(you can read part I here)
“You ain’t from around these parts, is you, white man?” was the look in her eye, and she belched forth and ominous and foreboding screech, challenging my resolve to meddle with her chicks. It was that same hawk screech that I had heard in every western movie I ever saw as a boy. “Advantage; Mama-Hawk,” I conceded as I drove slowly from the stick bowl perched upon the peg, that abandoned pole, out in no white man’s land.
That had been on a Monday. I returned every day for the rest of that week, grabbing photos of the fuzzy heads. On Thursday I came to the pole, but only one fuzzy white head appeared. I drove my slow circle around, and there at the bottom of the pole lay one expired fuzzy white head. I learned that often when there are more than just a single chick in a nest, one sibling will kick the other out; very seldom do both survive. Mamere nature is a callous and fickle bitch.
Well that sucks, way out here in not-any-white man’s land, one hour from Mercury, ninety miles away, at ninety miles per hour. I buried brother fuzzy head Deadalus at the base of the pole, lashing together a crucifix to plant on the grave, because after all, I am a Catholic white man; so I fancy. “Here Lies one Baby Red-Tailed Hawk” I scrawled on the wood with a black sharpie pen in my best scrawl. That would do nicely. “See you in four days, little brother Icarus hawk!” I bid aloft, as it would be a long weekend, 150 miles away in Vegas. I had no inkling of just how really long four days was to a fuzzy-head hawk, but I’d soon learn.
Over the weekend I thought of the hawk often, even nearly talking myself into making a three hundred mile trip at ninety miles per hour just to visit a fuzzy white head, and maybe steal a frame or two with my camera. I could wait; I would have to just wait, and catch up with them on Tuesday. The urge to race off to the test site was formidable… but I had young children to keep, and obligations to tend.
Tuesday came and I went. I passed around Mercury, because that’s where that hateful and cowardly sheriff lurked to pick on noble folks to build his empire, one speeding ticket at a time. I built up a head of steam that rocketed ol’ Nelly to ninety miles an hour out into the expanse of nobody-in-his-right-mind’s land.
There’s my engine test stand just now going by. All’s well by that configuration. Coming up now on my drone technology support site; all looking ship-shape there, I do say. And finally my multi-purpose test building, all 56,000 square feet of rotting timber and masonry blocks. There was a drop of blood in there somewhere left to squeeze out. Of that I was vaguely certain.
Ms Nelly was feeling her oats this day, that she was, as she handled nicely at just shy of one hundred miles per hour. At that speed I favored the center of the two lane DOT divide roadway, to give myself an extra comfort margin on either side. I insulted that comfort zone by tapping out insults and edicts on my Crackberry to all the white boys huddled at Mercury, most likely near the cafeteria, longing for the arrival of the noon meal. At least they would have something to focus on.
With my pole count up, I let off the juice. Ol’ Nelly took over a mile and a half of no breaks coasting to wind down to a gentle speed worthy of making that left turn onto the fire break, where the pole-perched branch bowl set. As I approached, something was missing. Now both brothers were gone and mama sat solemnly in the nest, pining away at the horizon.
“Son of a bitch… I knew I should have come this weekend; now I’ve lost them both!” I seethed. I made my cruise around the pole, cringing that I might see the other fuzzy head laying nearby. He was too young to try to fly. Did Mama-Hawk expel him? He’s not here. Did another predator get him? I just didn’t know.
I heard a Red Tail screech high above, just like in every western movie I ever saw as a boy. I looked up wondering who else might be involved in this saga, out here in the high desert sage, and it was then that I shifted my gaze to the hawk in the nest… and realized that this was fuzzy white-headed Icarus, who in just four short days shed his fuzz and took on a full coat of red feathers. He was a noble and solemn figure there, all golden and ruddy. His beak was sharp as an awl, his eyes sharper still; acute and alert.
He stepped out on a cross timber and stretched out his wings majestically to take in the sun and the day. The sun pierced through his red wings, making them even more shocking with color. He pointed an eye at me and left it there for me to watch. “I’ll take that stare from you with pride, bold Icarus; I’m only honored that you even venture to jet me a glance–good morning!”
“I buried your brother, you know; you would have served well to treat him better, brother Red!” He blinked. Mama-Hawk glided above. I snapped frames with my photo permit-less camera. Alas, yet another transgression that would go un-punished way out here in the hinter Earth.
