I fasted from writing for a few days, at least from this type of writing. I wrote short poems and a simple Christmas acrostic. I also started trying to transcribe a journal kept by my son. I am not sure if it is a good or bad idea just now.
It began October 25, 2002 with the manning of a small tercel kestrel that he named Pip. At that time there was a red tail hawk housed in the mews, though he does not speak of it much during the 30 days of journal entry that marks the little birds time with my son. My son was 20 years old then. There is a vast difference between 20 and 29 years of age. His thoughts were those of a very optimistic person looking forward to what was ahead of him. The words themselves reek of life.
Thirty days are a lot of days in the life of a twenty year old. Many of those days spent with this wild bird on his fist, teaching it to trust him, if that is possible of something wild. Hours spent training the bird to respond to cues that will allow it to have food, its only motivation. Weights are recorded along with amounts and type of food. Calculations are recorded to figure out the little kestrel’s metabolic rate.
Frustration is expressed, joy over new accomplishments achieved by the bird, and the underlying patience of my son as he works with this tiny creature.
I remember the day he burst into the house, having trapped the bird out near the university in a field. Apparently somewhere on the way home the bird got loose in the car. My son ran in to the house to find a towel to safely remove the wild kestrel from the car. Thankfully he had parked the car inside the garage closing the garage door, just in case. Beside himself with excitement here is his first entry:
October 23, 2002
“At 10 a.m. Friday morning on an overcast and cloudy rainy morning a small Tercel kestrel was trapped with a ball catchery and sparrow. Feisty little bugger has bitten and footed me more times than I care to count. Haven’t yet decided on a name but I am leaning toward Pip. Although he is not anywhere near the point of starving his keel is palpable but not sharp. No doubt he is rather fat and strong he is in perfect feather and has good coloration in the chest and feet.”
Saturday – October 25
“There is the smell of sparrow on his breath and I one to give him time to put his food over–one absolutely charming bird his care has me constantly worry–the abrasion on his legs have not gotten any better, but he bated rather heavily this morning hanging for long periods of time. Now his bates from the fist are sharp and quick–I cannot wait to see him fly–tomorrow we will try jumping to the fist–perhaps early in the morning with 5 or so grams of food–and attempt again later in the evening I need a whistle and a creance for he will be needing them very soon.”
“He is burned through the quail very quickly although he has also been very active on the perch–he finally regained the shelf–while walking outside he started bating at a specific spot so holding the leash I let him fly to it just out of curiosity. Lo and behold he pops back up to the fist with a green caterpillar! He ate it while on the fist with no trouble and I hope it will help to counterbalance the quail. Hopefully by this evening we will be ready for the creance.”
“Well he was at the weight I wanted, however it was a very windy day out, at first he responded well taking a few calls. On one in particular the wind was blowing and instead of lighting on my fist he hovered above it, right front of my face, it was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences I’ve had thus far. He is still very nervous about the lower–bating away the first time I approach him with it. Carrying is going to be a hurdle I will just have to work at overcoming. Overall he did very well but a weight reduction is in order.”
November 2, 2002 to November 3, 2002
“As of Saturday morning I am beginning to question whether or not this bird will tame down outside. I’m debating releasing him and making another attempt with the passage bird, one that I know would be workable.”
November 4, 2002
“After a talk with my mentor who helped to strengthen my reluctance to part was such a charming bird, I decided to give him another week. And this afternoon he performed his best yet. A little bating away from me. But he the lure on the ground with little hesitation.”
November 8, 2002
“The differences between this bird of the Red Tail are profound. Morphology aside, their behavior is markedly different while eating this little kestrel seems much more nervous and rightfully so. With his diminutive size he is game for much larger raptors. While outside with Pip, a Cooper’s hawk flew about 60 feet overhead moving fast toward the field cross from us. Certainly some critter met its demise. But my heart rate rose no doubt both from the sight, and because of that brief flash of dread for my smaller charge.”
The next days of entries are full of weights and records of his work with the lure, until finally on November 23, 2002 he records:
First Free Flight
“Well that sums it up. Nervously this afternoon I removed the y-swivel and creance and bid him to take to the wind. Unhindered flight in this kind of bird is incredible. It’s like the air were more fluid, and furthermore at his command. He ended up behind some trees, but as I walked away he came down without calling. He’s all about the lure, and responds perfectly to the fist. ”
I don’t know if there is another binder that contains information about Pip. I don’t even remember exactly when my son let him go for good. I remember the noisy bird in his bedroom on the perch he fashioned, the scars from where the perch hung are still on the wall.
What I remember is the joy of the experience. Watching my son, like the bird, grow in patience and in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. The journal is a precious glimpse back in time. Time I shared with him and the little bird.
I borrow from my son here. With my son time was more fluid, and furthermore at his command.
The journal does not end here, though the account of Pip does. It continues on until May of 2005 when my son would end it abruptly without explanation at the age of 23.
I know that these are the writings of much younger man than I knew at the beginning of this year. It was in fact the time when he was becoming the man that I knew so well. Sometimes his words are haunting as he expresses his yearning for the future.
I don’t know if I can transcribe more, it is hard to do at times. But then nothing is as easy as it once was. I am glad to have the journal however. I don’t think anything can decrease or increase how much we miss him. It feels right to share a part of him that is not so very private at this season of remembrance and celebration.