Monday, January 24, 2011

Not So Fictional Fiction (Part One A)

Sparrow Hawks

     Midway through Search For Yesterday, Zeke makes his entrance, and plays a significant role throughout the rest of the story.  Unlike most other characters of the book, Zeke can't talk, read, tease or fight, but he can love.  He is a Red Tailed Hawk, found by Kid and raised from an ugly fuzz ball to adulthood.  Although the finished book doesn't include the thousands of descriptive words I had written about him in the original manuscript, hopefully we didn't cut so much that it prevents you from fully appreciating him.  I have a long history with birds of prey, starting on the night my father took me to see the movie, "The Other Side Of The Mountain", where in a young boy leaves home to survive by himself in the mountains.  Early on, he takes a baby Peregrine Falcon from its nest, and then raises and trains it to hunt for him.  What an impact that movie had on my four year old imagination.  From then on, I began looking for hawks, eagles, and falcons where ever I could find them, taking any opportunity I could to watch them, or look at their pictures in books, while dreaming of the day I would have one of my own. 
       Yesterday while enjoying Sunday dinner, Marianne exclaimed, “Hey, aren't those your hawks?” Her attention was fixed on two tiny Sparrow Hawks peaking out of an eight inch opening at the end of our basketball standard, and with just a glance I knew she was right.
     For any of you who haven't seen one of these miniature masterpieces of God's artistic design, they are beyond cool, and as I have already mentioned, along with other related osprey, have been a fascination of mine for nearly as long as I can remember.
     “Do you think they'll nest in there?” Clara, my fourteen year old asked, recalling the many times I've recounted stories involving me and one or another distant relative of our new visitors. I replied that I hoped they would, while at the same time indulging  in a momentary trip to this colorful childhood memory.
     Having noticed that a pair of small hawks had made their nest way up in the eave of our small Milford farm house, I determined that one way or another I was going to catch one. Reaching the small opening wood peckers had made in the yellow lapped siding might have looked impossible to another seven year old, but if I possessed anything with more range than my imagination, it was boundless, youthful ingenuity, and there was no way the twenty feet height problem was going to dissuade me. With a huge wooden wire spool, serving as a base, I added to my starting height with a heavy wooden crate, and then on top of that I situated a slivery old ladder that must have predated Moses. It leaned so steeply up that I had to hug its entire length all the way to the top just to keep it from falling backward, and then with my finger nails clawing into the bottom of each lap of siding, I inched my way upward until tiptoeing on the top rung I could reach inside the hole.
     I can still feel my heart pounding with excitement as I reached blindly around in the dark void searching for something to grab. One tiny slip, or wrong move and I'd have been a goner, but I don't remember the thought ever crossing my mind, I just kept at it and finally my persistence paid off. Tightly clutching the nasty little bundle of slashing razor blades, I ignored the pain of his tearing beak, and carefully inched my way back down the ladder until my feet once again touched ground. My hand was torn and bleeding in multiple places, but that didn't stop me from rushing inside to show Mom what I had got, and to this day, I still remember the chuckle, and proud look of amusement in her eyes as she shook her head slowly back and forth in disbelief. I kept the mean little ripper in a box for a day or so, but not being able to so much as open the top let alone touch him for fear of him unleashing holy hell on my hand again, I gave up trying and set him free.
     That was neither the first, nor last of my encounters with hawks over the course of my life thus far, and today as I watch the two birds beginning to make their home in my back yard I am reminded that some things in life never change.  Surely for me, the nostalgic feelings that stir inside when I see even one of these little birds, are some of those things.  My first novel wouldn't have been complete without some inclusion of this mini obsession of mine, and I hope that this and other glimpses into what makes me tick will add to the luster of my stories.

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