“Well, I had better not miss another day of visits; this kid is ready to jump the nest and fly the coop, perhaps even this very week,” I did think.
And the next time I did return I quickly spied Mama-Hawk statued upon a remote pole, not at all near the nest… on the other side of the road from the nest even. Perhaps she was trying to coax her young-un to fly to her? I proceeded to the nest cautiously. “Ahhh, this same suspense day after day; it cuts like your grandmama’s tongue, you know?”
The nest was empty, yes. “Well shit!” I sulked as I drove my usual look around the pole. I stopped for a moment to reflect. Looking up at the empty twig bowl, I though of how their fuzzy white heads used to peek over the edge of the nest and track me as I cruised by.
A movement to my flank startled the daylight out of me! Looking down at the base of the pole, I met none other than brother Icarus, just then hopping over his brother’s grave. His right foot was not at all right. I had never noticed it before. It was curled and deformed into a ball. His right wing was broken, which he dragged on the ground behind him. I stepped out of my truck and toward brother hawk, but he hopped painfully away from me.
Mama-Hawk, knowing that her boy was crippled, had kicked him from the nest before he was ready to fly, his fragile wing was broken by the fall.
I announced all the curse words I have ever know, as I jumped into my truck and sped away, back to Mercury to have audience with the white-man-clan. I went immediately to the office of Environmental Safety, to the department for the care of flora and fauna, and told them the story of the hawks. “There is nothing we can do, or are allowed to do,” was their answer. “Well fuck me runnin’ in the rain in Rio; that pretty much sucks by the numbers,” my response.
I imagined vainly that they may have had some rescue service that could take the hawk in and grace it with recovery. What was I thinking? I have had more than my fair dose of the real world. In that world things die in numbers, and for no reason, or for all the wrong reasons. That’s just the way it is; it’s that way really, in the real world.
Ninety miles from Mercury, Nelly was just leaving hyperspace and cruising to a crawl in the length of over a mile and a half. I made my last left turn onto the fire break where perched on the peg was the branch bowl, empty still. I cruised slowly and stopped the truck, cutting the engine.
I stepped out and looked around. I walked around and through the sage, looking on. I made small circles around my truck that spiraled outward to cover more ground. I finally heard a rustling of sage and saw that behind me the young Icarus was hopping madly toward my truck, dragging his wing and his foot along. He hopped directly under my truck where he remained.
I understood at once that he was crazed by thirst and the stress dying, more so maddened by overheating in the blazing sun all day, no way of helping himself, no shade for an eternity, only knee-high sage. There, he traded the heat from the engine of my truck, for the assuage of the shade of its undercarriage. Icarus would suffer unimaginably to the last instant of a bitter end. He would succumb to the same fate as Icarus of Greek Lore, overly exposed to the merciless rays of the sun. There is no mercy or quarter shown in nature. A thing will die in pain and alone, as sure as it ever lived.
But now, this Icarus, this hawk brother, would die quickly and without suffering; he would die in the shade of my truck with his awl-sharp beak dipped in a shallow dish of water, Mama-Hawk high nearby, grieving the dual stings of her lost sons, eyes fixed on the horizon. She would leave and come again, most likely next June, to this same nest to try to gift us with some other fuzzy-headed siblings.
I scooped and let some cool water from my bottle dribble on top of Icarus’ blood-red head. I was reminded of an oath we all once took as Delta brethren: “In the end, we may not be able to save each other, but at a very minimum, we promise we will not let each other die alone.”
And brother hawk let go.
Nelly pulled away from the fire break, making one last right turn onto the two-lane DOT divided highway, accelerating to light speed toward sleepy wingless Mercury, the last bastion of the daring white man. Behind her she left at the base of the pole perch, under the woven twig cradle, a slight mound with a wooden crucifix imbedded. On the wood was scrawled: “Here Lie Two Red-Tailed Hawk Brothers Who Died TOGETHER.”
I’ll hope to see Mama-Hawk next June; I might see her… but hoo knows?
Rocks a shallow wooden cradle
lifted high above the rocks
Raised away from nature’s folly
broods there tiny baby hawks
Left alone to wing their fancy
test their will above the brush
heated struggle in the clan he
plunged below in mortal hush
Son’s arrive at times imperfect
marred by nature’s callus curse
Wrought in twisted limb or defect
life void but for waiting hurst
Left by Matriarch to perish
at the whim of Mamere Earth
Decline moribund nightmarish
gifting hawk his final berth