The Great Pelican Rescue, Part 1

Have you ever had something happen that is so exciting you can't help telling everyone you see about it? These are events that deserve to be memorialized in story form. You may eventually want to embellish the written account with metaphor, dialog or other literary devices, but the most compelling account may be the one you spontaneously dash off at the first opportunity, without any editing. In fact, an e-mail account can serve nicely, at least as a first draft, to the memorialize such an event.

Last week I had such an experience during an Elderhostel about and in the Everglades, and this is the account I sent:
I'm so excited — we helped rescue a pelican that had a large fishing plug stuck in the tendon along the front of its upper right wing. We were walking along the boat slips behind the hotel, and a fellow was casting bait in the water. A pelican was lurking around, eyeing the bait. As we took pictures, we noticed something in its wing that we thought was a wildlife marker. The fisherman explained that it was a plug, and that he was trying to catch the pelican so he could get the plug out. Unfortunately grabbing it with bare hands hadn't worked, so he was switching to a hook baited with eight ounces of raw fish. Of course we hung around to watch, along with another couple from our group.

The pelican swooped down and bit at the bait he was teasing it with, but the hook didn't stick. Just then a ten-foot alligator glided over under the water. The second time the pelican swooped for the bait, the alligator leapt out of the water, with jaws wide open. The pelican took off, evading the alligator's snapping jaw by a couple of feet. That gator had its whole head out of the water — about three feet.

The gator disappeared, and the fisherman kept toying around with his bait (a large hunk of fish, not at all subtle). Finally the pelican got brave and swooped back in. This time it worked. He was hooked. The fisherman reeled him in like a huge fish, reaching down to grab him by the head to pull him up out of the water. The pelican was scared silly and flapping all over. The fisherman held the beak shut and covered the pelican's eyes. That's when we sprang into action. We each held a wing tight while the fisherman tried to work the hooks loose. Two large hooks were caught in the front area of the upper wing. They were really stuck. He couldn't get the job done with one hand, so another Elderhosteler held the beak and eyes so the fisherman could finish the job. He said he's worked on bird rescue for a long time, even handling bald eagles. If he didn't get the plug out, it would get infected and the bird would die. He finally did work it out.

Then he took the bird again. He folded the head in close to the body and held the wings tight, then tossed it into the air toward the water. The bird took off, but didn't go further than the dock about fifty feet away. It was joined there by another pelican that seemed to be its mate. They stood there longer than we did, basking in the sun. I'm sure that bird was happy to have that nasty thing out of its wing.

What excitement! Seeing that gator jump for the pelican, and then getting to actually hold a wild pelican. Nobody ever gets to do that!
I may eventually rewrite this story, incorporate it in a larger account of the trip or some other piece, or expand on it in a personal essay, but if that never happens, at least I have this much. I'll write more about this in my next post.

Write now: about some exciting event that recently happened to you. It doesn't have to be high adventure involving wildlife or wild life. It may be as quiet as seeing the first daffodil pushing its head above the frozen ground, bringing hope and joy after a difficult and depressing winter. The important thing is that it had meaning to you, and was something you felt like telling people about.

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal

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