlic in a casserole."
It was true enough. I was becoming fairly active in the Vireo Club myself in those years, but Grandfather had set himself up as the club's last word. He was particularly tough on grammar and syntax, and would jump to his feet with one of his numerous points of order whenever a fellow member mispronounced a name or used what seemed to Grandfather to be a shoddy construction. One night a member reported the sighting of "two tufted titmice in the sanctuary," and Grandfather was on him in an instant.
"Point of order, Mr. Chairman!" he cried. "Point of order! Mr. Chairman, I wonder if we can't do something about that name."