On windy, rainy evenings like this, Stella loved to gather a couple of her friends and listen in on the telephone party line. Because of the weather, static made detection less likely. During the day it wasn’t much fun because most folks were working and conversations were too mundane and dry to be of much interest. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the price of food was so high, blah blah blah, the baby had a cold. Besides, most afternoons Stella was too busy, flitting here and there. But the nights! The later it got, the juicier the talk and Stella – and her “running buddies” - was entertained for hours.
In this rural, farming community, houses could be situated a mile or more apart and the telephone service was shared by any number of households. If you wanted a private conversation, you got in your car and drove to the person’s house. Most people didn’t bother with that but just counted on their neighbor’s courtesy and sense of decency. This phone system usually worked well and was fine for emergencies but could cause a lot of hard feelings too, especially when someone refused to get off the phone so their neighbor could use it.
“Mama, he came home drunk again last night! I just don’t know what I’m going to do!” Mitzy Rollins whined to her mother about her sorry husband at least twice a week. Stella shook her head, as her friends tittered softly in the background.
Mitzy’s mother said the same thing she always said and Stella mouthed it with her. “Honey, it’ll get better. You just have to hang in there.”
When the call finally ended, the eavesdroppers sat around laughing and discussing it until the next distinctive ring signaled another one. Careful not to let on she was listening, Harriet became the snooping busybody this time.
Judd Sayers was asking his brother for a loan. “The bank is about to foreclose on us. I don’t see how we’re going to make it.” Harriet’s beady little eyes darted back and forth as she whispered the details to her friends. The brother didn’t sound as if he was going to help them. They all sighed deeply in mock sympathy.
So the evening continued; lovers’ spats, hard-to-handle teens and scandalous gossip, all helped while away an otherwise dreary, humdrum evening. When Stella’s turn came again, she listened for a moment and then became very quiet. Her friends crowded closer.
“What’s going on? What are they saying?”
Stella appeared to be concentrating on what she was hearing. “Marilee Scott is crying and talking to the minister. She says she doesn’t know how she’s going to make it since her husband died and she’s been left with three kids.”
“Oh, the poor thing!” said Rosie insincerely. Harriet looked at Stella, avidly waiting for more details. Stella turned away slightly from them as she continued to listen. Then she became very still and after a moment, carefully disconnected from the line. Her friends looked at her quizzically.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
Stella hesitated before answering. “The minister assured her that God would take care of her. He told her to “Consider the ravens who do not sow or reap, have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them.” She paused and gazed reflectively out into the night. “He said ‘and how much more valuable you are than birds!’ * Then he prayed with her.”
Her friends looked at each other and shifted nervously. They all flinched as a particularly strong gust of wet air blew all around them. The night seemed to be getting colder.
Suddenly feeling very tired, Stella said “Let’s go, ladies. I’m ready for bed.” She gave a little hop as she stepped away from the “listening “spot she had accidentally stumbled upon, while resting one day on the tall telephone wire. If she gripped the wire exactly where it met the wood pole, it became twisted in such a way that, with her head angled, she was able to hear most of the humans’ phone conversations - which, at the time, seemed like lots of fun.
Lifting her sharp beak to the sky, Stella stretched out her glossy, black wings to their full, considerable span and launched into the air, with her friends silently flocking behind her. Together, they flew over the abundant wheat and corn fields, the vegetable gardens and dairy barns, as they headed for the shelter and safety of the trees.
*Luke 12:24 NIV
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