Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Her Majesty's Army

From home base in Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kimberly writes: To say that I hadn't traveled much before Kenn and I got married would be a serious understatement. A lifelong Ohioan, I come from a family perfectly happy to set their roots deep in northwest Ohio and keep them there forever.  The idea of living any place else or traveling the world was something that had never entered my mind. 

All that changed when Kenn and I were married in 2005.  Suddenly, I found myself in love with a world-traveler who had experienced some of the most extraordinary places on earth.  In terms of deciding where we should make our home together, the world was on the table.

If you read this blog or know anything about me and Kenn, then you probably know that the bird migration here in NW Ohio is pretty phenomenal. I'm sure most people just assume that birds are the reason we decided to live in Ohio, and of course that's a big part of it.  But, the main reason we decided to live here--of all the places in the world we could be--has nothing to do with birds.   ---It's the people.

NW Ohio is a great place to live. The people here are warm, friendly, caring, and fun. They'll also help a person in need --- even a complete stranger with a completely strange problem. 
I can think of no better example than an incident that occurred recently when old friend of mine needed some serious help.

Working for a nonprofit is not without challenges.  I've been involved with Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) for more than a decade, so I know by direct experience.  BSBO has developed a very big reach, but in terms of bricks and mortar, we're still very small.  Our building is modest, to say the least.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Headquarters
This poor old building has lots of issues. But, two highly redeeming characteristics help make up for a lot of what it lacks.  These two "old friends" have stood like sentinels, welcoming me each and every day, reminding me that there is beauty in all things, if we just look deeply enough.  

The first friend hugs the southeast corner of the building. In spring she spreads herself across the front of the building like a lovely cloak, welcoming visitors with an eruption of beauty that holds the promise of all that spring in NW Ohio holds in store.  
BSBO's Eastern Redbud Tree
No one can seem to agree on just how old our Redbud might be. 
But everyone agrees that she is a glorious thing to behold.

Not to be outdone, the northeast corner of the building is graced by the
skyscraper that nature built.

Her Majesty: the Trumpet Vine

When Her Majesty is in full bloom, she is a towering inferno of orange-red blossoms that sets the landscape on fire.  She is irresistible. Hummingbirds swarm around her, drinking nectar from her fluted trumpets like guests sipping champagne from the finest crystal.  People love her, too, traveling from near and far to pose for photos in front of her majesty.  

The fluted flowers of the Trumpet Vine
She has stood, grand and tall, for as long as any of us can remember.  But, when the northeast winds blow fierce and strong off of Lake Erie, even the mightiest of warriors can grow weary. And sadly, I arrived one recent morning to find that my old friend had surrendered, and gently, ever so gently, laid herself down softly along the roof, coming to rest just as gracefully as she had stood. 

Strongly she stood.  Gracefully she rested.
I was devastated. When I arrived, a few of the BSBO staff were already huddled together trying to decide how to deal with me when I found out.  They promised me that she would grow back quickly and that they'd cut her down when I wasn't there so I didn't have to hear the chainsaw.  My reaction to all of this?

Uh, No.

Giving up on this old friend without a fight was unacceptable.  I launched into action, taking everyone outside to assess the situation. Okay, she was not on a wooden utility pole as we thought, she was growing on a metal tower, much like the towers used to mount TV antennas.  Okay, all we needed to do, I reasoned, was dig a hole, station a wooden utility pole near the base of the old tower, stand her back up against the new pole, and chain her to it.  Simple! 

The look on the faces of my rescue team revealed thoughts that bordered on "She's clearly lost her mind!"  But, they loved Her Majesty, too, and they didn't want to have to deal with a sad and dejected director, so they allowed themselves to be convinced that it was worth a try, and we sprang into action to save our friend.

With Phase I (convincing the BSBO team this was necessary) complete, we moved on to Phase II: Convincing others that they should help.

Call after call after call was made looking for a pole; looking for someone to deliver it; looking for someone to bury it; looking for someone to check for buried power lines before we dug, and on and on and on.   Eventually, help came in the unexpected form of public servants with big-big trucks!

