Eyballs for Lunch
Submitted by Abel Ringer
"You'll get your eye scratched out". I don't know what it was about parents in the 50's and 60's, but everything fun was going to cause the loss of an eye. BB guns, sword fighting with sticks, pea shooters just about everything. So when I came home one day talking about catching a hawk one can imagine the response I received. My folks being old ranch people had no idea what I was talking about, all they knew was their idiot son wanted to catch and keep a wild animal that made it's living by killing things." Might as well try to shave a bobcats butt" was the response the old man gave and my mother just went into shock. I never could quite figure out how it was ok to stand in one place with a stick in your hand and let someone throw a hard ball at you at 60 miles an hour, but a little bird was off limits. For that matter how about a horse, not some tiny little pony but a full grown 16 hand high horse. These dumb beasts at the drop of a hat could squish a kid like a bug, but that was fine, it was to be expected. All of this was hard to understand, but I had a plan.
I found a book at the library about falconry, it was written by some guy in England and I thought this would just be the ticket to get THEM to relent. I mean really if their doing it in England it has to be ok, them being all sophisticated and everything. Wrong! I remember the old man muttering something about sissies and his son wasn't going to be one and that was it, no negotiation no talk, nothing.. This wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. Change of plans, I started with the nonstop brainwashing of the parents, a constant barrage of words pontificating the glories of falconry. A real battle of wills to be sure, in the end all I accomplished was to confirm what my dad already suspected "that boy is weird". I think at the time they were even entertaining the idea of "professional help". Then tragedy struck, the movie The Vikings was shown on the TV. There was Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis standing there with real birds on their fists and you guessed it, some one lost an eye. I was doomed, for half the movie there was ole Kirk running around with this big scare on his face and no eye. I could imagine the visions in their heads of blood gushing and the bird noshing on a bright round eyeball. It was over, with those visions in their heads I was never going to get a bird.
My lament went far and wide, I talked to anyone that would listen, Grand Ma, friends, to no avail, but as luck would have it a teacher came to my rescue. She had a book that showed these two boys flying a hawk to each other, their names were Craighead. Now this was ammo a kid could make use of and I did. At the next parent-teacher conferences she showed the book to THEM. This was it my last chance at glory, it had to work. I saw my dad with his head down and shaking it slowly side to side, this was not a good sign. However my mom had a big smile on her face and unless she was taking some demented pleasure from my agony this was a good sign. In the end it worked I don't know whether it was the persuasive manner of my teacher or the fact that the bird in the picture was the size of a parakeet, nonetheless I was on my way.
So off I went with my homemade trap and a mouse I found in the barn. There was a stand of gum trees in the back of the ranch where I knew a little hawk lived so I set my trap there. After what seemed like hours the little bird flew to the top of one of the trees, I held my breath and he came down on the trap, sure enough he was caught. I took him home and put jesses on him like it said in the book, used a bent stick for a perch and put him in the screened in patio where he would be safe. My parents watched as over the next few months I attempted to train the little bird. Regardless of my successes my dad still thought there was something wrong with his" weird son" and really didn't take an interest in what I was doing. However my mom clucked like a proud hen over me which made it all worthwhile. There was one incident that took place in the winter of that year that still perplexes me. As it is want to do in California from time to time it rained hard and often and on a particularly bad night I asked if I could bring the bird inside, I was met with a resounding NO! "Animals stay outside" but in the morning there he was on his perch at the foot of my bed. I guess parents are really softies at heart.