One shouldn’t often whistle when trying to sneak up on pigeons. That seems somewhat obvious, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t all that obvious to Blakely Snatfloot when he tried it. Of course he whistles when he does most anything; he isn’t even aware of it. He is just a happy guy. If he were a poor whistler, others would more than likely tell him to be quiet, if not something much more rude. But as his whistling is very melodious, others often find themselves whistling along, or at least humming softly if they know they themselves aren’t very tuneful.
The pigeons, however, really were a nuisance. One day about a year ago, a single gray pigeon had appeared in the pear tree in the back yard of the small flat where Blakely and his mum resided. “Oh come look at the bird,” they would both say to the other when they noticed it there, or on the ground beneath the tree. Of course it wasn’t long before they were throwing out bread and buns and other such goodies. Bird seed came along soon thereafter. The bird wasn’t quite a pet, but almost. They would invite the neighbors over to have a look. Miss Dumpkins from next door speculated that the “poor dear must be quite lonely.” Mr. Snivert from across the street offered that he had a friend who kept pigeons, and that maybe another bird could be obtained to keep the first one company. Yes, yes, that was a grand idea they all thought. Blakely didn’t think that was a grand idea at all, but he was outvoted, even if it was his back yard, and even if he had planted that pear tree.
Two days later, pigeon number two appeared in the yard. Now, not seven months later, there were many, too many. No one was sure where all the others had come from. Blakely hadn’t seen any nesting going on, hadn’t noticed any little pigeons about. But there they were. One pigeon was nice. Two pigeons were cute. Too many pigeons were noisy (and messy). It was time to do something about them.
Which is precisely why Blakely Snatfloot was sneaking up on them. He had a salt shaker in his hand. Everybody knows that if you put salt on a bird’s tail, it can’t fly! So if Blakely could salt some pigeon tails, he could catch them and take them to Mr. Snivert’s friend. Or maybe he could take them to the zoo, or to the SPCA, or to the Home For Old Pigeons (there must be such a place). He would worry about where to take them after he caught some. Right now he wasn’t catching any. He would try to sneak up behind one or two, but of course they would hear him coming. Then they would watch him until the last possible moment, when they would fly. Not far mind you. Just far enough.
“Maybe you shouldn’t whistle?” his Mum suggested. “Maybe you should make pigeon noises.” “I wasn’t whistling.” “Yes you were, you never shut up.” “What kind of noise does a pigeon make?” “How do I know. Maybe you should listen.”
Following that little exchange, Blakely realized he had no idea what pigeons sounded like. He did refuse to believe he always whistled though. “You do,” said Miss Dumpkins. “Very beautifully. I love to listen to you.” “Yes, you do.” chipped in Mr. Snivert. “You can get very annoying.”
So he listened. He decided that these pigeons made a “cuuuuu, cuuuuu, cuu” sort of sound. So he tried it. He took his salt shaker, and slowly walked toward the yardful of pigeons, “cuuuuuuing” mournfully as he went. It seemed to be working. He was getting closer and closer, and the birds didn’t seem to notice him. Suddenly he lurched forward shaking salt madly in all directions. Then as he reached to pick up several well salted pigeons, they flew. They all flew, salted pigeons and unsalted ones too. Instead of flying only a few feet, out of reach, they flew high into the air, wheeled around in a huge formation, and disappeared into the western sky.
Mrs. Snatfloot applauded wildly, and she rushed to put her newly laundered sheets on the clothes line. She hadn’t been able to hang her wash outside for many months, since the pigeon flock had multiplied.
Blakely was whistling, someone’s Sonata Number 73, in celebration. Even if the salt thing hadn’t worked, the pigeons were gone. They came back about two weeks later. Mrs. Snatfloot was most disappointed, so she bought a cat, and the cat caught just enough of the pigeons to deter the rest from getting too close to her laundry. She would have asked Blakely to chase them again, but he didn’t live there anymore. He and Miss Dumpkins had eloped, and were now living in Cedar Bluffs, Iowa. She loved his whistling. He loved her chocolate-chip cookies. It was really hard whistling after you ate cookies, Blakely realized, but in spite of this, they lived happily ever after.