Master Painter Mr. Ferris and Our New Dove Family

As I headed out the door last week for my usual 1-hour public pool swim at 7:45 a.m., I didn’t expect anyone else to be out-and-about at that time except my parents. But sure enough, there was 84-year-old Bob Ferris, our master painter, already scraping away the old paint on the porch floorboards in preparation for the new to go down. My father had already purchased the tinted primer, dark gray paint for the floor, and white for the railings and columns in anticipation of Mr. Ferris’ arrival. Over the phone the night before, he had also carefully explained about our Mamma Dove and her eggs.

"She’s in one of the front hanging flower pots, the one with the dead vines and leaves," my dad explained.

"O.K.," our elderly painter had said in his low, husky voice. "I"ll do my best not to disturb her."

Sure enough, his quiet concentration caused no trauma at all to our dove.

Mr. Ferris went carefully and silently about his business for five days straight, 8 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. with 30 minutes for lunch. Where someone would have sandblasted away the old paint, he got down on his hands and knees and scraped it away. Where another would have used rollers to easily whisk over the boards, he methodically eased his brush in between cracks to get every bit of primer and paint into the crannies they should be in. Where those in a hurry would have slopped the gray floor paint messily over the white column pedestals, he adeptly painted around the two so as not to slop one color over another.

Every afternoon after finishing his work, he would then walk about and survey what he had done, touching up places here and there with which he wasn’t satisfied. And he always made sure we knew where to step and where not to step by blocking porch entrances with ladders or potted plants. He wasn’t about to return the next day to find an invasion of footprints trekked across the surface. (Heaven forbid!)

On his last day, I found Mr. Ferris slowly making his way up his ladder leaning onto the porch roof. Walking along the roof, he began carefully cleaning out the rain gutters which had filled with leaves and muck during the year.

"A lot up there," he commented after filling two plastic bags with gutter gunk.

"That plugs up your spouts so the water spills over onto the porch floor," he explained to me while pointing to possible rippling areas of the porch. "Decays the wood and buckles the planks."

I do just wonder, however, if Mr. Ferris was that concerned about the wood the rain might destroy. Most likely, it was his paint job that he was most worried about. A man like Mr. Ferris, such a skilled professional with 61 years of painting experience under his belt, wasn’t about to let a house owner’s procrastination stand in the way of his artwork. Those filled gutters spelled future ruin for his painstaking efforts. Foreseeing disaster, he quickly removed the danger so as to save my parents money in having more boards replaced next year, not to mention hiring him back again to paint them.

Now there is a true craftsman who takes great pride in his work.

And what of Mamma Dove and her two eggs during Mr. Ferris’ comings and goings? Our family is proud to announce the arrival of Mamma and Pappa Dove’s two little ones, born on July 23. Both parents are taking turns feeding their babes with crop  milk. For those who don’t know, a bird’s crop is a built-in carrying pouch that allows it to gather up food quickly for later digestion.  A dove’s crop is extra large and lined with special cells that produce their brand of baby bird food.  The parent just opens it’s beak, the chick sticks in it’s head and drinks. Because we can get quite close to our little dove family, we actually were able to clearly see the chicks receive this special nourishment from their parents.  Absolutely remarkable and fascinating!   

Our Internet research has also informed us that 15 to 27 days will have the babies looked after by their parents before they finally are coaxed to leave the nest. We likewise learned dove pairs often return year after year to nest in the same place. It might very well be more flower pot fledglings will be hatching in their parents’ favorite porch perch next year, giving us more opportunity to observe up close God’s greatest gift to us: that of Nature and new birth.

Here’s hoping your July is coming to a close with as many blessings as ours.

From Marshall, as always here’s wishing you "Ping An" (Peace) for your day!

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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