Last week, ravaged by pink eye, I lay in bed, scarce caring whether I lived or died. Only Hilda, my toothless old Mother, bothered to bring me food and quinine. When, at last, my strength began to return, Hilda brought me my computer. With her old, red gums clashing she told me she had found me wildlife pictures to aid in my recovery, just like she used to do when I was a child and came down with the scurvy. Mine was a poor childhood, without even Vitamin C to fortify me for the twenty-mile uphill trudge — both ways — to school through the driving blizzards. Often I was lost for weeks at a time.
In the days of renewed vigor following my illness, I learned from the computer of the results of two wildlife photography contests which, with my increasing energy I am now able to tell you about by weakly click-clicking away on this keyboard.
In the first contest, run by the Museum of Natural History in far off London, a place I could only dream about during my poverty-encrusted childhood out on the endless prairies, Rob Palmer of Colorado, USA, won for this photo of a Bald Eagle snatching a Red-winged Blackbird out of the air. We’ve told you before about Palmer who is one of our favorite photographers of birds.
Palmer’s photo wasn’t the only bird photo that won a prize. Several others were also winners. Here is one from Finland, a place almost as cold and dark in the winter as my childhood home. That is a wolf approaching some carrion, driving Ravens and Magpies from his path. I remember the wolves howling as they tried to run me down when I plodded home from school during dark evenings.
I often shared my childhood home in the cliffs above the Yukon River with Peregrine Falcons. Shivering there in the cold, I wished they would share their kills with me, but they never did, so I existed on rutabagas. Over in England a single Peregrine can cause panic among thousands of starlings, as in this photo. The falcon is out of the photo on the left but you can see the wave of starlings departing.
Another prize winner, this one from France, reminds me of my childhood home deep in the Everglades. Every so often I could take my eyes off the water-moccasin infested swamp long enough to glance into the trees where I would be rewarded with a glimpse of a woodpecker. Like this photograph, that was long ago, when the world itself was still only in black and white, not like now with all the pretty colors.
Finally, my strength begins to wane — I’m not the man I once was you know — I leave you with another of the London prize winners. This one doesn’t have a bird in it at all, but I include it because it reminds me of the jackals on the African savannah that used to hunt me as I slogged across the endless Serengeti on my way to school each day.
If I live long enough, we’ll be back next time with the winners of the other photo contest.
Congratulations to Rob Palmer. And, here is a hint about the next contest we’re going to cover; Palmer won that one too.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice the shameless plagiarism of E.B. White in the first three and a half sentences. Most of that was lifted from his essay, “Fierce Pajamas” which you can find in The New Yorker book of the same name at page 7. I stole the idea of simply lifting somebody else’s sentences — just to get started, you understand — from Steve Martin’s “Writing is Easy!” in the same book.