For the birds
Fred's fine feathered friends
Fred Homer can be decribed in many ways. First and foremost, he is a devoted husband to Deb Feiner (featured in this Vermont edition). He is also a wonderful father to his daughter and son. He came to Vermont as a high school prinicipal but decided to learn blacksmithing from an old blacksmith Percy Dodge back in Whitingham, Massachussets.
After a brief carpentry detour, Fred began apprenticing at West Village Forge, now Morrell Metalsmiths, in Colrain, Mass. He then went on to learn the trade and become an artist- blacksmith. You can see Fred's creations all over the village. His twisting forged serpents and figures adorn many a bannister. It takes a moment to realize just what they are but the lasting impression is significant. Back to the hats... He also is a musician-singer-songwriter, playing guitar and singing with his wife at home or at local talent shows. But his widest brimmed hat is covered with feathers, from all the birds he cares for and who have left their mark on him in ways no one else could possibly understand. This happened a number of years ago when the local veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator Ron Svec came calling. He was taking care of an injured broad-winged hawk when his wife, Priscilla (who worked with Deb) told him that Fred and Deb had a big empty barn. The veterinarian asked Fred if he could house and care for the hawk. Fred saw this as an opportunity and gladly accepted, something he remembers as the beginning of yet another career and passion.
He eventually earned state and federal wildlife rehabilitation licenses and has cared for more than 300 birds over 25 years. He has an unusual relationship with each bird he cares for. They trust him and it is obvious there is a mutual understanding of the affection they have for each other. Make sure to see the photos of Fred and his birds, especially the one winged owl, a permanent guest, after a wing amputation prevented him from being released back into the wilderness.
When Fred turned 67, he built himself a coffin. The wooden masterpiece sits on its throne near the bird cages in the barn. His friends put somber and humorous quotes on index cards which were then stapled all over the coffin. Some of the sayings wax poetic:"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver. Others are more contemporary : "It's a sad man my friend, livin' in his own skin when he can't stand the company" Bruce Springsteen or from the master himself: "I've never understood why anyone would want to go to church on Sunday morning when great sex and a good cup of coffee were an option" - Fred Holmer
I think that just about says it all.