Being raised by the hippies was often frustrating, but in retrospect I can see that it had some advantages.
Homemade bread was a staple, Barbie was an affront to the feminist movement, and my father felt television was sure to be the downfall of fitness, creativity, and love of the outdoors. And speaking of the outdoors, doesn’t every little girl need outdoor equipment, and shouldn’t she pride herself on her survivalist and knife-sharpening skills? Now, I can kind of see where my parents were going with their domestic policies, but at the time? Homemade bread was incredibly embarrassing to take to school during the height of Wonderbread popularity, how would I ever learn how normal families functioned if I couldn’t watch the Brady Bunch, and the most use I got out of my expertly-sharpened pocket knife was when I used it to remove a full leg cast that was getting in my way.
Our upbringing did leave us with a deep affinity for nature, though, and a boundless curiosity about how the earth’s systems work. The friends I’ve found through the years have similar outlooks, and so it is always surprising to learn that others don’t have a mental hard drive full of useless knowledge about how plants grow.
My friend Joan is my go-to girl for nature and science questions. She knows stuff. Ridiculous amounts of stuff. She’s patient and sweet, and while she rarely curses, she’s very amused when I do. I find her “Jiminy Christmas!” exclamations equally hysterical. Joan works at a raptor rehabilitation center, where she remains unruffled when people call with stupid questions.
Raptor is the term used for birds of prey, and while the center only handles injured birds of prey, they often receive calls for help for other birds and wild animals as well.
“There’s a bird in my house, and I think there’s something wrong with its wings! I’m not sure what to do!”
The poor bird seemed to have damaged its wings when it flew into the house, and the caller was very concerned about damaging the bird further. And there was something wrong with its wings: they were bat wings. Now the caller wanted instructions on how to kill it. People aren’t nearly as concerned about not hurting bats.
But calls about injured raptors, or raptors acting strangely, are cause for the center to send out a trained volunteer to check on the animal and bring it into the center if it needs medical attention.
“There is a huge eagle in my backyard, and I can’t get it to fly away.”
It didn’t sound right that the bird wouldn’t fly away, and after several more questions the center sent someone out to check on the eagle.
“It’s been sitting there all morning, and I’m worried about letting my kids and my dog out back. I’m worried it might carry them off!”
Your children and dog would have to be very, very tiny for an eagle to carry them away, as adult eagles top out at about 14 pounds. But those suckers DO look big, and Joan reassured the caller that the eagle couldn’t carry off her children, but that she should keep everyone away from the bird until the volunteer arrived to check it out.
“But it’s huge! It’s about five feet tall!”
Wow! THAT is a big honkin’ eagle! They do look big, though! Have you ever seen one up close? Their wing span is up to 90 inches! Large eagles are scary-looking birds, and can definitely cause some damage.
But the caller was right, and the bird was five feet tall. It couldn’t fly away because it couldn’t fly at all; it was an ostrich.
The ostrich was returned to the farm from which it had wandered, and so everything worked out well. Which was good news for the raptor center, because it would have been a big job to rehabilitate that bird into a healthy eagle.
See? This is what happens when you play with Barbie and eat Wonderbread.