My grandson and his fiancée have gone to the birds – and I drove them. They had a chance to attend an Introduction to Falconry seminar. Both interested in exotic pets, she can use it toward a career as a vet’s assistant, or in an animal clinic.
Held in a tiny Ontario village, slightly smaller than Justin Bieber’s washroom, and just back of beyond, I volunteered to drive them. Based on his original destination, I used MapQuest to give me a map and driving instructions. It wasn’t there! He called the night before, to confirm, and give me the correct address. I beseeched MapQuest again.
It wasn’t till I’d printed the second set, that I noticed a note on the screen stating, “We can’t find the exact address. This is an approximate location.” I asked for 2133 Centre Rd. MapQuest showed 967 to 1003 Centre Rd. Then why can’t you find 2133? Hello, Mr. Google. Can you get me a map? Sure! And a street view, and driving instructions shorter by 4 Km. for not having to drive toward town, and then back out. With the third set, we confidently set off.
They almost didn’t get to go. With just a week left till the deadline, the group had only three registrations, and thought they’d have to cancel. Suddenly the floodgates opened, and they ended with over thirty visitors. The kids spent an enthralling day, getting all kinds of information, and visiting with the likes of a Kestrel, a Tawny Owl, and a Red Tailed Hawk.
I hadn’t even got out of my car before I learned a new word. The car directly opposite me had custom licence plates that read Perlin. A quick Smart Phone check, and the grandson informed me that it was a cross between a Peregrine Falcon, and a Merlin. A car in the row behind me had “Peregrns” custom plates.
Aside from my car, there were four in the parking lot from Kitchener, a 40 minute drive. Someone used a car-share vehicle to come another half-hour, from Bieber’s hometown of Stratford. One car was from Coburg, almost 300 Km. to the east. That was the longest drive. There was a young woman from Thunder Bay, 1800 Km. north and west, but she flew down (in an airplane, silly) and was ferried by one of the club members. Apparently interest in Falconry raises some strong determination.
It raises some other feelings too, at least among the females of the club. One instructress had seven studs/rings in one ear, and five in the other, including lobe danglers with dime-sized discs, etched with her Screech Owl. One had a Snowy Owl tattooed on the inside of her right bicep, and her Red-Tailed Hawk on the left. A third had a full-sized tattoo of her Red-Tailed Hawk’s red tail feather from inside her left elbow, to inside her wrist.
This is horse territory, with two Dressage farms, and two ranches raising and training sulky race horses, trotters and pacers. The property of the 1866 brick school, which is now the community center, backed up to one on the cross-road. After the kids went in, I spent 45 minutes talking to a local resident who boards his horse there. A year younger than me, he came from up-country, not far from my home town. We didn’t find anyone we knew in common, but did know villages and streets, shops and schools.
He’s not impressed with our local Mennonites, who often buy failed race horses, to use to pull buggies and wagons. These Children of God are well-known to starve horses, or drive them till they drop, or freeze them in blizzards, just to attend “Holy Services.” He was complaining to another owner, up from Pennsylvania. The puzzled visitor wanted to know what “Mennonites” were. He thought for a second, and said, “Amish.” The American said, “Oh yeah, ours do that too.”
There’s a lot of money in the area, evidenced by stone gates that probably cost more than my house, and houses that cost more than my entire neighborhood. One manor house was so far back from the access road, that it couldn’t be seen.
It was a beautiful sunny, warm day. There must be a bicycle-riding club nearby. All day, hundreds of motorcycles and bicycles streamed by, up and down the gently rolling hills, including one racer-style tandem bike, being pumped along by a him-and-her team. I never saw horses anywhere but on their farms, but, when traffic’s light, there was a sign showing that they use the main road for exercise.
The grandson paid for gasoline, and my time, although I donated that for free. He offered me $10 if I wished to go somewhere to score a lunch. I declined, having had a solid breakfast. I needed fresh air to clear my lungs, some sunshine, and exercise to take off some of the excess I’ve already eaten. While they hung out with some flighty characters, I went for a walk.
When the drivers/trainers take their horses and carts out, they often take along some “liquid refreshment.” I wonder if you can be charged with DUI in a horse cart? Not far down the road, I spotted an empty beer can in the ditch. Worth a 10 cent refund in Ontario, I picked it out, stomped it flat, and jammed it in a back pocket.
I hadn’t gone a quarter-mile before I had to go back to the car for a shopping bag. The pocket was crammed, and I now had 6 bottles. I walked a half-mile to the next road, crossed over to the other side, and started back. Halfway back I had to go to the car again, and dump the stuffed bag, so I could go back and collect a trove. Later, shorter walks up each of the other three legs of the X gained me lesser amounts.
My “get exercise and clean up the environment” project netted me just over $15.00. I turned them in at the Beer Store, at my end of the nearby plaza, and walked to the bank at the other end, and bought some more American cash for a hoped-for trip to Ohio in October.
It was a wonderful day for both the kids and I. After my day-long sojourn in the sun, I returned to the house with face, neck and arms the color of a Coca-Cola can. Yee-haw, I’m an honorary redneck. I slathered on the silver-based burn cream the doctor insisted I needed, and woke the next day with no itch or pain, just the beginnings of a great tan, and lots of fond memories.