Just the Other Day: Robin’s Hood

I like Scamp campers. A lot. I’ve had somewhere around forty-two of them over the years, and often own more than one at a time. Currently, I have one 13’, two 16’ and one 19’ models. Please don’t judge me.


Some women have lots of shoes. They need certain footwear for different occasions and outfits, just like I need different Scamps for different settings. My wife says I need an intervention, but I feel I am getting better. At the beginning of last year, I had seven Scamps. Besides, we have five acres of land and the trailers are on the back side of the property, out of sight – out of mind, where they aren’t hurting anyone.


Last week I went out back to pull our 19’ fifth-wheel Scamp to the driveway. I want to get it cleaned up to either use, or sell. Now, I fancy myself pretty good at backing up to connect the trailers. I put the camper hitch directly over the ball. BAM, perfect, first time. I left the truck running. The crank handle was already in place so I began rapidly turning it clockwise, lowering the trailer onto the hitch. This requires about 100 turns. A robin in a nearby tree was sure noisy, giving me a piece of her mind.


I ignored her and got down on my hands and knees, pulling the pins to lift and stow the camper legs into their towing position. While I secured the second leg, the truck died. “That’s weird.” I said. I went back to the cab and restarted the engine. It ran for just a few seconds before the check engine light came on and the motor died again.  Hmm. I had plenty of gas. I tried a few more times. It turned over but wouldn’t start.


I got out of the cab and returned to the camper. The robin kept squawking, occasionally charging toward me, then fluttering back to her perch high above. “Leave me alone, lady! I’m not having a real good day here and I don’t need any of your lip!” I fired back at her before getting on my hands and knees to lower the legs again. I secured the footpads in their down position, then got up to crank the handle, to lift the camper off the truck.


Chattering away, the robin charged at me again, getting even closer as soon as I started turning the handle. I think she meant business! “Look you red-breasted baboon, leave me alone!” I said.


She answered me. “I’m not a baboon. Baboons can’t fly and birds don’t have lips, genius. But if you don’t get away from my babies, I swear I’ll peck your eyes out, mister!”


“Babies? What babies” I looked under the bunkhouse of the Scamp and sure enough the robin had built her nest under there between the vertical frame and the front wall. A robin’s nest is not very large to begin with and crammed into this one, were four young birds, squeezed in tightly.


They sat, hunkered down low in the nest. Their mouths closed; their little black eyes wide open. They were very attentive but didn’t make a peep, in case I was a predator. Each had their beak pointing upward. I suppose prepared in case they needed to peck at me, or maybe waiting to see if Mom was coming back with a juicy worm or some tasty bugs.  “Okay, lady. Just let me lift the weight of the camper off my truck, then I will go away.”


There is a system of square tubing that spans across the front of the trailer, connecting the two jack legs. With each slow turn of the handle, the nest would lift about three-quarters of an inch then settle back down. I only can imagine when I was raising the jacks, turning the handle very rapidly about 100 rotations, (unaware the nest was there) these poor chicks probably thought an earthquake was happening!


Mama robin was still giving me a really harsh verbal lashing. I stopped cranking – even slowly. “You know,” I said to her, “your kids look like they are very close to leaving the nest. I think the truck can handle the weight for a few more days. But I am going to get a couple photos before I go.”


I got my pictures, then tried again to see if the engine would start. Plenty of battery, but no spark. I locked the doors and started to hike back to the house.


Along the way I ran into my neighbor. I told him about the baby birds and the truck not starting. Being a very mechanical person, he asked, “What do you think is wrong with the truck?”


“Well,” I said rubbing my chin, assessing the situation. “either that mother robin tampered with my motor, or it’s just God’s way of saying, ‘Leave them be. Let the truck stay there until the birds move on.’”


“Do you really think so?” He asked.


“Yep.” I said with certainty, “I’ll bet you a buck the truck starts right up once the birds have flown the nest.” We shared a good laugh about that, then I walked home.


A couple days later, I went back to the truck. The birds were still sitting in the nest and the engine wouldn’t start. While walking back to the house, I called Triple A to see if my roadside assistance would cover towing the vehicle to Duluth, almost seventy miles away. The lady said it would and asked if I wanted her to get a tow truck on the way. “No, not yet.” I said, “I have to wait until the birds have flown the coop.” She didn’t understand, so I filled her in with the details. “I’ve got a strong hunch the truck is going to start once the birds are gone. But I’ll call you back in a few days if I need you.”


About three days later, I went back again. My neighbors were standing out by their garage, “The baby birds were all gone when we looked in on them this morning.” They informed me, then asked, “Do you really think your truck is going to start?”


“Yep.” I said, and walked on.


I sat in the driver’s seat and turned the ignition key. The motor started right up. I repositioned the Scamp on our lot, then disconnected the trailer from the hitch.” The neighbors were still standing by their garage when I drove past, going to my house without the Scamp.


“Did the birds steal your camper?” We shared a good laugh about that.


“No,” I said explaining, “but the check engine light is still on, so I left the Scamp there. I’ll take the truck into Duluth to get the engine checked, then come back for trailer.


I called Triple A to let them know they could close out the service ticket which was still active. The lady read the notes in my file. “You had birds in your truck and they disabled it?” We shared a good laugh about that.


“I was carjacked by a family of robins” I said, “They took my truck and camper for several days before giving it back.” The operator laughed. “We live in a pretty rough neighborhood.” I explained, “I guess you could call it a Robin’s Hood.”