There is a section of Grant’s Trail in St. Louis (mile marker 1 on the map) where a biker or walker (and sometimes a blader) is almost guaranteed to see wildlife, and not just rabbits or squirrels. One summer a nice seven-foot long king snake slowly meandered its way across the trail, pausing long enough to stop foot and bike traffic in both directions. Then there was a family of wild turkeys – two grown birds and several chicks. I slowed and then stopped, just watching the two grown birds herd the kids across the trail. And there’s the herd of deer that inhabit the stretch. I’ve seen them from some distance down the trail as they quickly crossed; fairly close as three of them, as close as five feet away, stood and watched me bike by, and once when several suddenly darted across the trail, right in front of me.
I braked hard. It’s bad enough to hit a deer if you’re driving a car. Hit one when you’re biking, and you, not the bike, will sustain most of the damage.
There was also the time on the Katy Trail, a stretch in St. Charles County near St. Louis that’s heavily wooded but adjacent to the Missouri River. I was biking by myself, when I heard a huge rustling in the tree limbs overhead. The next thing I knew, what caused the rustling was flying alongside me, and we continued together (once I resumed breathing after the shock) until it rose and soared off toward the river. “It” was an American bald eagle; I could have reached and almost touched the tip of its wing next to me.
Over at the High Callings Blogs, we’ve now finished week 8 of our discussion of Gerald May’s The Wisdom of Wilderness. And a family of wild turkeys and a bald eagle are characters in this chapter. The turkeys seem to serve as a digression for May, and how Benjamin Franklin wanted to have the turkey as America’s national bird. But his eagle story – when an eagle flew straight at him as he was in a boat -- resonated. He dodged that eagle, but along came a second one. And both did exactly the same thing – attempted to defecate on him.
Despite the funny story about the eagles, of the eight chapters we've read so far, this one has the least to recommend it. It begins with a veer toward a rant about rejecting the “dominion” over nature God gives man, as recorded in Genesis. (And this is one of the reasons May rejects the inerrancy of Scripture.) This is a point at which the book is beginning to show its age – there’s been a huge development in Christian thought about nature and the environment in recent years, and what “dominion” actually means. And it’s not “plunder and pillage,” but more like “use and be good stewards.” And the chapter finishes with the eagle story. I’m not sure where May was going.
But the eagle story is funny.