by C. J. Mouser
There is something incredibly romantic and beautiful about a hawk, and rural Florida is just cram-full of them. I never fail to stop what I'm doing and give them my full, undivided attention when I chance to see one, and if I happen to get a nice long look, it's a good day. So imagine my delight when one dropped practically into my lap one evening.
I was driving down the dirt road that leads back to the house when I spotted this hawk snuggled down in some weeds at the edge of the ditch. Clearly this was not normal behavior but I continued slowly on my way, leaving him to his business. When I went out again after dark a full two hours later and he was in the same spot, my fears were confirmed; this beautiful animal was in trouble.
I know hawks can be formidable and even dangerous, so I did what any normal red-blooded female will do when faced with a tricky situation; I called my wild-hog-chasing, amateur-snake-handling, wandering the woods in the dark, scared of nuthin' teenaged son on his cell phone.
"Jake, ya gotta come catch this hawk for me."
"Well, there's this hawk," I said. "He's just sitting here on the side of the road. I think he's hurt. I can't just leave him here. If a dog comes along ..."
"Mom! Are you saying HAWK?"
"Yes, son! Hawk! H-A-W-K. Hawk! You know, big bird, mottled color, 'I'm-gonna-get-that-chicken type hawk.' "
"And you want me to catch it." I could hear the grin in his voice.
"Well ... yeah."
"I sure do. Now, listen, if you can go running around the woods in the dark chasing after big old wild hogs, then you can handle a little bitty bird."
"Mom, that thing will rip me to pieces. It's what they do! They rip things. Thanks for thinking of me, but I'm not interested, and don't you mess with it, either!"
"Do you know what you're asking ME to do?" I demanded. He knows me better than that.
"I said ... don't mess with it." All grown up and in charge, he was. The trouble is, I listen to him just about as well as he listens to me. It's our system.
"Uh huh." I said, noncommittally, and hung up. But I did leave the bird alone for the moment.
I went back to the house, but I couldn't stop thinking about this magnificent bird lying there, easy prey for any predator that should happen along. I told my youngest daughter, Jenny, and she commiserated.
"Well, let's go get him," she said with conviction.
Back down the road we went to where I had last seen the bird. Several minutes were required to get the Jeep angled in toward the ditch just right so we could work in the glow of the headlights. Once we were in position and standing there looking down on our unfortunate friend, I lost my nerve again.
"Okay, there he is. Get him," I said.
"Do I look like I'm stupid? I'm not touching that thing!" The whites of her eyes stood out in stark contrast against the darkness.
"Well, what did we come all the way back down here for?"
"I thought you were going to catch him! And you have to, Mom! Look at him, the poor thing. We can't leave him here like this."
"Oh, all right!"
Once I had him home, I transferred him carefully to an old rabbit cage. He sat in the kitchen floor overnight, looking royally ticked off, but I knew I wouldn't have to worry about him through the long, cold night. Elvis the mutt wandered past, and there was a tense moment where both dog and bird went into hyper-alert, but that was nothing compared to when the cat strolled by. The hawk had no choice but to sit tight and look rattled, but the cat went under the bed and stayed there for two hours.
In the morning I was put in touch with a place called Wrede's Wild Animal Rescue over off of 66. I toted the bird over there, cage and all, and found myself in a place right out of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." I had to fill out some paper work, being the rescuer and all, and as I was standing there, clipboard in hand, a little deer no bigger than a Daschund trotted past. I've never seen anything like it. Little feet hitting the floor, click, click, click, just like he owned the place and, as cute as he was, I'd be willing to bet he at least had a major interest in it. He was some kind of exotic little thing from some exotic place, but he immediately found a place in my heart.
I left what turned out to be a "juvenile, male, red-tailed hawk" in seemingly capable hands, and went on my way. I hope he will convalesce nicely and be back soaring the skies over rural Florida. If I happen to see him again in his natural setting, I will drop what I'm doing and give him my full, undivided attention, and if I chance to get a nice long look ... it will be a good day.
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