The inner clock. I find it strange that I can set my clock for 7:00 a.m. and wake at 6:55a.m. I know that other people do this too. My dogs come to me at 2:45 p.m. looking at me, the pomeranian dancing a bit. Time for their afternoon snack. I am not saying that I am not late at times, I am, and I can tell you how many seconds are ticking away as I hurry to my appointment.
In the year 2000 many things happened. Our son along with a few other young men and a young lady had their name on the front page of our local small town paper for blowing up a port-o-john. Our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Our son graduated from high school although he was not allowed to walk the stage nor where his cohorts. In November of that year, he captured and began to handle his first hawk.
I think it was in the third grade when he read “My Side of the Mountain” and established firmly that he would get his falconry license and become they youngest falconer in the state of North Carolina. His elementary school teacher introduced him to the man who would become his mentor. Our son studied the books given to him by his mentor, a master falconer who also happened to be the history teacher at the local high school.
With leather and awl he learned to fashion a hood and jesses. He with the help of his dad built a mews, procured a scale, a bowperch and studied for the exam that he would have to take at the state capital. He told me he would not be happy unless he made 96% on the exam. He scored 98. The state wildlife representative came out to inspect the facility he had built, along with his equipment. It passed.
Our son built a ball-catchery using plywood and hardware cloth. I helped him tie nooses with mono-filament line to cover the entire dome of the catchery. He purchased some mice from the pet store – those intended for snakes to eat. We drove the back roads of the mountains searching for a bird.
According to the laws governing the sport of falconry – the apprentice must catch their first bird and could be assisted so our son was determined to do just that. Weekends, while his sister, now on chemo slept at home under her dad’s watchful eye, I drove the backroads, trying to keep one eye on the road and one on the trees and telephone lines over the pastures.
When we spotted a bird, my son would have me stop. He would take the ball-catchery with a mouse scrambling inside placing it in the field in plain sight of the bird (sometimes actually throwing it like a large frisbee) – our prey being a red-tailed hawk. Then we would wait to no avail. A couple of the birds actually came to investigate, but none ever hit.
The principle of the catchery is that the bird attempts to hit the mouse and in so doing his feet and talons become entangled in the mono-filament loops. You are then faced with a very frightened and annoyed bird that you have to keep from hurting itself while you settle its wings to its sides and disentangle the business end – it’s feet.
Finally my son and his mentor went out to look for a bird together and on November 10 of 2000 they succeeded.
Excerpt from his journal: 11/10/00 5:30p.m. 1028grams Male Red Tail with long tail and wings. Flying over grain mills. -had a hovering flight, which he demonstrated twice. feet are large with a new scar on left middle toe – squirrel, and other older one on right mid.
Flushed and excited our son came home with the bird who would become known as Odd Ball. They had fashioned a “giant hood” out of a large plastic utility trash can. Turned upside down and “sewn” with rope to a disc of plywood the can was used to keep the bird in the dark to help it quiet down. A dowel rod in the base near the floor provided the bird a perch. One leg had been cut from a pair of pantyhose – the foot also having been removed and then stretched down over the bird securing its wings to its sides like a sausage casing. It had also been hooded with a leather hood and while in the field they had secured jesses on its feet.
When he arrived home with the bird it had managed to set the leather hood askew and one of its jesses was missing. The process of “manning” the bird was to begin.
Gloved with a small amount of meat in in his fist, my son sat for hours , the jesses drawn down through the gloved fist. He had a wooden chair with arms on it so that he could prop up his arm.
Journal entry: 9:30-10:10 sat on the fist entire time except for 2 short bates – both caused by movements of my Mother. Allowed others to enter the room, talk. Sat with mouth opened, hackles raised and wings draped. Focused on me or closest object. Couldn’t draw his attention to fist. NO FOOD. Placed in giant hood tonight in storage room. (indoors).
There are 9 more days of notes, frustration, but patient my son waited for the bird to respond. On November 19th the bird finally ate. Then on November 22nd he writes in his journal: Ate outside and JUMPED TO FIST! At first was kinda bad. Tried to grab with beak. By moving my hand above him he would jump and grab with feet. Placed in mews tonight & I will be with him @ daybreak.
And he was. His first hawk. It would not be his last. Odd Ball benefited from his time with our son. We ended up taking the bird to a school of veterinary medicine because our son was able to diagnosis him as having Aspergillosis which he treated successfully. He manned 3 birds during his life. Two red tails and a sparrow hawk named Pip.
Tomorrow it will be eleven years since our son began to man Odd Ball. I guess I woke up a day early in my memory.
As you might expect we are a family who notices hawks. There are red tails in the woods above our house that the crows love to torment. Every now and then a Cooper’s Hawk decides to snack at our bird feeder removing unwary diners. I cannot see a sparrow hawk without thinking about Pip or our son.
Tenacious. That is a characteristic of my son and my daughter and my husband. We are tenacious people. I cannot help but think of the end of the verse of Isaiah 40:31: they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Tenacious. God knows we are that if nothing else.