The Eagle Has Landed… Sort Of

Another of my pet peeves is when you’re driving, NOT on your cellphone, texting, or otherwise distracted, and an animal runs out in front of you.  The other day, I was driving on a rural highway, going about 55 MPH.  There were a couple of cars in front of me but no one behind me.  I was minding my own business, when out of the blue, two crows flew up out of the tall grass to my right and took off across the street right in front of me.  Needless to say, one of them swooped down in front of me, and I hit it.  I was mortified!  It was completely unavoidable on my part, though the crow could’ve either waited until I passed, or he could have flown higher.  At any rate, I felt horrible and had nightmares for days!

This brings us to my Throwback Thursday story which also ties into tomorrow being Independence Day.  Kind of.  When I was a kid back in the 70s, the Bicentennial was a MAJOR deal all over the country. There was even a bicentennial quarter issued in 1976.  There were parades all over the nation for the Fourth of July, and just about everyone had at least one bald eagle sculpture in their home.

The bald eagle, of course, is our national emblem.  And in the 70s, it was also an endangered species.  Needless to say, bald eagles were a HUGE deal back then.  They were in the news, it was nearly unheard of to ever see one, and it was a felony to put one in harm’s way.

So in the late 70s, when I was eight or nine, one of my stepdads picked me up so I could go spend a few days with my brother.  My brother and I were in the backseat as we rode along a rural highway.  Back then, it was also common for cars to either not have seatbelts or for people to not wear them even if they did.  As we drove along, my stepdad pointed out the front window and said, “Look!  A bald eagle!”

My brother and I both stood up and squeezed in between the front seats then watched out the front windshield.  The eagle was magnificent!  It was so beautiful as it glided along on its outstretched wings.  It flew in circles and loops, and my stepdad, my stepmom, my brother, and I were in awe as the brilliance of our nation’s emblem was showcased.  Everything my brother and I had ever only seen on television shows or in books was alive right before our eyes.  I’ll never forget the brightness of its yellow talons and beak, the silky, snow white feathers on his head, and its beautiful, deep chocolate brown, streamlined body as it flew.  It was like a private nature show being broadcast just for us.

As my brother and I stood, frozen with wonderment as we admired the bird’s grandeur, our mouths were open, and our hearts thumped loudly.  “Wow!  Look at that!” we said in unison as if it were rehearsed.

The eagle did a couple of loops, and it was as if it were performing just for us.  But just when we thought our performance was nearly over, there was a surprise ending.  The eagle apparently spotted our car.  “Look, here it comes!” my stepdad said as he pointed.

“It’s coming!” my stepmom shrieked.

My brother and I were speechless as we stood inches from the “screen” and watched our private documentary turn into a real life 3-D Alfred Hitchcock nightmare!

Both my brother and I screamed, yet we were too paralyzed to move.  The bald eagle headed straight for us… and flew right into the windshield of our car!  The windshield cracked, blood and feathers smeared on the glass, and our endangered national emblem was dead!

(And, yes, in case you’re wondering, this story is 100% true.)

So, tell me… Were you expecting THAT ending?  Do you remember the Bicentennial?  What special thing did your town do for July 4, 1976?  Do you have any big plans for this weekend?

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39 thoughts on “The Eagle Has Landed… Sort Of

  1. Only you, Rachel. Only you could turn the most beautiful memory ever into the great American nightmare. Unbelievable. Couldn’t a quick turn from the eagle by made? I’m not blaming your stepdad or saying he should have steered you into a ditch. Just wondering out loud. Hitchcockian, indeed.

    By the way, I’ve hit three deer with tree separate cars, all of them dashing off the median into the driver’s door. I cursed all three, but didn’t blame them. What did they know? And they died and I lived.

    Yes, the Bicentennial. My father was so into it! He was talking about it for weeks ahead of time, saying we were going to go to Port Jefferson to watch the big boats come in that afternoon, telling my mother to plan a big barbecue. I asked him why he was so excited about this particular holiday. He said, “Mark, I know I’m not going to be around for the Tricentennial. And son, neither are you, so you better start getting more excited about this one, too.”

