The Hawk and the Hare
© Copyright 2021 by Christine Stevenson
Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash
This story is 100% truth. It was a once in a lifetime moment between me and my overly-active-with-wildlife neighborhood. Large birds from hawks to buzzards hung around my home in South Carolina. It never bothered me until it had a reason to.It was 5 years ago. The day was a dull kind of sunny, meaning the sun was out but large clouds got in its way frequently. Which was probably why it had taken me so long to notice anything was off.
I had let my pet rabbits, El Feo and Ruby, out on the back porch. I’ve done it often to give them fresh air and a space to play, they loved it. More so when I would opened the door for them to cruise around the backyard.
Now, in life, I would off and on see large birds flying around houses away. It was typical stuff, whether at home or going to the market or somewhere. So I thought nothing of it. Why would I? Then it happened…
That day, I let the rabbits out onto the porch and opened the door, should they want to play in the yard. For an hour they remained on the porch, I could hear them moving about from inside where I remained doing little chores here and there. Walking back and forth through the kitchen I looked out the back window when I noticed movement in the yard. I opened the curtain to keep a better eye on them, they liked to sneak off sometimes, plus I liked to watch them because they play so cutely.
At some point when I was washing the dishes I noticed they were acting somewhat weird. It looked as though they were racing but with a.. purpose. And even more strange was when “racing" I saw Feo kick his back legs up in the air like he wanted to hit something. Then I saw what it was. A hawk. A large one. It swooped past in a blur going after Feo. I dropped the dish in my hand and quickly bolted outside!
I stepped on sticks and hidden pebbles, but I did not let it register to distract me as I swished my hands this way and that to distract the bird from its lunch goal. But it was near impossible when it went after one rabbit then the other. It was fast, far faster than me. And whichever I'd protected it went for the unguarded. And with the rabbits panic running about I didn't know what to do, because they would not go onto the porch and I couldn't leave one to get the other to safety. It was a living version of that story where you decide which to take from one of three predatory animals across a river to avoid them eating each other when left behind. But there was no answer!
I could only go after the bird in hopes that they would know to run to safety once the flying stalker was momentarily detained. It went high up, then dove down at them, I could feel the wind from its flapping wings. I was ready to grab it by the legs and swing it about like a Ferris wheel if I had to. I didn't like the idea of hurting a wild animal just to save my pets but there was no other choice. And I might have had to. Running along, I saw from my peripheral it had lowered itself placing us side by side, it's great wings were eye-line to me. I knew I'd get attacked if I grabbed, but that was the opportunity I had waited for. I reached out and snagged the tip of it's wing! But my fingers slipped on the smooth feathers and let it loose.
The bird was startled enough to go upwards for a moment. I felt my heart racing, I had reached my limit with sporadic movement. Let it be over, I begged.
From the corner of my eye I saw that Feo had run up onto the porch, but I couldn't see Ruby. Had she gone inside? I didn't know. I walked close to the porch and glanced inside for a ball of black fur, but she wasn't there. The hawk gave up on the rabbit who'd gotten away and soared towards the other! I looked for a rock as quick as I could glance for one, but there was nothing! Dashing after the pair, I was too late! It picked her up! I shouted “No!” and kept running on. By the grace of something divinely on my side, Ruby thrashed so much that the hawk dropped her mid elevation. I hurried ahead and scooped her up.
I was so out of breath as I ran for the porch that I nearly dropped Ruby, who was so terrified she writhed around in my arms cutting me on the side of my body and along my forearm with her toe nails. I held her as tightly as I could, and finally was able to slam the door on the whole ordeal.
I collapsed to the wooden floor, the dust, rabbit fur and occasional droppings not even registering. I just wanted to cry. I could imagine how they must have felt they might have been chased the entire time I was cleaning the house. I sat there for five minutes catching my breath, my wits, and making sure they wouldn't die of a sudden heart attack. All the while the hawk's shadow just spun lazy circles around the yard giving away where it was. Threatening that it would stick around, as if mocking my credibility of authority to keep my pets safe.
When I finally stood up, I wrangled the panicked pair back into their cage then brought them inside to ensure double the safety.
I never forgot that day in the days that followed. As for the hawk, it didn't seem to forget either. Not where the house was nor the reason it was invested. It was smart enough to wonder when I would slip-up, let out the free-range lunch and dinner. Because once in a while when I let them out onto the porch I would see it's shadow sail by.