Our Mission: The Mattabeseck Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, is committed to environmental leadership and education for the benefit of the community and the earth's biodiversity.

deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, Middletown, Connecticut 06457

Sanctuary

Drawing Sparrow & factory“You don’t have the strength of your convictions,” DaSilva said. He glanced at Walters through thick brown glasses and wagged his shiny, balding pate for emphasis.

“What are you talking about?” Walters retorted testily. Walters was the younger of the two men, slim, with ever-mobile brown eyes.
“Just what I said. You went thought the line, you’re a scab.” DaSilva jutted his wrinkled face at Walters with finality.

“Listen,” Walters began to fume. “When the boys up at the north factory decided not to strike, it was all over but the cryin’. No sense stayin’ out any longer.”

“Doesn’t matter, you’re a scab.” DaSilva walked off triumphantly. Gramps, the compressor operator, stood nearly and chortled. He rolled an unlit cigar in his mouth and his puffy red cheeks gleamed with humor.

Walters stormed off. DaSilva was forever getting on someone’s nerves, just for fun. Walters could see it coming but DaSilva’s cracks always managed to crank him up, in spite of himself.

It was winter. The gray chill wind collected billows of snow and wormed its way around the metal building of the test facility and gathered in the cold steel shadows of the NVA furnaces that heated the air flow to the test stands. Cold metal; cold asphalt; cold drafts blowing snowflakes over the ankles. But there were zones of comforting sanctuary. One such was the insulated steam pipe that wound its way along the side of the building where the door to the locker room and lavatories stood. The insulation overlapped a hanger by several inches, and a hanger bolt bisected the gap. It was there that an enterprising House sparrow spent its nights, clutching the hanger bolt, out of winters’ deadly black grasp.

When Walters came to work in the dark freezing moments before dawn, he would notice the sparrow on its perch, not yet ready to brave the day’s icy winds. Walters admired the sparrow’s survival instincts. ‘These birds,’ he thought, ‘the junk birds of society, the starlings and the House sparrows, the Rock doves; you have to give them credit for surviving around here, with all the noise and inhospitable factory detritus.’

DaSilva noticed the sparrow too, or at least the sparrow’s droppings that splattered the concrete steps leading to the locker room. “That’s unsanitary,” he declared and he proceeded to tape up the bottom of the insulated steam line hanger assembly.

Walters predictably had a fit. “What sweat is it off of you if the bird is clever enough to provide a warm roost for itself. Didn’t you have a snug little bed to lay in last night?”

“It’s unsanitary,” DaSilva insisted.

“Just rub it away with your boot. Won’t kill you.” Walters’ face began to flush.

DaSilva smirked. He had Walters now. He proceeded to toy with him. “I’ll call the shop steward down. We’ll take this to health and safety.”

Walters began barking. “No you won’t. Well, go ahead, then, you jerk!” and he stormed up the steps and pulled the tape from the steam pipe.

“There!” Walters shouted vehemently.

DaSilva raised his eyebrows in mock disenchantment. Then, smirking so emphatically that deep lines emerged from around his eyes, he sauntered off, pleased with himself.

Gramps brushed past Walters on his way to the locker room. Rolling his cigar, he asked, “Well, ha-ha-ha, what happened?”

“I expressed the strength of my convictions.” Walters muttered warily. He drew the hood of his sweatshirt over his small face and trudged through the snow to one of the frozen test cells.

LC