He was one majestic bird. I say was because we haven’t seen him in the last couple of months. We live close to the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola, Florida. One of our favorite visitors was a big grey heron. We named him Henry for some strange reason. It might just have been that on one of his first visits, Henry just seemed right.

Henry came by almost every afternoon around 5 p.m. for a visit. He was quite bold and if we weren’t paying attention, he would peck on the glass of the French door leading to our patio. Often we sat on the patio waiting for his visit and when he stopped in we fed him his favorite dish—hot dogs. Sometimes we had some leftover fish or bologna. Henry was peculiar in what he would eat. He didn’t care for bread at all but he did love his hot dogs. I know one should not feed wild animals, but come on, give me a break.

We first met Henry when Bev (my wife and best friend) and I had created a water garden in our front yard. After we got it working properly we introduced some koi. They were only about 2-3 inches long and were quite happy. Over time, they grew to 6-7 inches. We came in from shopping one afternoon and there was old Henry, standing knee deep in the water with a satisfied look on his beak. There was not a koi in sight.

Once I caught some small bream when fishing so I brought them home and placed them in the water garden. Not long thereafter, I saw a shadow fly by the front window. I walked into the living room and looked out the window. There was old Henry helping himself. We decided that from then on our water garden only needed plants, no more fish.

Henry would fly in, stand on the roof, and longingly peer into the water, wondering where his dinner was. That’s when the feeding began. It wasn’t hard to lure him into the backyard where hot dogs waited. He then became a regular visitor.

Henry would come quite close when we fed him. I never let him eat from my hand, have you ever seen a heron beak up close, it is designed for stabbing. Often a feeding heron will stab his dinner with his beak, give it a flip into the air, and catch it on the way down. I decided that if I hand fed him I might be impaled, then we would be stuck since there was no way Henry could toss me into the air.

Several weeks ago Henry stopped coming around. It seemed strange because he had been such a regular visitor for several years. We only missed him during the mating season when, I’m certain, because of his majestic appearance he could choose his mate from the finest of lady birds.

Henry has been missing long enough now that I am afraid he has become another victim to the damned oil spill that has caused so much damage along the Gulf Coast. I get so angry when I think of the misery that stinking black goo has caused. While Pensacola and Perdido Key have not had beaches blackened by tar balls and globs of oil except for a couple of days, contrary to the media hype, people, concerned about the conditions, have stopped visiting. Many people have lost their livelihoods and given up. Some have not only lost businesses, but homes. BP has promised to pay for damages, but people who live on the margins cannot wait to make loan payments until BP money actually was paid.

Seafood providers have suffered the most. Generally, fisher folk, shrimpers, and oystermen live on subsistence incomes and don’t have the luxury of waiting a month or two for reimbursement. The government screwed up in a major way when they closed down perfectly good catch areas. It cost fishing guides and charter boat operators a tremendous amount.

Now we are told that 75% of the spilled oil is gone. That is a total fiction. There are still huge quantities of oil in the marshes and suspended in the waters of the Gulf. However, the beaches are and have been perfectly safe and clean. Cursed be the news media that have made things seem far worse than they were.

Countless people have been harmed by this horrible catastrophe and my heart breaks for them, especially the families of the 11 who were killed when the Deep Water Horizon exploded. I am equally distressed at the misery the animals have suffered. We saw videos of birds and sea turtles literally drowning in oil. One bird was trying desperately to climb up on an oil boom before the weight of oil that coated it pulled it down into the water. Sadly, it eventually drowned.

Oh, I didn’t mean to go there but this has been and continues to be such a trauma. We are a hardy people and have learned to pull together in times of tragedy and we will survive and overcome this one too. However, no matter how much BP and the government promise; it will be many years until the Gulf Coast is restored to its pristine beauty, if ever.

A tragedy for us is that Henry seems to be no more. BP can’t replace him, the government can’t replace him, he’s just simply gone. Our loss is only a micro-fraction of the loss to others. A prayer for the people of the Gulf Coast would be appreciated as would be a visit of a week or two.

Copyrighted © 2010 by Jack deJarnette

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Jack deJarnette

Jack deJarnette

I am a United Methodist Minister who in June 2008, was placed on incapacity leave due to kidney failure.  My kidneys failed due to immusuppression medications secondary to a heart transplant in 1997. The ministry is my second career having spent 12 previous years at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as Chief Respiratory Therapist and Technical Director of Life Support Systems at Emory University School of Medicine. I  have a wonderful wife of 45 years, two super children, and four grandchildren. My life has been exciting, challenging, and full of wonder as in my early years I was concerned with saving lives and in my later years saving souls I was graduated  from Georgia Military Academy in 1961 (Woodward Academy). I attended Emory-at-Oxford College, The University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Emory University for postgraduate work. I received my ministry credentials through the United Methodist Church Course of Study at Emory's candler School of Theology. My Theology is primarily Wesleyan and varies with the particular topic under discussion. I refuse to be labeled either liberal or conservative. My politics are moderate embracing what I hope is the best of all parties. I have a deep love for Christ, the Church, and the United States of America. Bev (my wife) and I are deeply thankful to God for the blessings that have been showered on us throughout our lives.