April 1, 2012
The day began as a reflection of my mood. It was overcast when I finally struggled out from under the covers and peered out the window. My honest first thought was trying to decide if I could possibly put this off any longer. Sigh. No way.
The season was over and my once intermewed RT, Rebel, was expectantly waiting for her release. I should have released her weeks ago, but I kept finding reasons to put it off.
She just wasn’t ready yet. I needed to spray her one more time... She needed one more dose of wormer… Another good meal of duck was definitely in order…
Who was I kidding? This bird was definitely ready to go. She was spending her afternoons gazing at the sky and watching the other birds soaring all around her, occasionally calling to them softly under her breath. Heck, this bird already had her own boyfriend who had been soaring over the mews for the last two weeks and frequently perching in the trees above. They would call back and forth to each other incessantly despite my obvious disapproval. I mean come on… She’s only two years old and has been very sheltered. I don’t think she is ready for some boy following her around…
As I pulled on my clothes for church, I kept reminiscing about the two seasons I flew Rebel. From the first, this was a special bird. She bent down to eat on the very first night and calmly sat the glove. Her first season was one for the record books, catching 44 squirrels, three ducks (a rare occurrence for a RT), numerous quail, a rabbit, and several miscellaneous birds on the wing. The flights she showed me that first year were incredible. She began her second season by catching her first squirrel on 9-11-11 before the season even began. The details are still a little fuzzy. Rumor has it that this was a heart-broken squirrel that cast himself into her mews to end his suffering. I have good information however, that it was simply an unlucky young squirrel who lost a bet. “I bet you ten acorns you won’t run across the roof of that mews while that old hawk is asleep!” Followed by the inescapable, "Hey Y'all! Watch this!..."
Church was a welcome but brief distraction and I found myself once again looking out my window looking for something. A way out maybe? Sigh. When the phone rang and a neighbor called in a panic about a heifer having a difficult labor, I perked up and said I would be right over. My wife looked at me with amazement. “Ab, you aren’t a vet, honey. Have you ever done anything like this before?” Well, no, but I saw a cow once… All I knew was that there was a need and I could help. I felt very noble in putting off my own plans for the afternoon to help others in need… And besides, I couldn’t come up with anything else on my own.
Well the delivery was extremely difficult. I got there to see a bunch of anguished faces and an exhausted heifer lying on the ground. Before I had really said hello and taken full stock of the situation, I surprisingly found myself up to my armpit inside the cow, trying to turn the calf. Did I mention that I am not a vet? I was able to slip ropes around the hooves and with seven people pulling, including to my shock my wife and kids, we were able to get the calf out of the exhausted mother. Sadly, the little calf did not survive the long and difficult birth.
Back home and on the third wash (thus far experience tells me that it takes more than a full day to remove cow smell from the hands. Oh well. I am pretty popular with the dogs right now.) my mind kept returning to Rebel. My sponsor and two of his girls came over and I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. Well, maybe a little. I mean, she needed a nice last coot to chew on to celebrate the occasion, right? I was hoping I could say that it was too late in the day, maybe we should wait until tomorrow or something, but when I brought it up, they all just looked at me. Damn. Daylight savings says there was still almost five hours of light left.
I placed Rebel in her Giant Hood for the last time and we drove off to Waccamaw Farms for the release. My wife held my repulsively stinky hand and alternated between saying nice things and gently laughing at me, a very nice summation of our marriage I think.
By this time, the sun was shining brightly and spring was in its full glory. I took Rebel from the box and cut off her anklets. She looked at me a bit askance as if asking me “Are you for real?” Then she roused a bit while I talked to her and then with almost no effort the wind lifted her up and she was gone.
I watched her for about half an hour, preening in the trees and checking everything out. Finally my kids pulled me away, they had important things to do on a beautiful spring day. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur honestly. I did go back and check on her before dusk and I found her sitting up in a tall tree, comfortably hugging the bole as if she were settling in for the night. She jumped up to a different perch to have a few good looks at me but that was about it. Then she was right back to preening and taking in her new surroundings. I could almost see her planning her nest. I started taking bets on how long it would take lover-boy to find her and trying to make a few jokes to lighten the mood. No I was not covering anything up. Yes it was a little weird because I was the only one there…
I stayed out there for a half an hour until the mosqitos couldn’t find any open space to bite anymore. I prayed a little. Said a lot of thank yous. Took a few pictures… I actually fell in a hole once. Big one where a palm used to be. Made me think about all of the holes I had fallen in while watching this bird chase squirrels. Hell, one time I thought I had broken my ankle about three miles deep in the swamp last winter. I actually tried to MacGyver’d up a splint with a stick… The phone rang and my mind had wandered as far as it could. My wife was calling me back home for dinner with the family.
So. I said goodbye to a friend. A friend that, for a time at least, had helped me keep my eyes off the ground.