Friday, October 28, 2005

messy, messy day

Everyone's in a bad mood.

We drove to a place I haven't been to in nearly a year. It started out great, even excellent. Strong wind, but lots of bunny flushes. Good flying. From the way they flew, I saw the birds don't have the muscle tone they had in past seasons, but flying in the wind will improve that. We caught one cottontail pretty quickly, in fifteen or twenty minutes. But for a field that takes an hour and a half to drive to, you never want to go home so quickly, plus bunnies are less challenging for size. So we went to find another.

We found it in the wrong place. On one edge, this field has a small drainage pond with some machinery beside it, all fenced off, with some maintenance access gates. The bunny ran inside. One of the birds crashed onto it, and I heard the bunny squeal. The other bird had launched shortly after the first, and also landed there. Scuffles sounded. I needed to get in there and dole out the food so everyone would be happy. If I didn't referee, they could easily squabble over a cottontail, which is small enough that they would be in each other's faces while eating. The only thing a hawk likes having in its face is the thing it's eating.

The gate was locked. I ran to the other gate. Locked. When the hell did they start locking these goddamned gates? Oh, yeah, last year some gypsies parked their home on the other side, and started using the other fenced-off spot as their private toilet.

I returned to the first gate and saw a six-inch gap under the edge of the fence, partly hidden by brush. Kicking it aside, I cleared a space, and the gap looked bigger. It would be a squeeze, but there was no time to wonder, only to try. I yanked off my bulky hawking vest and slapped my back to the earth. I had to turn my head sideways. I breathed all the way out and the fence still scraped my chest. My T-shirt was no protection from the stickers. I slipped to the inside, jumped up, grabbed my vest (with the hawks' meat) and found both birds.

And no bunny. The birds were locked onto each other.

This has happened before, but never had I let so much time pass. The situation is: Hawk 1 catches the rabbit, Hawk 2 comes in to assist, Hawk 1 decides theft is a more likely intention than assistance, and decides to defend his catch and himself. In the flurry of feet and feathers grabbing at anything moving, the rabbit gets away. Then each bird blames the other for the loss.

I had, at that moment, only one glove, so I could only actually handle one bird at a time. Had I had my spare glove, I could have gotten one bird onto each. I got out both pieces of meat, and somehow cajoled Pepper to let one of his feet go. It was hard on both birds, but finally they released. Pepper was put to one side with a nice piece of meat, Salt on the glove with another, and me yanking out five pounds of stickers from clothes, skin and hair.

I should have packed it all up right then. I was hoping they would bounce back as quickly as they usually do when they have minor spats. But as I said, they'd spent too much time glaring at each other and not eating. Salt flew to the highest pole and wouldn't come down. Pepper hopped on top of the fence and wouldn't come. I had two good flushes completely ignored. Pepper eventually came, as did Salt, but they didn't want to stay on the fist or be near each other.

There was no point at all to continuing. After more cajoling, both birds came to the car. Both got a decent feed. Hours later when we were home, I doled out the remains of the tidbits and, with flares and glares, each bird tried to get at the other one's. I had to point fingers to get them to look at their own.

Trust. So hard to build, so easy to break.


Anonymous said...

did anyone get hurt? cy'

max inclined said...

I don't think so. There's some bruising I think, but no blood that I could find in my prodding. I got a couple punctures, minor, not nearly as bad as the time we got the pheasant. Neosporin rocks.