Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More About Ollie

After the eagle with the broken wing that had been on our neighbor’s lawn just above our vegetable garden flew away, we just looked at each other for a moment or two.

Then we went back in the house.

As the day progressed we wondered more and more about whether the eagle that had been on the lawn was one and the same with the one we had discovered on the beach the day before.  We wondered if it had been Ollie.

Finally my wife decided to do something other than wonder about it.  She packed up some smelt that had been contributed by an acquaintance from an animal recovery organization and headed south down the beach.

When she got back she said that she had seen the eagle and had left three smelt for him and had departed.  She didn’t know if the eagle had eaten the smelt, or even if eagles liked smelt.  It had been the best that she could do.  I thought that she had done pretty well.

Later that day, in the early evening, we both retraced our steps south.  We had the smelt with us just in case.  As we approached the place where she had left the smelt earlier in the day my wife found two smelt.  Maybe he had eaten one of them, we thought.

After a half mile or so we saw the eagle.  He was huddled in some driftwood with his back to us, but even from that view he cast a demeanor of misery.  We stopped and watched for awhile and decided to let him alone for the time being.  We decided to leave him alone for the night.  We thought that he had had enough stress for one day. We didn’t want to contribute any more of it for the day; we turned and departed.

As we got into the vicinity of our house the canine rocket – the one from the quarter a mile away domicile -  appeared.  He was galloping toward us. 

His master was a quarter mile back. 

I engaged the dog with some tricks that I have learned over the years.  (Those tricks were mainly desperation measures from the days when I used to run every early morning.  That running often took place in locations that I had gone to on business and with which I was totally unfamiliar.  That business travel coupled with running often led to unpleasant encounters with unpleasant dogs.  It once – at a brand new hotel on the outskirts of Dallas – involved an entire pack of dogs that decided that it would be fun to chase me down.  Desperation proved to indeed be the mother of invention on that early morning.  And what I did then has often worked with other dogs, subsequent to that encounter, when they have come after me.  Having trained, and hunted, and lived with - until he died at thirteen years old - a German Shorthaired Pointer, also imparted to me some skills in dealing with dogs.)

So I engaged this dog with all the artifices I had learned.  That kept him in front of me, not past me, going down the beach to the eagle.  Since I continued to walk toward him he kept backing up.

Ultimately my artifices and his backing up reaction to them put him, and me, and his master in close proximity.

An animated conversation ensued. 

Ultimately the dog and his master turned to the north leaving Ollie, or some other eagle, alone on the beach without the harassment of a dog. 

We returned home for the night.

We had a full day the next day leaving no time for checking on the eagle.

In fact, it wasn’t until the next day that we were able to find the time to go see if he was still in the area, still alive and still functioning.

One of our neighbors knew a different way to get to the beach from the one we typically choose.  That different way involved going into the woods up the road from us and going down a primitive trail to a set of steps that opened out onto the beach.  It was quite scenic en route.  When we got to the bottom we stopped for a moment to look around and talk.  I think the eagle was the farthest thing from our minds.

I know it was the furthest thing from my mind.

That was probably why I almost made a startled noise when I turned to face the woods and found myself looking into the eyes of the eagle. 

He was in a tree just in front of me. 

And he was pretty surely Ollie.  I could tell from the dirty tone that dimmed the brilliance of the usually white head of a bald eagle.  His eyes were the same almost white yellow that we had seen previously. They were not the more golden yellow of a younger, healthy bald eagle.

“There he is” I uttered in a gasp turned whisper.  “Oh wow (or something like that)”.  “Let’s see if he will eat some smelt.”

Our neighbor and I moved back what seemed a distance appropriate to creating a comfortable buffer of space between us and Ollie. My wife stayed where she was.  She whistled at the bird as she opened the smelt sack.  She put several smelt down on a log as close to the tree where the bird was as she dared.  The bird just looked into the distance like one of our national leaders posing for Mt Rushmore.

My wife backed away to where our neighbor and I were standing. 

The eagle kept staring and looking presidential.

“Oh look.  He’s looking down.”

“And he’s getting ready to fly.”

As those words were spoken Ollie gathered himself and dropped down to the smelt.  He grabbed one and swallowed it.  Before long he had swallowed all of them. 

We felt really good.

We departed.

For the rest of that evening we discussed the apparently improving prospects for our injured eagle.  Having an appetite must indicate some reservoir of good health we thought.  And eating and getting nourishment must be going to have some ameliorative effect on his overall condition.

Or so we hoped.

The next morning we went to town and bought out the local butcher’s supply of crab bait.  It was mostly salmon skeletons left after filets had been taken.  There was quite a bit of meat still on those skeletons.   We had been told that eagles like scales and fins and heads and stuff.

We had lots of those things.

The acid test came that evening: could we find Ollie again and if we did find him, could we keep him from flying away while we spread his dinner; and would he eat the dinner once it was spread if indeed he stayed rather than fleeing?

We could; we did; and he did. 

As we stopped in front of a very large rock, or very small monolith, I turned and found myself staring into the eyes of a very familiar eagle.  He had been sitting there on the rock.  Was he waiting for us? 

We laid out a dinner of salmon.  

It was unbelievable.  We were standing not far away from an eagle tearing apart salmon skeletons and eating the pieces that he tore with gusto and relish.  I like to cook for myself and others.  I have never felt more culinarilly appreciated. 

We watched as the last vestiges of the salmon disappeared and then took our leave, north up the beach.

No dogs appeared and all seemed to be right with the world.  We had fed Ollie for the second night in a row.  How could things not turn out well, we asked ourselves.

The next morning we got some insight to the answer to that question.

We had decided that if one meal a day was good, two must be great.

So we headed out, about 0730, south down the beach.  We had decided against the trail because it had been raining and things in the closely hugging undergrowth were pretty wet.

We saw an eagle in a tree.  Then we saw another in the same tree.  One had been there and the other had just flown in.  We wondered if either, probably the first, was Ollie.  We looked at both through the binoculars.  We had just about convinced ourselves that the first one was Ollie when both took flight and went off into the nether regions to the south.

Neither had been Ollie.

After walking down the beach some more we hadn’t seen hide nor feather of our breakfast buddy, and we had stopped to assess the situation.  Just as we started, what we had just agreed to a not be about to be a very long continuation of our search, I saw him. 

It was just like every other time.  I suddenly phased from not seeing the eagle to seeing the eagle.  It was an almost ghostly transition from not there to there.

I said something really negative like “Oh no.”  Then I said “I think he’s dead”.

Just ahead of us, tail pointing our direction white head visible but half buried in the crumple of the rest of the pile of feathers that was his body was an eagle.  It had to be our eagle.  And he looked dead.  We slowed but continued.  After a few steps he stirred and sort of flopped, sort of hobbled away from us.  He wasn’t dead but he didn’t look good.

We laid out some food, but his back was to us and we didn’t hold out much hope for his eating it.  We left and went home with hearts substantially heavier than any time in our relationship with Ollie.

That then leaves only last evening to account for.  The best way to tell that tale is to refer you to:

So far so good

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