That’s what I used to think hummingbirds sounded like. Until today, when one spontaneously combusted flew into the garage of the house I was working on. It was buzzing around the ceiling like a golf ball with wings, or perhaps an overgrown june bug. Its beak was open; I think it was panting. It’d been in there for a while while I was patching and painting on the outside of the house. It said ‘Cheep chip chirp’ urgently, and I decided it must be helped. After a few tries, I hatched a plan (like the ornithology theme there?), and using an extension pole, a wet red washcloth, and my wits, I transferred the bird from garage door opener bracket to the outdoors. It buzzed up into the woods, and I watched it disappear in the leaves. I turned back to my truck with a smile, and looked up to see a hummingbird hovering overhead. “You’re welcome,” I said.

Tonight, while turning on the lawn sprinkler, I saw a hummingbird in the back yard – which hasn’t happened until today. Sweet.

I had particular reason to be grateful for the kindness of straingers myself today (Southern accent activated). I was working on a steep shingled roof, doing some repairs that another craftsman sold (long story). It was time to get off the roof, partly because the work was done, but also because the sun was turning the shingles into runny pebble-coated goo. I shimmied down the valley to where my trusty ladder was parked, and attempted to step onto it. The ladder scooted sideways across the gutter like a girl at a bar who detected bad breath or bad intent. Plopping myself upon the roof again, I thought about how to tackle this problem. Cell phone? In the truck. 20 feet down and 30 feet across – no good. Rope? Tied to the crab apple tree on the other side of the house – no good. Try again? Only option. Same result. I tried removing the ladder mittens and lowering the fly section (the moving bit of an extension ladder) so I could step over the top instead of around the side. Slippy slidey.

The only thing left to do was wait – and pray. So that’s what I did. That, and recall in horrifying detail the last time I fell off a roof – it was a wintry day in Michigan, and I was carrying plywood across an icy deck with a coworker. I slipped, landed on my tookus, and slid 40 feet to the eave, where I nearly grabbed a safety cleat. I watched the roof edge and 12 feet of brick ascend rapidly, until my feet hit the tundra. Then my butt, right arm, and head – in rapid succession. No injuries, thankfully. But I was sore for days. Then I remembered a friend from years ago who was working on his garage roof. He took a step backward, and landed on his feet on the concrete below. He’s been in a wheelchair for 20 years now.

A while later (about 20-30 minutes) a neighbor rolled into her driveway, interrupting my reverie. “Excuse me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?” I would have asked, were I not desperate. Instead, I croaked, “Help?” She came over and asked what I needed. “Could you hold the ladder for me – oh, and grab the bungee cord on the passenger seat please!” I strapped the skittish ladder to the gutter, and with a stranger half my weight on the bottom rung, swung a leg over and made it off the roof. My right hand is still sore from the molten shingle-burn I got, but I’m immensely grateful.

Bruised pride is better than broken ankles.

After that episode, I didn’t set foot on the roof again. I’ve been in much scarier places, but I’d rather not. The painting was achieved using my Hummingbird Rescue Pole, some duct tape, and a brush that could be dipped in a bucket on the sidewalk below. Job done, paid, and customer happy.

That, and I didn’t even squish the scary spider. It was near one of my work areas, and I wanted to be damn sure she stayed in her zone, and I’d stay in mine. This was a critter that, if it landed on you, you would feel its weight.

That’s a 1″ pipe next to it. Jibblies.

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