JARDINE: Bird picks fight with paint job, seniors in Oakdale

August 19, 2013 

    alternate textJeff Jardine
    Title: Local columnist
    Coverage areas: People, issues, the community
    Bio: Jeff Jardine joined The Bee's staff in 1988 after a decade at the Stockton Record. He covered sports before moving into news in 1996 and became the Local Columnist in 2003. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 1979, majoring in communications and history.
    Recent stories written by Jeff
    On Twitter: @jeffjardine57
    E-mail: jjardine@modbee.com

From the emails, voice mails and other trusted sources:

PECKING ORDER — I egret to inform you of a recent incident in Oakdale.

While leaving the new senior housing complex in Oakdale, police volunteers Sonya Schali and Wes Stewart responded to a call at the very same complex, on A Street near the A.L. Gilbert feed mill. Senior citizens were under attack!

In fact, eight of them were in peril after trying to stop the assailant from damaging a shiny black pickup in the parking lot.

The attacker suddenly turned on them, lunging and biting. What — Mike Tyson in Oakdale? A mugger?

No. It was an egret. A very agitated egret.

There are thousands upon thousands of the pencil-necked white herons here in the valley. Most hang out in the fields away from the city, particularly when the fields are under inches of irrigation water. Heading through the country into Modesto in the mornings, I've seen hundreds mingling with cattle in the pastures.

This one, Schali said, saw its reflection in the paint of the pickup and tried to pick a fight with itself. Talk about being conflicted. …

Then, it began pecking at a group of seniors that tried to get it to leave the poor truck alone.

Schali — nicknamed "the bird lady" by her grandson because she's dealt with our feathered friends many times over the years — came to the rescue.

"I snuck up on it from behind," she said. "I was able to grab it by the neck — carefully — and hold it against me until it calmed down."

Now, what to do with it? County animal control generally sticks to cats, dogs and horses. Nor was the Stanislaus Wildlife Center an option.

"They would only handle it if it had been injured," Schali said.

So, with Stewart driving and Schali holding the bird on her lap, they drove out into the countryside and released it.

The bird flew off to safety. The seniors in Oakdale were safe. So was the pickup and its paint job.

MANSION MANIA — Among the buyers at last week's estate sale of items and furnishings from Ceres' Whitmore Mansion was Steve Case of Sonora. The city of Ceres bought the 110-year-old Victorian-style mansion in December. The items sold belonged to the previous owners, Cary and Nancy Pope, and the vast majority were not original to the home or Victorian Era or replicas of that era.

Case picked up a brass bed and a couple of tapestries, which will go into the mansion he just restored in Sonora. The Curtin Mansion, on Columbia Way and just a few hundred yards from Sonora High, was built in 1897 by Tuolumne County District Attorney John B. Curtin. A year later, he won a seat in the state Senate and, in 1914, ran as the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, losing to Hiram Johnson.

The 6,800-square-foot mansion fell into disrepair over the decades. Case bought it in 2010 and has restored it to its original splendor.

He will operate it as a retirement home. The Tuolumne County Historical Society will hold a fund-raiser there Saturday. Go to www.tchistory.org for more information.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! — Local artist Bob Davidson is known for his portraits of fallen military personnel, which he paints for their families. A few years ago, he gathered literally tons of golf equipment and arranged to have it shipped overseas to break the boredom at some military bases. He recently completed his autobiography and will be signing copies from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Yesterday's Books, 3457 McHenry Ave., in Modesto. He's priced the book at $26.99 (plus tax), with a portion of the proceeds going to military Gold Star families.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.

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