New Year’s Day Eagle

Yesterday I enjoyed the traditional Southern New Year’s Day dinner at my Grandpa’s house.  For you non-Southerners, dinner is the second meal of the day, following breakfast and preceding supper.  My Mama and her sister, my Aunt Kitty, prepared blackeyed peas, turnip greens, hog  jowls and cornbread (along with lots of other goodies).  According to Southern tradition, blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day means good luck for the coming year, and turnip greens mean you will have plenty of folding money.  As a kid I hated blackeyed peas, but on New Year’s Day my Mama would force me to eat at least one, as she was afraid I wouldn’t have good luck in coming year unless I did.  These days I love blackeyed peas and she doesn’t have to force me anymore.

I provided them with the hog jowls, but I’d forgotten to get them greens and peas from our farm.  So the peas came from a can and weren’t nearly as good as the ones we grew, which Cherie cooked for our supper yesterday night.   I was lucky to get the traditional New Year’s Day meal twice yesterday (but sans hog jowls the second time).  I reckon that means we’ll have a lot of luck and prosperity this year.

My Grandpa is a great man, from whom I learned many important lessons.   His father was many years older than his mother, and after his father went blind, my Grandpa essentially became the head of his household.  He was in the third grade at the time.  He carried a large family on his young shoulders, and saved the family farm during the Great Depression.  Then he raised a large family of his own, and taught them the virtues of hard work, personal integrity, thrift and faith.

Grandpa is a widower now and after a lifetime of working with his hands, he can hardly move around.  At great personal sacrifice, my Mama and her sister care for him, allowing him the dignity and peace of living at home in familar surroundings, rather than in a nursing home.  They live out the Fifth Commandment,  not because they’re commanded to, but only because they truly love and honor their father.

After enjoying a great meal in the company of family, I was driving home when a bald eagle swooped over the road and landed in a tree.  Cherie had told me that she saw one near our house recently, but I had never seen a bald eagle in the wild before.  I stopped the truck next to the tree and the eagle was no more than 20 yards away.  I really regret that I didn’t have a camera. It would’ve made a great photo.

It is amazing how much more wildlife there is here now than when I was a child.  Growing up here, it was very unusual to see a deer, for example.  Now they’re everywhere.  Only very rarely would one see a fox, a hawk or a wild turkey.  Now we see them frequently.  There is a great blue heron that hangs out at our pond.  I’d never seen one here until recently.  Among the wildlife that we now have, which didn’t live here when I was a kid, are Canadian geese, rattlesnakes, black bears and bobcats.  Some have reported seeing cougars, and Cherie and I are pretty sure we saw one shortly after we moved here.

Some of the increase in wildlife may be attributable to sprawl, which is forcing wildlife outside of its usual habitat.  I think development in the mountains, for example, is driving bears and rattlesnakes east.  Some may be attributable to climate change.  The much warmer winters we’ve been having (this one notwithstanding) may have caused the Canadian geese to decide to spend their winters here, rather than farther south.

But we can also credit the elimination of DDT and the more deadly pesticides that were commonly being used in the 1960s.  As is well known, DDT nearly led to the extinction of bald eagles.  The increase in the population of birds of prey may be because they aren’t being poisoned by us anymore.

Hopefully I’ll get a picture of one of the eagles someday.  When I do, I’ll post it on the blog.

I just hope they don’t like chickens.

Love Wins

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