In the countryside of the south, there are many trees, many sparrows, and many children.
Children are naturally unable to coexist peacefully with sparrows. They are tired of their constant chirping and their free flying. Therefore, one of the things children are most enthusiastic about is bird-catching.
The earliest tool is a slingshot.
To make a good slingshot is quite troublesome. First, you need a frame, which is a "Y"-shaped branch. This thing is like a pebble. Although it is common, a square "Y" shape is still rare. Finding it is like searching for treasure. In addition to the shape meeting the requirements, the material also matters. You can't use trees that are too brittle, such as the Chinese toon tree or the longan tree. It is best to use trees that grow slowly and are sturdy, like wild guava trees, which are typical representatives - smooth and solid to the touch. However, they have many bumps and forks, making it extremely difficult to find a suitable one. I once accidentally saw a wild guava tree with a perfect shape. I was so excited that I couldn't sleep for several days. I couldn't wait to turn it into a slingshot and have been using it for many years. It is still stored in my room.
Next, you need to save money to buy "rubber intestines," which are elastic rubber tubes. The demand for these rubber tubes has always existed, so various small shops will stock them. However, the quality of the goods varies greatly. Some look durable but crack and break after a few pulls. For example, one that left a deep impression on me was red and thick, and it looked good, but it broke before I could put it on. Since then, I have blacklisted this kind of "chicken intestine" that is "all show and no substance." In order to make our pocket money worth it, we "slingshot enthusiasts" often exchange information - which ones are good, which ones are garbage. In the end, we concluded that a good "chicken intestine" is of medium to small width, with a yellowish color and obvious flexibility when pulled.
Finally, what you lack is a piece of leather to wrap the stones. The material of this leather also matters. It must be durable and soft because it not only has to withstand the friction of the stones but also the pulling of the "chicken intestine." The commonly used material at that time was basketball leather. Therefore, whenever someone's basketball was broken, everyone would insincerely exclaim and dance with joy. Sometimes one basketball is not enough for everyone, so we have to line up and divide it. As a child, I could only pick up some leftover rough leather.
There is also a saying that genuine leather is the ideal material. With genuine leather, there is also fake leather. A method of identification that was circulating at that time was to burn it with a windproof lighter. If it doesn't burn, it's genuine leather. I don't know if this identification method is true or false because I have never seen leather that doesn't burn. Of course, I also know that most of the leather shoes at that time were not genuine. The final result is obvious - many fathers' leather shoes suffered greatly, and of course, their buttocks didn't fare well either.
After making the slingshot, it's time to practice the technique. This thing is just like learning. Both talent and effort are indispensable. Some people can hit fruits more than ten meters away as soon as they start, while others can't even hit a bottle three meters away no matter how they practice. Every time I followed a few skilled brothers on a hunting trip, I felt like I was idolizing them the whole time.
In addition to shooting birds, slingshots also provide other pleasures, such as shooting fruits, shooting stray cats, and even shooting fish in the water. However, soon, a new thing made bird-catching extremely simple, and the slingshot was mostly stored in drawers from then on. This thing is a bird net.
I will call it that for now because the fishing net is called a fishing net, so naturally, the bird-catching net is called a bird net.
This thing can be called a magical tool. The extremely fine mesh is exceptionally resilient. It is fixed in a place where birds often appear with a bamboo pole. Checking it every few hours can yield a good harvest of brainless birds like sparrows. Compared to slingshots, the efficiency is doubled. This thing is usually handled by older children. First, it is expensive, and second, placing this kind of thing also requires territory, which we children do not have.
As mentioned in a previous article1, there is an orchard next to my house that attracts many birds to stop there. They chirp incessantly every morning and evening.
Maybe I was annoyed, maybe it was just for fun, my neighbor and I "jointly" purchased a large net, intending to spread it on one side of my orchard and catch all the birds in one fell swoop.
At first, I was very excited and checked every now and then to see if any birds were caught in the net. But every time, I returned disappointed.
Until one early morning, I couldn't wait to run to the orchard at six o'clock in the morning, hoping to harvest a fruitful "victory." The sun hadn't risen yet, and the trees and the wild grass by the road were covered in dew. There was still mist in the air. Before entering the orchard, I couldn't help but look away from the branches to see that there was something black on the net dozens of meters away. That thing lay quietly in the air, motionless. I couldn't suppress my excitement and ran over, but I also felt a little scared - that thing was too huge.
As I approached, I realized that it wasn't a small sparrow or a garbage bag, but an eagle, an owl. When I straightened it up, its originally still body began to burst with tremendous power. Its two sharp claws fiercely opened and flapped up and down, struggling desperately with the net that tightly entangled its wings. The whole net collapsed instantly towards its position. I was scared and took a step back, quietly watching it.
The more it struggled, the tighter it was entangled. Maybe half a minute later, maybe a few minutes later, it stopped moving. Only then did I dare to approach and observe it carefully. Disheveled feathers, tightly bound wings, sharp and fearless eyes. When we looked at each other, I even felt a little guilty.
At that moment, I regretted it, like a child who had done something wrong.
I slowly approached and gently held its back. It started struggling again, but because it was entangled too tightly, it couldn't move after a few attempts. Faced with this huge creature that I had caught, it gave up and waited quietly for its fate.
I painstakingly untangled the complex net for it, and finally tore it apart with brute force. Then, I removed the remaining net threads entangled in its claws and wings one by one. It seemed to understand my goodwill and became less resistant. After untangling the last remaining net thread, I instinctively relaxed my left hand, and it swiftly disappeared into another dark orchard.
Perhaps because I had watched too many "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio," I also hoped that it would show gratitude and give me some feedback, even if it just made a sound or looked back. But it didn't, and it even disappeared into the darkness without looking back. At that time, I didn't know that if it had any emotions, it would only be hatred instead of gratitude. The only one who would think it would be grateful would be me, who was self-righteous.
After it left, I stared at the bird net with a big hole in it. I suddenly felt that this was a good thing. At that moment, I even wanted to remove the entire net because I couldn't face that kind of gaze anymore.
But I didn't because I couldn't explain it to my "partners." And because of this, I didn't tell them about the release, because I knew that once they knew the truth, they would think I had lost my mind.
What made me happy is that now there are very few children doing such wicked things. They have something more fun - playing games.
Being addicted to games may not be a good thing for children, but it can be considered a blessing for those birds.