It was a huge shadow. It passed quickly across the yard as Bluejays screamed and a tiny finch did it’s best to catch the raptor! The paradoxes of nature. The hawk lives here out in the woods out behind our place in the woods that continue on to the mountain, our local mountain, about a mile away. We see him from time to time. He looks for mice and other delicacies and will not pass up anything he can carry. Don’t ask me why he was fleeing the smaller bird. Some kind of professional courtesy? Bird to bird. Respect for the genome.

 I had been out in the larger garden trying to stem the tide of weeds and grasses that seem to be in complete control down there. It is hot. Humid. I was wearing long sleeves and long pants to avoid the bugs that invariably rule down there and was, after an hour, soaked through. I did good, as the home boys used to say. Most of the invading weeds were taken out and the earth aerated with the long handled claw.

 Cooling now on the screened porch with a dependable breeze coming around he northern side of the house, I decided that very late or very early is the time for manual labor in this heat. I suppose with the hawk, it is always time to be aloft and seeking his next meal. No refrigerator to go to or store on the corner. I felt lucky not to have to be seeking and killing my next meal. My ancestral blood did just that. Preserving meat was a skill that did not always work. Even as a youngster, and this would be in the 30’s and early 40’s, someone in the family would always bring in on a more or less weekly schedule, game of some kind. Fish were common while squirrel, rabbit, birds in their season and duck come in as those things were found. I am quite fond of rabbit and squirrel. Most of my friends gag when the subject comes up. The thought of actually killing Peter Rabbit or Sammy Squirrel and then skinning them and throwing them in the pot is quite repulsive to most of my younger friends, while it was common when I was coming up.

 We sat on a log deep in the Louisiana woods, my father and I, almost holding our breath to be invisible to the unwary squirrel. “Look”, my father whispered. He was pointing at a high limb almost directly overhead. A huge gray was creeping along a high thin limb just asking for a loaded shotgun to step in and being balance back to nature. Well, we’ll let that slide for the moment,

 The hawk hunts for food. Back then, so did we. It was sport, of course in the looser definition of that word, but it was for food primarily. My dad and I hunted and fished when we were out. That’s what we did together. So I suppose sport was a big reason for our fishing and hunting. Something for a man to do with his son. A rite of passage for us both. We were uncomfortable just talking but being out hunting or fishing gave us a reason to be together and something common talk about.

 We were not too unlike that winged raptor that passed over out yard the other day. On patrol. Waiting. Loaded and cocked. So to speak. Ready to “harvest” some unwary wild life subject. I just love that term: harvesting game. Wild game farmers harvesting the crop. Oh well that’s for another time. It was always with pride and satisfaction, and not a little validation of one’s budding manhood, to come home with game in the bag.

 It’s complicated with people. With the hawk it is instinct. it never occurs to him to “think” about what he is doing in an evaluative way – to wonder if he should or should not take this rabbit or other small animal for food. It is what he does. And he does this as a part of a system that is designed to sustain itself by maintaining a pecking order in the woods where Darwin is validated every second.

 Well it was just a hawk. He lives here and apparently thrives. He is a huge bird. Be well Hawk. But please leave the kitty cat alone.


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