By Mary Ann Parker
When my sons were in elementary school, they all went to Davis Elementary In Plano, Texas,several blocks from our house. Adjoining the school grounds was a small greenbelt area that had a creek running through it. When it was raining hard, that creek rose pretty fast. One day when it had been raining, as he walked home from school Sean spotted something caught in the underbrush by the creek and he stopped, pulled it out and brought it home. They were always rescuing something. This time it was a very large bird that Sean was sure was a Peregrine Falcon. All three boys loved medieval castle and knight stories complete with falconry, so it must be a falcon! It was obviously hand trained because it had a leather jess on its foot. It also had a BB hole in its wing. Wounded and unable to fly it fell near the creek which had risen enough to reach it as it lay caught in the scrubby growth. When Sean ran into the kitchen with it, explanations were rushed as he wrapped the soggy exhausted bird in a towel, then got my hair dryer and dried it! Sean had a large cage leftover from his parakeet breeding phase so they put it there but it didn’t stay long. Ben and Jeremy were amazed at the new bird! It didn’t take long for this bird to revive somewhat. Before we realized just how mobile or strong he was, he had decided to have a snack on another resident of the garage: Jeremy’s King snake that was living in a gallon jar with a screen on top. The screen was like paper for that sharp beak. Jeremy was of course very upset, but he was excited enough about the bird to forgive him.
This was before the days of Googling Hawks and Falcons! They read everything they could find about the bird. Jeremy even took him to school for a show and tell! The bird rode on Jeremy’s towel wrapped arm with what they had devised for a jess strap and Jeremy told the kids about intelligence and wingspan and strength and speed. (This is the son who is now a jet pilot.) After Jeremy’s talk, another boy in his class came up to Jeremy with tears in his eyes and remorsefully confessed he was the one who shot the bird with his BB gun! Mrs. Wharton, his 2nd grade teacher is our friend even now (over thirty years later) and she remembers the story.
I told the boys I didn’t think we were supposed to keep a falcon, and we began calling agencies to find out what to do with him. Texas Parks and Wildlife would only say we were not allowed to keep the bird. Finally we contacted a wildlife rehabilitation organization in McKinney, TX that worked to rehabilitate wounded birds of prey. They said they would take care of his wound and when he was well enough, gradually teach him to hunt for his own food again , then release him. It was a tearful day when Ben and Jeremy and Sean and I drove up to the Heard Museum in McKinney, 30 minutes away, with the bird in the car. Again, he rode peacefully on the boy’s arms. He could have decimated some flesh or at the least caused a major distraction for mom the driver. I was probably crazy for taking him loose like that in the car, but that is what we did. When we arrived, he was identified not as the falcon that they had hoped, but as a Texas Red Tailed Hawk. They were shown the cage he would be kept in and told about his feeding and rehabilitation.
About a month afterward, we received a call that “our” hawk was ready to leave. The boys were invited to come up and release him. As they carried him out into the field, we talked about how good he would feel to have air under his wings again, to fly! When he left us, he circled and then flew higher and higher until he was only a dot and then gone, leaving three boys growing into strength and wisdom and freedom of spirit, and a mom who herself was only beginning to understand about nurturing and letting go. When I see a hawk I remember him. Sometimes when I stand with an upraised wave of my arm as I see the plane my son is piloting fade into a dot in the sky I remember, too.
A past participant in one of my “Write Your Travel Memoir” workshops for Story Circle Network, Mary Ann Parker responded to my last blog post with a link to her own essay on “Letting Go,” posted on her blog www.mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com. She kindly agreed to let me share her story here on True Stories Well Told.
Mary Ann says, “I celebrate faith and family. I have written poetry, short pieces, family story, and faith ponders for many years, and enjoy old rose and herb gardening, cooking with herbs, music, and reading.” In addition to “Mappings for this Morning” she blogs at www.stonesandfeathers.wordpress.com and www.kitchenkeepers.wordpress.com.