Tag Archives: conservation

What Pegman Saw: What’s Left Behind

Kihonda Rice Fields
Frank Marwa | Google Maps

She was four days gone when he came upon her. A grand dame of a beast, perhaps forty, although it was hard to say without her tusks. Flies buzzed around the carcass like static from a distant station. He listened for movement. Hyenas had been at the place where her head had been, but something had scared them off.

He padded across the soft dirt, studying the story left behind the slaughter: a drag of flattened grass, a tusk gouge where they’d hoisted their dirty prize onto their truck, and the twin crocodile-skin of their tire tracks, heading west. And then he saw it—an elephant track half as small as the murdered cow’s. Somewhere, there was a calf.

He raised his head, neck taut, scanning the mancala of whistling thorn and baobab trees which stretched as far as the horizon. Maybe this time, he wouldn’t be too late.

149 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories about the prompt, click here.

Elephant calves will sometimes remain by the slaughtered mothers for up to five days before they succumb to starvation. The mission of the Ivory Orphans in Tanzania is to find and protect these orphans until they can be raised to adulthood.

Learn more:

Tanzania says elephant, rhino populations rebounding after anti-poaching crackdown

Elephant Orphanage to Open in Tanzania

Bald Eagle Appreciation Day

I’m in the weeds today, going totally off-topic. This has nothing to do with writing or publishing … I should have warned you I reserve the right to be random.

bald eagle- public domain imageI’m sure it’s marked on your calendar, but it’s Bald Eagle Appreciation Day. I don’t know what you’re planning to do to celebrate. Me, I think I’ll go for a ride and reflect on what it all means.

My second grade teacher was the one who told me. And who would question it – I’d read The Lorax, I wasn’t ignorant of the concept. So when my teacher told me bald eagles were going extinct, I believed.

“Your children will never see a bald eagle,” she said, waggling her head in pity for us.

Of course not. I’d never even seen a bald eagle, and undoubtedly never would. It was 1972 and bald eagles were going extinct.

Flash forward to the present, where on any given winter morning I can spot one in the fuzzy half-dark, making slow circles from dizzy heights as I cross the bridge into Czech town. Just about any weekend I can hop in the car, Noble Hamster riding shotgun and Twister in her booster seat, and we can ride the winding river road and spot a half-dozen. One on the ice, picking at a stolen carp, another perched at the tip of towering cottonwood and still another swooping close enough to count the feathers on the upturned tips of her widespread wings.

Each time we do this, I subject the kids to the story. They know it by heart but I’m helpless to stop. Just as I can’t crest the hill on Edgewood Road without hearing my grandmother’s voice say, “That’s where our old farm was” – my children are doomed to think of my second grade teacher whenever they see a bald eagle.

We almost lost them – the eagles that is – and that is where the story lies. The American symbol of supreme power and authority was nearly wiped out by poaching and pesticides.  At the lowest point there were only 417 nesting pairs left in the United States.

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, warning of the dangers of the chemical DDT. It didn’t happen overnight – in fact Carson was in her grave by the time that DDT was banned in 1972. But she started something, a wheel that continued to turn and by 2007, bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list. Wonder of wonders, I heard there are nesting pairs in Manhattan.

For me, this is where the bald eagle evolves into more meaningful symbol of America. Supreme power, especially at the height of the Cold War meant one thing. But supreme power in the context of this tale is a more glorious and far-reaching thing.

It started when people believed, took action and worked together.  A chain of people changed what seemed an unalterable course. That is the very best of us as a nation. Sure, we’re bold and mighty and brave. But what matters more than anything is that we, together, can make a difference. We can change the world; overcome even the most insurmountable obstacles and leave the world a better place for our children.

What better symbol can there be?