Hawk Rescue Ride
by Brian A. Hopkins


     The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
     The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
     No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
     And pain a few days...
                   -- from Robinson Jeffers' "Hurt Hawks"

First of all, you have to understand that I'm a critter person. I'll stop for damn near anything that's injured on the side of the road. I've rescued everything from turtles to fawns (although two weeks after the fawn rescue another deer wiped me out on my Honda, that's the thanks I got!) and so on. One morning, I found an injured hawk in my driveway. My guess was that he had hit the power line that runs overhead near my house. It was just a tiny hawk. I thought it might be a baby redtail hawk, since we have so many in this area. Beautiful animals. I love watching them soar overhead.

Upon examination, I found that his left wing was broken real close to his shoulder joint. The bone ends were protruding and he was bleeding. I could leave him to suffer and die, snap his neck and get it over with real quick for him, or I could try to take him somewhere. Like I said, I'm a critter person, so you can guess which option I chose.

My son had taken my wife's Isuzu Rodeo (what a piece of shit! -- NEVER buy an Isuzu! -- sorry, just had to slip that piece of advice in) for the day and my wife had taken my truck. That left me with the ZZR. With the bird wrapped in a dish towel and tucked under my leather jacket, I set out on my mission of mercy, even though the sky was black with clouds. My destination was a wildlife park/zoo about 45 mins south of me (on the south side of Lake Thunderbird in Oklahoma).

When I got to the zoo, they told me that they weren't licensed to take in injured wildlife (all that "It's against the law" crapola that I ran into with the baby deer back in June 2003; the State wildlife department has a real Jones for people taking in wild animals; guess they'd rather you just left them on the side of the road). The zoo people suggested I take the hawk to a licensed wildlife rescue place another 30 mins or so south. So, with rain now splattering my helmet's face shield, I struck out again, my little friend tucked snug and warm inside my jacket (it could be my imagination, but I could have sworn he kept hollering at me to go faster through the curves). The wildlife rescue place was supposed to be at 82nd and McGuire in Noble, but I couldn't find 82nd and McGuire. In fact, there was no 82nd and McGuire! I found 84th and McGuire and figured the zoo lady had made a mistake, but no matter how many times I circled around through there, I didn't see no stinking wildlife rescue place. So I pulled over to call for better directions, but wouldn't you know it, I had forgotten to charge my cell phone at work the day before and it was dead as a doornail.

Then I decided to ask a cop for directions, but he was chasing a speeder. So I followed the cop and his prey for a minute until the car pulled over. I figured I'd ask him directions after he wrote the ticket, so I pulled in behind him, removed my helmet, and stood beside the bike.  But the cop started yelling over his loudspeaker, "Do not exit the car! Keep your hands in plain site on the steering wheel!" And four or five other cop cars came screaming to a halt from every different direction, surrounding this fat woman in a Blazer. This doesn't look good, I thought, but I was already standing there with my helmet off, so I thought if I jumped on the bike and roared off, then they would think I was connected to whatever crime the fat woman had committed. Plus, there was a bulge under my jacket that could be mistaken for a firearm, even though I swear officer, it's just a hawk.  Honest!

Finally, one of the cops looked my way (this was as they were drawing their guns and surrounding the fat woman in the Blazer, prefatory to pulling her out, applying handcuffs, and beating her with their billyclubs), and I said, "Hey, I need directions, but I don't suppose this is the best time to ask." "No," he growled, then proceeded to get on his radio and tell other officers to cordon off some other area and go this away and go that away and try to head off someone else (the fat lady's accomplice, I suppose). So, rain drops pattering down on my naked head, I decided to put my helmet back on, take the bird home, and figure something else out. As I was coming around the lake again 45 mins later, however, I remembered the ranger station on the north side of the lake, so I headed there (20 mins out of my way). The Kawasaki, hawk, and I had by this time traveled what must have been a hundred miles of hilly, twisty Oklahoma backroads -- our favorite riding, except for the fact that the roads were wet and becoming treacherous. And did I mention I had no rain gear with me?  Nonetheless I decided to try the park rangers. Maybe they could help.

Anyway, I talked to a real nice lady ranger at the station, but wouldn't you know it, they can't take in injured wildlife either. "Well, what good is it being a park ranger?" I asked, whereupon she proceeded to tell me all about their troubles with rowdy, drunken campers, people speeding (on motorcycles -- ha! ) around the lake, and so on and so on. Yada. Yada. Yada. They're not really rangers; they're lake police I guess. Whatever became of the kindly old fart in the funny hat who loved nature? "I've been driving around with this hawk tucked under my jacket for an hour and a half now, lady," I told her, "so I'm about to just twist its neck and forget this whole good Samaritan thing." (I wouldn't do that, of course, but I wanted to emphasize to her that the bird had very few options and she, as a park ranger, oughta give a shit.) "Oh, no," she said, "you can't do that. You need to take it to this wildlife rescue center at 84th and McGuire."

So, she gave me the address and the phone number and the name of the lady that runs the rescue center. With a heavy sigh, I hopped on the bike and headed all the way around the lake again, though this time I took a slightly alternate route where this ugly brown dog likes to chase motorcycles. I tricked him with the old slow-down-then-speed-up-at-the-last-minute gimmick (stupid mutt). A suicidal squirrel also made a run for the Kawasaki's front tire, but I politely swerved around the little nut-cracker. All I need now is a couple crazy drivers gunning for me, I thought, and my attempt to save this little hawk will end up with me dead by the side of the road somewhere, my new bike all smashed and broken (though, I suppose, if I was dead, it wouldn't matter). Wonder what the EMTs will think of the hawk tucked under my jacket when they open it up to perform CPR? Will they try to save us both?

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I finally found the wildlife rescue place (which really needs a bigger sign out front). The three ladies there were super nice. Turns out that my hawk was not a baby at all; it was a full grown nighthawk (I didn't even know that there was such a thing, but it's totally cool that I owned a Honda 650cc Nighthawk back in 1984). They gave the bird antibiotics and examined his wing -- which had an open fracture near the shoulder joint, like I said -- cleaning it and bandaging it up real good. I was worried they couldn't possibly save him because of where the break had occurred, but the lady told me that she was going to do surgery and put some metal rods in his shoulder. Cool, eh? She said nighthawks migrate for the winter, but this little guy -- who happens to be a voracious insect eater, so we like him very much -- wouldn't be fit to fly by then, so he would have to winter with her (and the tons of other critters she had there). Next spring she would release him to join his friends. She agreed with me that he had probably hit a power line. They fly really, REALLY fast, she said. I just smiled, 'cause I knew that he had now flown even faster with me and the ZZR.

That's my story. On the ride home, the clouds opened up and the sun started shining. I kinda missed having the bird under my jacket -- it felt just a bit lonely on the bike. Think of the story the nighthawk will have to tell his friends next year, though! How many hawks have ridden a ZZR? Not many.

I arrived home some 3 hours and 150 miles later, feeling I had done a very good thing.

The hawk, btw, wound up here -- www.wildcareoklahoma.org.  In one of their newsletters, they even mentioned some insane biker who brought them a hawk under his jacket.  They seemed surprised that I hadn't been clawed up by the bird's talons and made some comment that I probably wouldn't have done it with a larger bird.  Silly buggers ... of course I would have!  LOL.



(This story was originally posted at ZZR1200.net and later at Sport-Touring.net sometime in Sep 2003.)


Copyright 2011 Brian A. Hopkins, 2011-07-31 19:37, www.bahwolf.com