THE SPORT OF FALCONRY


We stopped into a funky little store in Pescadero for an ice cream cone, and were surprised to see the young man behind the counter holding a hooded falcon on his hand. Never having seen a falcon up close and personal, we were fascinated with the creature. The young man was a member of a falconry club and introduced us to his feathered friend as long as we kept our distance, which I was happy to do after taking a look at his extremely long and sharp toenails.

Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry by means of a trained bird of prey. The art of falconry may have begun some 4,000 years ago in China or Mongolia as the falcon was a symbolic bird of ancient Mongol tribes. Traditional falconry knowledge probably spread into Europe during wars in Arabic countries. Today, there are falconry clubs all over the world.

In nomadic societies like the Bedouin, it was not practiced for recreation. Instead, the birds were trapped and hunted on small game during winter months in order to supplement a very limited diet.

Finishing our ice cream, the young falconer told us that ‘If he doesn’t feel like hunting, he won’t. People think birds like to fly, but they only do it to get something to eat.’ That may be true, but I still like to think the small birds visiting our birdbath are having a good time.


“The King’s Falconer” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

This painting of the falcon and his uncompromising companion was done from a black and white photo of my aunt and uncle, who lived in Saudi Arabia for many years.

BARBEQUED RATTLESNAKE?


One of my grandsons is a wildlife biologist.  They say you can tell what sort of job a person is suited for when they are children.  Well, we should have known about this one when he drove off for college with fishing and hunting gear loaded into his small grey truck.  They didn’t have an ocean in the state where he aimed so there was no need for a surfboard.  But life is good anyway.

He hunted often in the hills near his home, so there should have been no surprise when his parents arrived home one afternoon to find the skin of a six foot rattler drying in the bright Southern California sunshine and firmly attached to their fence.  Since this was not part of the normal garden decor, they naturally sought the new designer.  He was found in the person of their ten year old son who was happily starting a fire in the barbeque pit preparing a rattlesnake picnic for friends.  He and a young friend had come upon this squirming monster under a discarded sheet of corrugated metal on the side of the hill, and being of curious nature and “just happening” to have brought along a homemade snare, they had captured their unwilling  prey.  After an agreeable time on the grill, they both agreed that it tasted like chicken.