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Observing perseverance from animal friends

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Writer Janet Sparks caught this photo of a spider enjoying his (or her) web on their farm.
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By JANET SPARKS - For The Courier-Times

In April, I walked out the front door to retrieve the mail. As I stepped back upon the porch, I noticed strings of grass hanging from the porch light. I pulled down the grass and walked back into the house.

A few days later I noticed grass hanging from the light again along with bird droppings plastered to the house wall. That is when the realization hit that a bird was trying to build her nest on our porch light. I was not a happy camper and destroyed hopes of a nest by pulling out the grass.

A few days later I saw Mama Robin in our yard with grass in her mouth. I proceeded to tell her to choose one of the three maple trees in our yard to build a nest for raising her family. That speech must have fallen on deaf ears because once again I discovered grass on the porch light. This led to serious action and I cut up a milk carton and positioned it over the light, dashing her hopes of building that nest on our porch. She did not return.

I began feeling guilty for what I had kept the bird from completing. I had saved myself time from constantly cleaning messes on the porch wall, but I deprived hubby and myself of watching one of God’s creatures perform her motherly tasks.

Mama Robin taught me about perseverance and to keep trying to accomplish that important job. I hope she raised a healthy bird family.

This summer brought my second lesson on being persistent. My neighbor asked me to go to her mailbox and remove a letter. She would stop by later and get it from me. I readily agreed to help and jumped in my vehicle and drove to her mailbox. I pulled up beside the box and pulled down the lid. Much to my surprise I discovered a mouse scurrying around in the box.

Before I could slam closed the lid, I saw the remains of the letter shredded into hundreds of pieces. Since rodents have never been one of my favorite creatures, I pulled away quickly from the box and drove home. I called my neighbor to tell her of my findings.

She had seen the little brown mouse in her box building a nest when she placed the letter there. She destroyed the nest, placed the letter in the box, and left for town. Two hours later I received the call to remove the letter; thus discovering the mouse and the destroyed contents. In two hours, that persistent, little brown mouse had found a way to start another nest.

My neighbor destroyed the second try at building a nest, found the hole in the mailbox, and stuffed it with rocks. A few days later, the rocks were gone from the hole and another nest was present. Mail was stopped at the post office and a new metal box now replaces the old, holey plastic one.

Thus, another lesson of perseverance by another one of God’s creatures. Hope Mama Mouse found a nice, cozy place for her babies.

Several years saw a yellow-and-black garden spider build a web on our front porch. Many people are scared of this creation of God, but I have always been fascinated by their speed, mobility, size, and color. Part of that fascination may be from the fictional story written by E. B. White titled “Charlotte’s Web.”

I made it an annual event in my classroom to read this classic to my third graders. Spider Charlotte had great determination to assist a helpless Wilbur the pig save himself from slaughter by the farmer on whose farm he lived. Charlotte’s perseverance of spinning mysterious webs containing words describing Wilbur ultimately saved the pig from his demise.

Just like the fictional Charlotte, the spiders on our porch have shown much perseverance preparing their fall webs. Unlike Charlotte, those spiders were not preparing webs containing mysterious words, but spinning to fulfill the cycle of nature. The webs were small at first only covering a portion of the porch between the wrought-iron posts.

The black-and-yellow spiders persevered through the warm days and cool nights of autumn. The size of the web increased through the blustery days that carried downpours of rain. The females persevered as eggs were laid and a sac was spun around the eggs for protection. The determined spider clung as the web wavered in the wind.

Then one day the spider, sac, and web disappeared from the porch. The spider had persevered until the job was done.

Lessons from nature can be learned if we are observant. Those three animals were the teachers and I was the student in learning perseverance. Thank you, nature, for a 5th Weekend blessing.

Retired Kennard Elementary School teacher Janet Sparks lives on an area farm with her husband. She writes this column in months where there are five complete or partial weekends.