Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

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No Cable for Us - by trekkyandy on Flickr Courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

No Cable for Us - by trekkyandy on Flickr Courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

“Come here,” he said, “I want to show you something.”

I put down the book I was reading, a book about dragons that were telepathically connected to their handlers, and I stood up to follow him. I had two favorite worlds; one of them spun from small type and imagination, the other a place of individual wonders narrated by my grandfather. I was always willing to trade one for the other.

I couldn’t always count on my grandfather’s world being less fictional than fantasy novels, however. After all, it turned out there really weren’t crabs that lived in the snow and charcoal didn’t actually grow on trees. None of this really mattered to me though, lines blurred and there was just as much magic in the symmetrical chambers of a paper wasp’s nest or a faint line of geese sounding impossibly near, heralding the way north.

“She’s up there,” he said. He pointed. The rickety rooftop antennae that normally funneled transmissions to the television below had collected a falcon. “She’s a peregrine.” He said this like she was a Cadillac, more expensive, attractive, better built than any other bird he had ever shown me. “And she’s a falconer’s bird.”

I don’t know how he recognized this after inspecting her, why he understood anklets and bells, why he also knew someone hunted ducks with her. He didn’t know any falconers. It may have been that he had just read A True Story of Friendship and Espionage by Robert Lindsey, about Christopher Boyce, the falconer who sold classified information to the Soviet Union and was convicted of spying. Boyce was local and his story captivated. Or perhaps it was 1980, Boyce fresh in my grandfather’s mind, having now escaped from Lompoc and proving that the meticulous mind of a falconer was also practical for orchestrating successful bank robberies. Seventeen of them to be exact. I can’t be sure, because my grandfather never told me about Boyce. His storyteller’s sensibilities kept him from spinning tales that were impossible to believe, even if they were true.

Instead, my grandfather told me about this bird’s falconer, how he lived, where he would hunt. He described how they worked together and the care he had to take to keep her flying and returning. He knew for a fact that she was just stopping over, on her way back to him. I believed every word.

I think there are stories that once heard, forever remain a whisper in your ear. They are always true in their own way. It doesn’t make a difference if they’re fiction.

You don’t recognize their power when you first hear them. I went back to my book after the falcon flew away. My grandfather returned to his saw, slicing pine, dovetailing wood pieces into the whole of whatever he was working on. Neither of us knowing he had shown me a fork in the road, given me a falcon to chase and that I would never be able to resist.


  1. Isaac says:

    Ha, dragons telepathically connected to their handlers? Anne McCaffrey perhaps? Used to be a big fan waaaaay back when…

    Not drastically different from the falconer/falcon relationship! 😉

    Great post.

  2. rebecca says:

    I kind of figured someone would catch that… nerds that the lot of us are… 🙂

    I suppose I can blame some of odd life choices on the dragonriders of Pern as well.

  3. Doug Potter says:

    I’m just glad we don’t have to worry about those darned ribbons falling from the sky.

  4. rebecca says:

    Well, shards!! Who knew that McCaffrey was required reading for future falconers? I’m gonna go slink off into my garage with 12-sided dice now and pretend I never outed myself.

  5. Lauren says:

    Great post, Rebecca.

    How funny! I suppose I must admit to McCaffrey as well. 🙂

  6. Joe says:

    Those voices are in my head from my father talking about ducks and upland game. Sometimes I have waited for birds to land in a pond as I watched them work in. My father speaking in my mind saying don’t move, don’t look up, easy….wait. I sometimes think my falcon can hear me saying that to him, wait for them to clear, wait…NOW. A side note, I went hawking with Boyce when he got out and moved back to the bay area. I didn’t know it when we met, only after we were in the field.

  7. I know Anne McCaffrey to, although I haven’t read any of her work in quite some time. So I guess I join the nerd team as well.

    The more I read about falconry the more fascinating I find it. I’d love to see some birds in action some time.

  8. rebecca says:

    Joe, you seriously hunted with Boyce? How cool. I mean, I’m sure he’s just another one of us, but he managed to stumble his way into falconry lore. I hope he’s having a good life now.

  9. Joe says:

    He is married now and living in OR from what I understand. Not sure what he is flying. When we met he was flying a HH and I was a little disappointed. I figured he should be flying a falcon (falcon & snowman..LOL). When I saw him a couple of weeks later he had trapped a prairie. He seemed like another falconer. I never asked him about the past and he didn’t talk about it. He went to the CHC meet that year but I don’t think anyone really knew who he was.

  10. Jamaica says:

    Lovely article, Rebecca. Your ability to keep it simple yet moving is a true talent.

    And though my husband never read McCaffrey, I convinced him to name two of his birds after dragons: Ramoth, a memorable female RT, and Mnementh, his 9 yo imprint tiercel gos.

    Thanks again for a good read.


  11. Another McCaffrey fan here. Busted.

    Lovely post, Rebecca.


  12. Doug Bristol says:

    Jamaica, CHC Jamaica? Ramoth? You mean the 53 oz Eastern RT? Her name was/is Rema. Thru Andy McBride, from a minister in the east. I flew her in 1983-84, she went to Aris Johnson, who later released her into the wild. She took 50 jacks for me first year and 51 in yr 2. Just returned from Spokane, WA, 17th annual Partridge Fest at the home of my sponsor. About 80 people, all about falconry. I understand Chris Boyce is in OR Thanks for the posting 🙂