Nearly 60 years ago Alfred Hitchcock made a horror-thriller simply titled, “The Birds.” It was a frightening movie for the time, about flocks of birds (ravens, seagulls, crows, and sparrows) who attack random people in Bodega Bay, a small town in California. Minor dive bombings escalated to fierce attacks, with birds taking chunks out of their victim’s heads, leaving them with blood dripping down their faces. A few people were even killed in these
While the movie was scary and fun, no one really believed it could happen. But Barbara, Gail and Gail’s daughter Stacy, three of my cousins from the small town of Afton, Wyoming, may convince you it’s not such far-fetched tale.
Gail and Barbara are sisters-in-law who live next door to each other. They each have a big pine tree growing in front of their house. The trees are separated by about fifty yards. For whatever reason, a female hawk was attracted to Gail’s tree and decided that is where she would build her nest and live with her three young ones. There was also a male hawk in the picture who was very aggressive and protective of the little family. He claimed the territory between the two trees and flew freely between them. Whenever my three female cousins went outside, Daddy Hawk would aim for their heads and dive bomb them.
These poor women couldn’t leave their homes without fear of the dive-bombing hawk. Sometimes he would dive towards them, pull up at the last second, then fly straight up into the air. Once when Gail and Stacy were doing yard work under their tree, he swooped down, and before they could protect themselves, grabbed a hunk of flesh out of both their heads with his talons.
Obviously, this just reinforced all the women’s fear, and, since hawks are a protected species, Barbara, Gail and Stacy essentially became prisoners in their own homes. When they did venture out, they had to arm themselves with the available amour, an umbrella, a hat, a club, and a broom. After losing a chunk out of her head, Gail resorted to adding one more piece of protective equipment to her arsenal, a bicycle helmet.
While these women were the main targets of this overly protective hawk, Gail’s husband, Jody, was also occasionally dive-bombed. It was not until the hawk knocked Jody’s hat off his head twice in the same day though that he began to take the problem seriously. Until then he had good naturedly teased Gail about being so upset.
Finally, Gail had had enough and called the Wyoming Fish and Game Department for help. A few days later they showed up and put an end to the siege.
The women now have a great story to tell, a family heirloom to be shared and enjoyed for years to come. The family never tires of hearing the tale over and over again, laughing as they recall the crazed sprints out the door under cover of umbrellas and brooms.
That’s how it is for all of us and our own unique family stories that become part of our family lore. As our children grow older and leave the house, they will always remember these stories and the history that goes with them.
One of the fun things about being a grandparent is telling our stories to our grandchildren and helping them learn and enjoy their family history. And if some of these stories slightly embarrass their parents, even more fun for the kids.
Here's to Failing Forward,
Cal and Anne
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