I was sitting in the porch swing earlier today, enjoying the quiet of the woods before me, when the big bird sailed gracefully over the head of the hollow beside the house. I was instantly transported to a distant place and an earlier time. My wife, my mother, a couple of my mother’s friends and I had signed up for a train ride into a gorge of our lovely state during prime leaf-peeping season. It turned out to be a rip-off with the “antique rail cars” looking like converted cattle cars and “supper on board” being a couple of lousy hotdogs which we had to pay extra for. Also, the staff acted like they’d been trained in the gulags, but the scenery saved the day.
We were still on a steam train beside a rushing river with beautiful mountains of autumn color all around us. It was then that some folks noticed the eagles circling high overhead in a thermal. They seemed to be curious about the strange vehicle and its riders, as they began to follow us down the gorge and gradually dropped closer as we traveled.
Probably, Adam and Eve were the first of our race to watch such birds in flight and envy their grace and freedom. I suspect no-one ever lived who, at least as a child, didn’t dream of sailing through the sky with only his “wings” to lift and guide him. Even today, I have to admit that the ability would be both frightening and thrilling.
And so, the crowd watched the eagles, and oohed and aahed as they circled and swooped through a clear but slightly breezy sky. As they grew closer, some folks commented on the rarity of seeing a pair of the few eagles living in the canyon and at our good fortune at being this close. I held my peace and waited for the inevitable.
Finally, someone with binoculars realized that we were watching turkey vultures, instead of eagles. The oohes and ahhes turned to ewws and yucks as everyone quickly lost interest in the still graceful fliers. I raised my bottle of soda pop in a silent toast to the two birds that had put on a beautiful performance. I couldn’t help but look with disgust on the fickle crowd that now pretended to never have been so foolish as to admire a pair of vultures.
In my mind, they were no better than pretentious idiots who went from cheering a ballerina for a flawless performance to booing her, when they noticed a wart on her nose. Such is mankind. © 2014