Sunday, January 22, 2012

How I came to be at the RMRP – Part I of IV – The Catastrophe

Today is the seven-year anniversary of an event that has had a huge impact on my life. It’s the story that has replayed itself in my mind a million times, but it took awhile to type it out…and not just because QWERTY keyboards were not designed for typists with eight talons.

It’s the story of how I came to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. It’s the story of how I came to be injured.

In the winter of 2005, I was a young bird, having only been out of the nest for a year and a half. My two voracious siblings and I had parted ways a long time ago, and I had been living a peaceful existence on my own since then. My territory was on the outskirts of Wellington, Colorado, farming country with lots of open fields and big cottonwoods.

The previous summer and fall had hosted thriving rodent populations, so I entered the winter season fat and happy. But the winter was harsher than I expected, and when the snows became deep and the rodents harder to find…well, I was getting hungry.

On the morning of my accident I was flying silently over snow-covered fields while the rising sun tinged the eastern skies orange and pink. Just as I approached a cluster of cozy-looking cottonwoods, I passed over a small two-lane highway and saw a raccoon that must have been hit by a car a few hours earlier. Since I’d spent the night fruitlessly searching for delicious mice to munch on, I wasn’t about to pass up a golden opportunity for free breakfast.

Banking hard, I curved around and descended toward the road, focusing hard on my upcoming meal. Just as I threw my wings back to brake for the landing, the world exploded.

I still am not clear on what happened that beautiful dawn morning. All I remember is the horribly close roar of tires on pavement, then a sunburst of pain that swiftly faded into a deep, black peace.

I don’t know how long I was unconscious on the side of the road. I remember glimpses of the sun rising higher and higher into a blue sky, then begining its descent towards the west. After that, all I have is flashes of images: a human standing over me, talking in low tones, then something dark and soft covering me; the feeling of being in an enclosed space that rocked and bumped and leaned; then being lifted through the air into the gloved hands of another Human.

I didn’t know it then, but I had landed at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program in Fort Collins, Colorado, and my life had changed forever.

To be continued...

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