I was around twelve years old and out in our cornish fields on my pony Sally. (Dad used to call her ‘Old Sallach’). I saw a sparrowhawk fluttering in the grass. I slithered down, gathered it up, and gently cradled it in my coat. I expect its wing was broken. Making my way back to the farmyard with Sally trailing at the end of the reins. Dad was mending the tractor up by the milking parlour. I offered the injured bird to him. Without a word, he laid it’s head on a tractor tyre and walloped it with the spanner he was holding.
I was shocked. Having read all those lovely stories of grateful animals nursed back to health in cardboard boxes, I thought he would have been sympathetic, and we would have made a plan together. Maybe later I would have trained it to hunt, and written a book called ‘H is for Hawk’. Dad’s solution was probably for the best, but I remember that moment of disconcerting disconnect. Now looking back I see the difference in our cultural backgrounds. He from the early twentieth century closer to the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ having to make a tough living from the land, milking cows before school, shooting rabbits for food and tying carrion to fence posts. Me nearly half a century on, cushioned by Enid Blyton, music lessons and a warm pony.
I kept a stiff yellow leg from that feathery little creature in my blazer pocket for years. A muddled idea of a powerful good luck charm. Its talons were quite spiky.