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A Hawkish Summer

Story ID:5445
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Diary/Journal Entry
Location:Butte Montana USA
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A Hawkish Summer

A Hawkish Summer

A Hawkish Summer

A Hawkish Summer

A Hawkish Summer
by Kathe Campbell

As grand poobah of Broken Tree Ranch I remain perplexed and amazed after thirty years, the place ever lovely as I oversee it by myself at seventy-seven. No veggies or showy flower gardens for the deer to trash, just Mother Nature's miracles as she dresses herself stylishly year around. And those years are passing me by like a dose of salts while guzzling cappuccinos and baby talking kitties on my deck. I must quit thinking certain things will wait - for neither I or they may not. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's mine as I ride herd on the natives and tames, journal my observations, never knuckling under to slow rust.

The 2009 summer season brought a cold mountain with dreary rains and I'm afraid many of the deer, moose and elk fawns fell pray to hypothermia, for I sadly see few. The bluebirds were late settling into their boxes, even the hummingbirds waited until July and I feared their feeders and I might not welcome them at all.
Nearby the tree squirrels scold at fellow intruders, and a flock of mallards come quacking overhead, checking out the pond. Way off somewhere I hear the drone of my neighbors ATV as he tosses breakfast to three fancy, nickering, jumpers. One can set their watch by we long-time good neighbors, feeding at exactly eight and five throughout the year despite Farmer's Almanac predictions.

Finally, an 80 degree day. Laugh all you warm weather lovers, laugh, for I seldom experience anything past the 80s on my Montana mountain, and it suits me. Heat pervading this old chassis so full of rheumatoid brings on a deluge of loathsome sweats, so I savor June's late afternoon mizzles upon my beloved perch. Crisp air leaves a delicious balm so heaven-scent while staking out a dry spot to indulge in chardonnay(s), and listening to the donkeys scoffing grass hay.

Always something new on my horizon, this year I glass the Northern Goshawk mama sitting on her sorry looking twig nest in the old pine snag a tad over spittin' distance from my fence. The pine beetle had done the tree in years ago, and who knows why she chose this odd place to hatch a brood of peeping downies?

The annual July migration of elk that cross my place to their summer graze has left me with a few weakened fences and downed gates. I tell myself I wish they'd take another route, but each year I eagerly await their majestic selves wandering and feeding across open parks. A lone deer jumps up from tall grass near the west pasture as I head out to irrigate. My Keeshond, Corky, frenziedly snuffles it's still warm rest as the half grown spiked mulie springs over the fence, stops to stare at us, then disappears into shadowed woods.

There is green as far as I can see, tall grassy shoots at the pond, and wild flowers bend and weave in the soft breeze that wends it's way off the summit's snowy patches. It reminds me of the times the grandkids and I used to ATV up to the 10,000 foot pinacle atop Red Mountain in mid-summer. We tossed dusty snowballs from winter's remains and rolled and giggled in our shorts, doing our snow angel thing amid the wee, blue shooting stars.

After feeding his horses, my doctor races by kicking up a cloud of dust out on the road, no doubt headed for town early to check out patients at our hospital. And there goes Bernie, the Express Care doc, stopping a moment with camera in hand to check out the snag, both barreling down the Lime Kiln in their big duly outfits. I look down at my swollen and splinted finger he has just fixed, glad my troubles are few.

Upon the mountain side, green quaking aspen leaves glow with their twisting and rustling of color in a sudden gust, they too loving warm days. Grateful for Indian summers until Halloween before lending their final plummeting demise, I've seen a few first snows in both September and October. This year no exception - a small arctic blast in mid-August.

The cussed gophers are upon us again. Cute little faces or not, they create religious pastures. Corky hunts them down, but I must face it, my dog, who takes better care of me than I do, is not a hunter. Oh, he manages to grab one occasionally, but they've got his number while he sits over a hole and whines, love him. So I leave it up to fledging hawks that perch on the fences by the hour, watching them practice swoops and snatches with occasional luck. The pests will flee into their holes mid-August till spring, a most gratifying enigma.

Late August and I've watched dozens of mountain bluebirds, swallows, robins and mixed bag leaving my nesting boxes and perfectly built digs in the giant firs. My acres have been alive with lovely tunes despite the unmelodic jays and magpies that echo their eerie squawks against the ramparts. Parents did their job well, then tiny cheeps unfurled their wings and took to the air to discover God's perfect surroundings. Some disappear, but the homebodies glut on my big feeder always chockfull of black oiled sunflower seeds. Chickadees to woodpeckers, they'll feast and fight and remind me to fill 'er up, for their numbers will keep me company outside my kitchen window all winter.

An enormous flock of baby finches has discovered the long thistle feeder out at the pond. You can bet they'll not forget their cache as dozens flitter and feud over the tiny seeds. Their parents must have told them that the half-naked lady will keep their bellies full through blustery, white months. Somehow they don't seem to mind my bare feet, or the boxer shorts and tee getups.

Big things are going on out at the snag. I've waited all summer for hawk babes to leave the nest, frittering away my days eyeballing the unseemly rotten old tree. Like all expectant raptor parents awaiting the big day, I too wasn't about to miss half-grown maiden flights. I waited impatiently while hawk kids stood on nest's rim, flapping wings furiously through a morning mist, still crying to be fed on time.

Finally I see them, like the color of gun smoke they wash gray with white chest and belly feathers. Their eyes glow like embers and their feet tip with tiny daggers, a prey's worst nightmare. One or two seem to free-fall, then suddenly disappear behind the firs. Catching drafts, they circle and plummet, stretching wings to glide over forest and field while this old gal's heart races as they all return home safely - to be fed again. My Gawd! Next summer will be a wait and see year for my new digital to hone in on hawks.

September first, two young hummers drop in for drinks, then disgruntled they leave after sipping icky mold. Amazed that a hummingbird is still hanging tough after last week's little snow skiff, it only took me five minutes to clean a feeder and whip up a sweet delight. Not ready to scale the peaks and head south, they return in the early evening to relish pure nectar of the Gods while I dine beneath them on a salmon filet and fat baker. They, as well as all my feathered darlings, will remember this nice lady next year, they always do.

The old snag's hawk digs.
Beautiful crossbills in winter.
Mallards sneaking a bath.
Lots of places to glass it all.