I have made a few “interesting” connections over the years and I am going to “expose” some of them to you. For my first “Exposé” I chose a special social media friend (or maybe he chose me).
All photos taken by Wilford Raney.
I have been friends with Mr. Raney for quite some time now. We first met on Twitter and are now connected throughout the web. Wilford, or as I like to call him, Billy, is a unique fellow who I have come to admire because of his good nature and pleasant nature. He becomes a friend to everyone he meets. People from all over the world interact with “Billybadbird” (Billy’s Twitter handle on Twitter) on a daily basis. Somehow he finds time for his fans and friends in between his daily routine of watching/feeding the birds, cleaning up the local beaches in Port Bolivar, Texas, and photographing the majestic scenes he encounters living next to the Gulf.
Raney’s parents moved back to Houston Texas right after his father finished serving in the air force in Bossier City (where Billy was born). The family always spent summers and weekends at the beach. Eventually, his mother and father relocated the family in the 70’s to, as he says, “get his children out of the city and away from drugs and temptation” but Billy seems to think that it was more a tactical decision.
“My father loves the ocean just as much as we do… Once you get here it’s very hard to leave.”
Billy goes on to say:
“Our family has always loved birds… My grandfather (also named Wilford Raney) left the city for the country after he retired. He had a great big window in the great room and when he became bound to the wheelchair he spent his days in front of the window watching the birds. It gave him great pleasure. My mother believes in waste not want not – so everytime she cooked – all the scraps went outside to the birds. That was a practice I continued when I moved into my little ocean front cottage — the birds started staying so I started cooking for them – the same as I do today — I make rice cakes — twice a day — I cook 6 cups of rice – let it cool then turn it upside down on a plate –”
I asked Billy who has nearly 12K followers about when he started tweeting:
“I have been tweeting about two years — I don’t know how I started or why.” I only retweet people I follow who follow me – I make very few exceptions to this rule- and I have this rule be fair to people who promote me. I am grateful for their support…. I am grateful for everyone’s support -but I also must remain fair to everyone.”
“We are in our third year without a storm — this is making everyone nervous. We average two a year – a few years back we had three hurricanes back to back. The worst times for storms for us is August and September when the ocean is very, very warm — but some of the earlier seasonal storms hit us too. Allison was a tropical storm that stalled for several and flooded Houston – Alicia was a hurricane – she really messed things up. My worst experience was Ike — I lost two homes and the property which now lies in the ocean. I was trapped. I almost died. We went 4 months without water and lights – the island was deserted. I stayed — I cannot leave.”
Billy recounted a typical day in Port Bolivar, Texas:
“I clean up the beaches for God and the birds. One day I went outside to a seagull in my yard who had fishing line tangled in his wings. He was scared of me but he needed help — it broke my heart – I cried for many hours — I had to trap him with a net but eventually I was able to save him — the last thing before Ike — I kept seeing a pelican in front of the house — when he moved he was wobbling and tripping — I had to chase him in the ocean to catch him — he also was tangled in the fishing line — the hook was in his foot — I carried him to a neighbor — we cut him free and he flew away — then the storm came — I will always remember that – I clean up everything that can cause a bird his life — prevention….. I wrote a poem about this. We have about 1500 people year long – the island is 22 miles in the middle of the ocean — you can only get here by ferry boat – probably 30 to 40,000 people come for holidays – maybe a whole bunch more — people are everywhere during the summer – winter is for us. Quiet
Peaceful – you can walk for miles on the beach and never see a soul.”