I love to watch eagles soar. Not too long ago, two eagles, a male and a female, took off from the branches of a tree growing near twin little lakes on the road where we live.

I won’t name the road because some people seem to think all living creatures are fair game for them to kill, stuff, and mount on their walls. They do this with pride. It a way to show off their prowess as a hunter. I don’t happen to admire this “skill.” But this isn’t about my disliking hunting. It’s about my joy of watching wildlife in all their glory, alive and well.

When I was a kid and we lived in Kansas, my dad would take us out in the middle of nowhere — and there were plenty of “middle of nowheres” in that part of this vast county. He’d turn off the headlights of the car and drive slowly along a rutted narrow road through some farmland.

He always talked in a hushed tone. When he stopped in the pitch darkness, the first things I remember seeing were so many stars, gazillions of stars, some twinkling, some not. Those that didn’t twinkle were planets in our solar system. And you could see it, the Milky Way. It was glorious.

I remember us seeing one particular distant star making zig-zaggy motions before it zipped away. Daddy watched it intensely and later reported what we all saw. It wasn’t of our solar system, that’s for sure. No matter.

After we did a little more stargazing into what was a breathtaking panorama, my father turned on the car’s headlights and we were just amazed at what we saw then. What appeared to be thousands of golden eyes glowed back at us from the darkness of a wheat field. “Those are mostly jackrabbits, like Bugs Bunny,” my dad whispered.

They didn’t move and we could barely make out their forms. The darkness surrounding them just engulfed them with blackness. It was just the most extraordinary thing. I know that if we honked the car horn, those creatures would dash into the night, but we didn’t do that. My father always believed in respecting the lives of all creatures. He would never do that.

Once we finished seeing this bit of wonder, my father quietly started the car, and we slowly made our way out of this fantastic middle of nowhere. Be rest assured, we returned several times just to enjoy the quiet, serene darkness that seemed almost intoxicating.

Every place I’ve lived has offered an array of wildlife to enjoy. In Morocco, my sister and I, along with some friends, watched a pair of osprey build a nest on the top of a steeple in our little village where we lived. They worked tirelessly and helped each other.

Many birds mate for life; geese and others like them. If their partner is killed, the one who is left mourns for the rest of his or her life. Many times, they’ll die of grief. If you see a flock of geese or Sandhill cranes, the ones flying alone have more than likely lost their mate.

Our road is full of wildlife, especially birds. We often see two hawks perched on electrical or phone wires, looking for their lunch or dinner. It’s probably some hapless rabbit or field rat. Bill and I have seen them swoop down on something in the ditch below them and snatch them up. Now, this is real hunting. This is hunting in order to live. It’s not a sport to these critters. It’s because they are hungry.

Our children knew every nook and cranny of this land surrounding us. They wandered the hills and little valleys and sometimes ran across a fox den or some other creature’s home. They never bothered any of them. They were taught to live and let live.

Did you know that buzzards soar? They do, and they are every bit as majestic as eagles.

Back when our youngest son was still in his exploring stage, he liked to visit an abandoned old farmhouse across the road and down a dirt lane from out home. It was upstairs in this farmhouse that he discovered a mama buzzard and her babies. She actually got used to him coming for a visit. Her instinct told her that she and her babies weren’t in danger.

Buzzards are essential birds. No, up close, they aren’t too pretty. And they eat dead rotted things. But when they fly against the clouds, they are beautiful. They soar and swoop and look graceful and lovely. I like to think those in our area are the ancestors of the mama buzzard in that old farmhouse. She raised her babies well.

Coleen Brooks is a longtime resident of Gordon County. She retired as director and lead instructor for the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Adult Education Department in 2013. She can be reached at coleenbrooks1947@gmail.com.

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