I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution
Steve Miller Band
It seems like a different lifetime -it was so long ago; certain images and events during my years in the United States Air Force connects me to that period of my life that has become the bricks in my current foundation. Certainty, it's unlikely I would have lived in or even visited North Dakota and Guam. I wouldn't have even gone down a silo of a live Minuteman missile, reaching out to touch it, only to have nightmares for weeks. (I actually dreamed one night a nuke hit my dorm, as I stood outside with family members. We all ducked just in time for the radiation to go over our heads, and then standing erect again, all we saw was devastation.)
I remember drinking water from a pump on the side of the road. The fresh water from that well is still the best and coldest I ever tasted. I also remember on one lazy day, our response team parked on an isolated road, and saw an odd- looking rag fluttering on a barb wire fence. One of the guys suggested it might not be a rag, but some kind of animal. We climbed out the peacekeeper and marched over toward the object. Sure enough, it was a living animal...barely alive, but still majestic: it was a hawk (North Dakota has nine species of hawks).
Surveying the area- it was easy to see what happened. There was a gopher hole near the fence, it was clear the hawk zeroed in on his prey when "smack", the barbed wire fence snared it in a menacing yoke. It would have been a death trap, but it's a good thing I was on duty with a couple of country boys that knew exactly what to do. We covered the hawk's head to block its vision, and consequently stopped the bird-of-prey from attacking. Then, my buddy pulled out his pocket knife, and we delicately cut- off the part of the wing that was too tangled to finesse off the fence.
We radioed the base, and within a couple of hours officers from the state wildlife agency arrived and took the bird, assuring us it would live and probably even fly again.
It's a moment I'll never forget. I don't consider myself an environmentalist, and yet two years ago when a bald eagle circled my backyard and rested on the tallest tree, it was magnificent. I've watched giant white owls at dusk circle the skies without flapping their wings; and have gotten a thrill seeing an osprey in Wyoming swoop into a river seeking prey. It's been a blessing to see all these majestic scenes. I'm not the only American with a soft spot for birds-of-prey, especially eagles.
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