We were surrounded by hawks and I was reading a book called H is for Hawk. I marvelled at the wildness around me while the narrator recoiled at the wildness she discovered within. Our day was fraught with coincidence it seemed.
We had stopped at the end of Goose Lake road to get cell service and were searching eBird for possible sightings of sandhill cranes overnighting in fields when a rusty Ford pulled up beside us.
“How’s the road?” asked a guy sporting the kind of beard hipsters only wish they could grow although he made it famous long before the term was coined.
“Oh, it’s good,” Gary replied. “Grader was up there yesterday. There’s a few cherries in spots but otherwise-it’s good.”
Impressive beard man sized us up then raised his eyebrows as he noticed Gary’s camera; we offered that we were looking for sandhills.
“Well, you’re on the wrong road then,” he stated. He then told us exactly where to go to find the birds. The directions were lengthy and rapid; we must have looked confused.
“C’mon,” he said. “I’ll show you.” And he ripped off down the road with us in pursuit. He drove faster than a greased ape-at least that seemed like an expression he might use. I barely had time to start worrying about following a stranger lord knows where…
Eventually, he took us to the end of a driveway where he said he was sure they’d let us search but he had to get back to his place to keep track of Abner who weighed about 800 pounds and didn’t get around too good. I pictured an infirm brother for a few minutes till he brought out some photos and here was Abner the pig, posing beside his buddy.
“He just showed up under my dog one day,” he said.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “Good story.”
Abner was indeed huge-800 pounds huge. Then Ford man jumped in his truck and said, “C’mon in- I’ll introduce you.”
And we followed (with me praying, “Please don’t let your last name be Pickton.”)
There was a lovely woman at the house-all alone on a cattle ranch-five daughters and one husband later-over from Austria as a girl, living first in Pincher creek Alberta near some Hutterites whose houses she and her siblings migrated to at mealtimes-oh, they made lovely food.
Anyway, our crane whisperer had to go look after his pig so we visited with the rancher and got the lowdown on the cranes who just happened sometimes to land in the pond behind her house. We were welcome to come wandering that evening or the next day.
“Stop in anytime,” she said to two people she’d just met. My fears about our guide dissolved somewhat.
Later that day we returned but saw no cranes. We did, however, get a call from Gary’s work dispatcher as we were sitting in the same cell range spot on Goose Lake Road.
“See those trailers down there?” he asked. “I lived in one of those for three years.”
“Oh, you know Fred then?”
“Yep. He still got that monster pig? It just wandered into his yard as a piglet one day, laid itself down next to his dog-never left.”
“Oh, so it’s true,” I thought. I guess it had to be. How do you make that stuff up?
Could you make up a story about hunting for sand hill cranes and then meet a guy who knew a lady who used to live in Austria but now ranches in Kamloops on a place where sandhill cranes land in a pond that dries up about three days after the cranes fly north?
Maybe, but I didn’t.
PS-the cranes in this shot were on another ranch. We never did see any where we thought we would but it hardly mattered.
Photo by Gary Sobchak