Fragments Wayback: My Life of Crime


Seems fitting that this seasonal story be retold just now as the same set of characters and props congregates on Goose Creek: a mailbox, a writer with a gun and a phoebe intent on defacing a front porch lintel with moss and poop. Here’s how the story ends:

I slapped the handcuffs on the criminal’s wrists and wisked me away, sobbing. I am incarcerated now in the white clapboard house near the damaged mailbox, and will be serving a sentence of three hundred thousand words to life. I am counting on early parole for good adverbs. Please send e-cards (and if you could slip a small file in as an attachment, it’d be muchly appreciated.)

Read the rest of True Detective from Fragments ~ June 2003.

And I should add that we have solved (we hope) the lintel problem by covering it with aluminum foil that both protects the paint and confuses the bird. So far this year, no nests.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Just proves what I was taught in fire arms training. You should always think about where that bullet is going to end up, if you miss your target.

    LOL! Don’t you hate it when you find out you’re the one, who done the dirty deed?

  2. Poor little phoebe needs a nesting platform–up a few inches below the roof overhang. Somewhere on the house or a shed that won’t be minded by the two-legged mammals.

  3. Oh they don’t lack for house and outbuilding platforms, none any more agreeable to the homeowner than the lintel. Our “federal” architecture has the roof line with “returns”–18″ horizontal extensions back toward the center of the facing wall.

    We’ve resorted to placing pieces of board on top of the painted wood bottoms of these “phoebe hotels” so at least at the end of the year when we have our gutters cleaned, the board’s contents of moss and poop can be cleaned off, the board replaced for the next year and no damaged paint or extra ROT in the exterior of the house.