Friday, July 13, 2012

Fallen Feathers and Tree Huggers

In this hot and dry weather, I must monitor the water in the horse tank closely to make certain Wally and Ginger have as much fresh water as they want and need They drink a lot and the rest evaporates in the blast furnace winds. I also keep the horses sprayed with insect repellent in an effort to prevent ticks from sucking their blood, and to reduce the terrible plague of flies tormenting them day and night. Really, any reason to go to the barn to rub their foreheads, pet their soft noses, and hug their beautiful necks is an acceptable investment of my time.

Duke and Jake make the trip, too. If it is a cool morning, Duke is spry and playful with Jake. If it is killer weather, that is, humid and hot and suffocating, I outpace the poor old Dukester - even with my bad knee. Jake is unbelievably fast and energetic. I had entirely forgotten how fast a happy young pup lives his life! Jake, the canine container of irritating energy and transmitter of unmitigated joy, runs circles around us. If he would stop slamming into us, Duke and I would not be so grumpy with him. He is a ninja dog, striking like lightning and retreating like a shadow. I have been known to shout, "$!&^%%$ it, Jake! Leave us alone! We are old and unhappy!"

That was the frame of mind I was in when I found hawk feathers on the ground, seven in all, scattered in the short grass by the hay barn. I noticed one feather and was immensely pleased, but as I found more feathers scattered around, I was concerned. I did not see any blood and I did not find a body, but I am worried that one of the hawk parents met a bad end. Maybe it was a juvenile. Our human activities put such a tremendous pressure on wildlife - chemicals, destruction of habitat, electric wires, fences, and hunting. There is no way to know if a red tail hawk met his fate by my hay barn.

During the recent seven days of jury duty, I spent over eight hours a day with my fellow jurors. During testimony, we could not discuss anything about the case. Almost every polite topic of conversation was brought to the table as we waited for the slow wheels of justice to turn. I knew there was an overwhelming chance that I would see and hear something entirely different than my seven fellow jurists would see and hear in the testimony. I have always seen things differently than most Kansans, my family, and many of my friends. Jury duty would be no different, and I dreaded it. After almost sixty years, I am accustomed to feeling like a stranger in a strange land, but sometimes, on a rare occasion, they can still make me feel bad. When the subject of the forest fires in Colorado came up, it was blamed on the "tree huggers" - the name "tree huggers" whispered as if it were the "N" word - and a quick, insincere "I'm sorry" tacked on at the end to make it polite.

Yes folks, I am "one a'them worthless tree huggers"! It is my fault that Colorado is burning - not because the moisture content of the forest is incredibly low due to dry weather conditions or because controlled burns are not done in areas where unbelievably expensive homes have been built surrounded by millions of tons of firewood. It is my fault in the same way a hurricane wipes out billions of dollars of real estate foolishly built at the very edge of the ocean a thousand miles away, causing my house insurance double in cost every two years. It is my fault that hunters can no longer randomly shoot hawks out of the sky because DDT almost wiped out all of the birds, not just the raptors. As I once told my mother, the people who defend the environment are treated with the same disdain and disrespect as the earth is treated.

But right now, I am one happy tree hugger; it is raining at Spirit Creek farm, a mighty blessing. I hope this sacred rain is falling on my neighbors crops. And if those hawk feathers I found do mean a hawk death, many red tail hawks remain alive - at least for the foreseeable future.

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