It was a few days after my beloved Mary had passed away that my two grown sons and I, with rakes and clippers in hand, entered my back yard to do some landscape trimming and clean-up. For three long months, my wife, their mother, had struggled to survive in a distant hospital, and I was literally living the entire time at her bedside, unable to keep up with maintenance problems at home. In the weeks preceding her death, she was almost fully paralyzed, having only partial use of one arm.

The boys and I were outside only a few seconds when I spotted the large bird sitting on the grass. It was a sandhill crane, my wifeís favorite bird, a rare visitor to the yard. Only a few months before this, Mary had been bringing the mail in, while a stately crane stood fearlessly by the mailbox. I snapped a photograph of the comical encounter. The birdís mate was a few yards away, poking its long beak into the lawn.

In fact, it is very unusual to see a solitary sandhill crane. From what I have observed, they seem to travel in pairs. One day, we enjoyed the sight of a pair of adults with two small and fuzzy chicks walking through the back yard. I remember calling my wife to see the parade, and she was delighted. We sometimes heard their raucous cries and looked up to see them fly overhead to and from the adjacent golf course.

Even more unusual than finding the bird alone, never before had I seen a sandhill crane in a vulnerable seated position. For ten minutes or more, the three of us cut shrubbery and raked brush, sometimes within three feet of the resting and unperturbed bird. Although it didnít take its eyes from us, neither did it move away, or appear a bit nervous in human company. Instead, it seemed to be rather attentive to our task.

Eventually, the lovely bird rose to its full height. It was then I noticed that it only had the use of one limb, like my wife in her final days. The other leg, was tucked high under its belly. Falteringly, it began its one-legged run to build up speed, and then we watched it gracefully take to the air with flapping wings spread wide, climbing higher and higher, alone in mid-afternoon flight.


© By Richard McCusker (RickMack) (





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