First on the scene were the guys from Oak Harbor Public Power.

Without a moment's hesitation (or a single questioning glance in my direction),  and with a really cool truck and a 35 foot pole, they sprang into action.  
Phase III: My heroes from Oak Harbor Public Power delivered, set, and buried the pole.
They were so proud to be a part of the rescue operation that they agreed to pose for a photo!
The guys with soul and a pole: the Oak Harbor Public Utility Dudes!
 Next on the scene were the guys from Magee Marsh / Ohio Division of Wildlife.

I was moved to tears at the extra time and consideration
they put into hooking the chain and lifting her as gently as possible. 
Phase IV: My heroes, BSBO's Research Director Mark Shieldcastle and the guys from
ODOW hooked a heavy chain ever so gently around the vine and the old tower
Then, ever so carefully, they began to lift. 




Until she stood
just as elegant and proud as she'd been before. 

When I thanked the ODOW guys for going way above and beyond the call of duty, one of them turned to me and said, "Hey, Our job is to manage habitat for wildlife. This Trumpet Vine is habitat for hummingbirds, so we're really just doing our job."   The next time someone tells me that the wildlife agencies only care about game species, what a story I'll have to share!

Thanks to some pretty remarkable people, my old friend is more beautiful to me than ever before. When I look at her now, I see more than just a gift from nature, I see a gift from caring, compassionate people. Heroes come in many forms. For some, they are NASCAR drivers, sports stars, movie stars, or the uber-rich. For me, the greatest heroes of all are everyday, real life people who will go to great lengths to help the natural world. I hope you'll come visit BSBO someday and see what heroes like mine can do.


  1. That is magnus!! Thanks for the much-needed smile. -Bill

  2. I love this story and heart you telling it. Long live the trumpet vine.

  3. Stacy and Bill,

    Thank you for reading the blog and for taking time to leave such sweet comments. I smile like a complete lunatic every time I come around the corner at BSBO and see her standing there all tall and proud!

    Thanks for making me feel like the story was worth sharing!

    Have a great day!


  4. Such a great story, Kim... this particular trumpet vine is very fortunate to be growing at such a perfect location and near such caring people.

  5. I recall in one of my first visits to the store and you we stood below the wonderful vine and commenting on how beautiful it was and how i would love to start one. its elegance was apparent on the drive in. how lucky is the vine to be growing around loving and caring people. How lucky are all of you to be graced every day with such beauty. Some things are worth saving! kim you do not understand the word defeat. What a fantastic team you had. Never stop caring.

  6. Wow, very touching. I didn't get the scope of her size until I watched, through your lens, as they set her back up and she is as tall as that utility pole!!!! Amazing, wonderful story, thank you for sharing it.

  7. Tiffanie: I'm so glad you know Her Majesty so well and can enjoy her as often as you want!

    Tricia and Anon: Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to leave such nice comments. I'm such a terrible blogger that when I finally find the time to post anything, I'm always happy to know that people are still reading it! =)

  8. Yea Kimmay!!
    We have a Trumpet Vine also...not as large though, and our Hummers and the Chickadees that nest in the house buried somewhere inside would be as sad as you if anything ever happened to it.
    Not to mention the Doodles...
    Huggies to you and the vine!

  9. Kimm, really enjoyed your talk about this at the MBS. Last weekend when I was chasing the Black-throated Gray Warbler (dipped) I smiled with great joy as I passed the saved trumpet vine. Brad C.

  10. Dave: Your trumpet vine sounds wonderful! Hugs to you and DOodles!

    Brad: Thanks for reading and commenting, and for letting me know that the trumpet vine makes YOU smile too!

  11. We've got 3 phone poles in our back yard if ya ever need them for something.....

  12. Oh Kim, I had to come and read this story after you mentioned it to me the other day. Wow, now I see why you smiled so big when I asked about the trumpet vine! What a great story. It gave me the warm fuzzies inside. ~Kim