For the last two years, 65-year-old McClain High School alumnus Homer Swift has been watching deer, squirrels, birds and other wildlife from his bedroom window at Heartland of Hillsboro.
Swift was paralyzed from the waist down and at one point was unable to feed himself, though physical therapy has helped him recover enough that he can feed himself now.
Swift grew up playing basketball, hunting, fishing and raising animals. At one point, he even had 27 doves.
“I’m an animal lover,” Swift said. “You name it, I’ve had it.”
Being unable to go outside like he used to has been difficult for Swift.
“You take somebody who — all their life — hunted, fished and all that stuff, and it’s all gone because they have to be in here,” Roger Eggleton, Swift’s friend, said.
“It’s rough,” Swift said.
“Especially when you were so active,” Shirley Carroll, Swift’s sister, added.
To help Swift feel better, Carroll and Eggleton put out corn to attract deer and other local creatures to his window, where Swift can watch them even if he’s in bed.
“He’s got one red bird that comes up — that’s Daddy. They say if someone from the dead comes to visit, they come as a red bird,” Carroll said. “Then there’s a female that comes, and that’s Mommy, but she doesn’t come as often. Daddy comes every day, and Homer talks to him.”
Carroll said she and Eggleton stop by a couple times a week to visit and restock the deer and bird feed.
Eggleton estimated they go through 100 pounds of corn every 10 days — or 10 pounds or corn every day.
A Hillsboro Tractor Supply Company manager told The Times-Gazette that whenever Swift’s family and friends purchase supplies for the deer and other animals from TSC, he gives them a discount to help with their cause. On Wednesday, TSC donated two bags of feed and a white salt block.
Eggleton said the deer prefer white salt blocks over red blocks. The other white block they had out for the deer was nearly gone on Wednesday.
“That one came in just in time,” Swift said.
Swift said that in addition to the deer, birds — including red birds, blue birds, chickadees, finches — often drop by for a visit.
Eggleton said, “This got us into feeding birds too. I have four bird feeders, and she has two at her house.”
“Roger’s a good friend,” Swift said. “He makes sure my corn’s put out and my bird feeders are full.”
Swift said that though he doesn’t see any bucks at his window during the day, the does are frequent daytime visitors. Swift said he’s seen nine deer eating in front of his window at once.
“One deer brought a baby here all summer. I watched it grow up,” Swift said. “The little one used to lick the glass.”
Since he can no longer make it outside, Swift said being able to watch the deer makes things better for him.
“It helps me a lot,” Swift said. “If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even want to be here. That’s the closest thing I have.”
Heartland of Hillsboro Activities Director Patty Roades told The Times-Gazette that all residents have bird feeders outside their windows.
“We try to make it a home for the residents, and at home, that’s what you do: you feed your birds and things,” Roades said. “He’s not the only one who does it. He puts more things out than most of them because he buys the salt block. He’s got a lot of family support, so that makes a big difference.”
In addition to Carroll and Eggleton, Swift also has friends who visit him regularly, bringing decorations and goodies, like Twilla Swackhamer and Janice Smith.
Swift, Carroll and Eggleton spoke highly of Heartland and its staff.
“They’re good to me here,” Swift said. “They call the deer my children. They say, ‘Hey, you might want to tell your children to stay off the road,’ and ‘Hey, go to your window, your kids are out there,’ and I go, and there they be.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.