One of the people I interviewed during the course of writing the story was a young apprentice falconer named Lauren McGough.
What was extraordinary about Lauren was she was only fourteen at the time and she was a girl in an incredibly demanding pursuit that is practiced primarily (with apologies to all the falconers out there) by old(er) men. And for good reason (the age part, anyway. Gender, of course matters not...)
You see, you can't just decide to become a falconer. Here's how I described it in the article:
"Like all top-echelon predators, birds of prey fascinate us in ways other animals simply can’t. Not only is their method of hunting hypnotic in its beauty and frightening efficiency, birds of prey seem to wear an air of languid superiority as comfortably as they wear their feathers.
Simply put, we love to watch them. By virtue of their very haughtiness, they demand our attention. And we, as spellbound, earth-bound subjects, always give it.
Whether you’re watching from a quarter-mile away through a pair of binoculars or a distance of three feet, the first thing you notice are the eyes. Disconcertingly intense and unmistakably wild, those twin wells of unfathomable depth don’t merely look past you, they penetrate you. In one cold, perfunctory glance, you’ve been sized up, found to be of no real consequence and then simply disregarded.
But there is a small group of Oklahomans that takes our Earth-bound fascination with birds of prey beyond passive observation and into a realm of interaction and cooperation few have the opportunity to witness and even fewer have the dedication to achieve.
These individuals have learned how to fly - vicariously, anyway - by learning how to live and hunt with birds of prey.
Falconry is at once art, science, history and lifestyle. And to be successful, its practitioners say, you have to apply all qualities equally.
Perhaps that’s why there are fewer than 100 practicing falconers statewide. Not only is it the most highly-regulated sport externally, due to a maze of state and federal regulations, the unique demands of the sport are such that anything less than total commitment is doomed to failure.
That’s why the one overriding truth of falconry is there is no such thing as a casual falconer.
To become one, a person must first pass a comprehensive test covering everything from biology to care and handling to pertinent laws and regulations. They must then build housing facilities and purchase certain equipment that must be inspected and approved by a state inspector. They must then purchase all the necessary state and federal licenses.
And that’s the easy part. By law, all beginning falconers must be apprenticed to a licensed falconer for their first two years, and if you haven’t made an honest assessment of why you want to be a falconer in the first place, you can be sure that the person you ask to be your sponsor will do just that."
But here was this fourteen-year-old girl with a red-tailed hawk on her fist taking on the kind of responsibility and commitment that very few adults, much less a teenager, could handle.
At any rate, Lauren was a good interview and I left thinking she'd have no problem making it through her apprenticeship and becoming a falconer.
That ended up being a wee bit of an understatement on my part...
Apparently Lauren has gone on to bigger things (much bigger) and more exotic places (much more exotic) than red-tails and Oklahoma. And she's a damn good writer, to boot.
http://www.aquiling.blogspot.com/ via Steve Bodio's blog http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com/
Now that, folks, is impressive as hell.