    • Well, to tell you the truth, he was probably too drunk to dive a straight line, much less make a needless swerve. I hate how the deer do that, especially when there is snow on the road. That’s my only complaint (besides the high cost) of living in NY, driving in the snow. Your dad sounds awesome! I can see why I like his son so much! 🙂

  2. Did you get any feathers? I remember 1976. I was in Greece, helping them fight the Turks over Cyprus. We had a big party for the 4th that lasted 3 days till they rounded us up and took us back to the base in a Shore Patrol Paddy Wagon.

  3. OH NO!! How traumatic! I hate when animals do that!!!! I totally am with you on the nightmare thing too. I always was a wreck whenever I hit anything. I’d think about the little chipmunk family waiting for their mom or dad to come home, O the beautiful bird who deserved a full life in the fields and air9 WHy Why in the middle of all that farmland must they wait til there’s a car to cross the road right then? Maybe some animal antidepressants needed in wild or glasses. My daughter told me at a family celebration dinner that she hit a deer a couple of weeks before. She;’s an adult- but expected I would freak out. I was so upset inside- knot in stomach. Just think we should go back to horses. And could be more work available for pooper scoopers.. Cities could use the manure for power (of course the building and manning of such plants with the income going to the cities as revenue) In the more rural or smaller towns a community manure site for gardening. Idk.But there’s something there!!! Blacksmiths…okay I likely am not joined much in that- but still think we’d go a ways towards helping environment- altho the techies probably can disprove that. Pop and my dream bubble bursts.

  4. Crazy birds. We had a glass wall at my in-laws and birds would fly into it and bash-dash their brains out. Now I have a screened back porch and they bounce off of it.

  5. This ending made me gasp. What a traumatic experience for you as a child, and one you still so vividly remember. I have seen bald eagles around here a few times. They live around the James River, and they really are a majestic sight. I carry on like an excited little kid each time I spot one.

    • I would do the same! I’ve only ever seen them at the zoo since then. I’d love to go to Alaska one day where I hear they are prevalent. I’d love to photograph them. 🙂

  6. No I certainly was not expecting that ending lol! It could only happen to you! Some people things just happen to!

    We have lots of wildlife in our garden. Last week, i watched my resident crow colony mob a bird of prey and drive it away from their nests. We often get hares, but today I saw the largest one ever run across my lawn… I’m not kidding, it was the size of a dog! And all summer, bunnies have been taunting my dog Indi, so much so that now he doesnt even bother chasing them, he just stares at them balefully… he knows he cant catch ’em!

  7. We painted all of the fire hydrants in town with patriotic themes. There was a contest to pick the best one. All the men in town grew beards. My dad looked like Abraham Lincoln.

  8. Wow, that would leave an imprint on you. I often have wallabies dart out in front of my car, especially at dusk. i haven’t hit one yet, but I see many dead on the side of the road, when we see this my husband and I check to see if there are any joeys in the pouch – none yet. If we can at least save its life it would help with the sadness i feel every time. i will tell you a funny story when i was a kid we were driving in nth/west NSW and an emu was running a long side our car looking in at us, it was so busy look at us that it failed to see the rock ahead and tripped over, he recovered, but it was the funniest thing I’ve seen.

    • Oh, no! That’s so funny! I’ve obviously only ever seen wallabies at the zoo, but they are so cute! How could anyone hit them with their car? Thanks for the cute story! 😀

  9. I remember painted fire hydrants and the tall ships during the Bicentennial.

    I have experienced a bird flying into my windshield. I was on my way to church and when a flock of birds left an adjacent corn field and flew across the road I was traveling. One didn’t make it in time, and hit the windshield. Like you, I felt horrible. Birds. They’ve got the sky and yet they fly into windshields. Go figure! 🙂

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