Ups and Downs
By Dan Sprague
Since my first human-led crane migration project in 1996, I have learned there
is only one thing that is entirely predictable: there will be ups and there will
be downs. I've spent sleepless nights in the bird trailer bunk being knocked silly
by raging windstorms and deafening hail in southern Wisconsin--the cost of which
was one very special flock mate and a champion among birds. I've seen our first hate
mail in the form of a letter to the editor of a newspaper that covered our story--the
author of which felt that money for whooping cranes could be better spent on other
things. I've been ensconced in fire ants underneath my costume, unable to get relief
until escaping the presence of the flock into a dense stand of Georgia conifers.
I miss my wife, my dog, my cat, my parrot, my fish and the house I left early in
July--unfinished repairs and all.
Saturday, thanks to a visit by a most enthusiastic supporter, I found perspective
and realized all these things for what they were; nothing but small bumps in a big
road on a very important journey. All my life, I have been inspired by great humanitarians
and conservationists, and before me stood the epitome of selfless idealism: former
President and First Lady, Jimmy and Roslyn Carter. Project partner Chuck Underwood,
USFWS, and I had about 30 minutes to kill before the pilots, with whoopers in tow,
were slated to arrive on site. We talked a little about birding and travel but mostly
about cranes and planes. One might have thought the former leader of the free world
was about to experience his first Christmas by the level of his excitement. He had
so many questions that it was with sheer relief that I discovered I had just enough
answers and delight that he seemed to hang on my every word. As if being the center
of attention in such a discussion was not the greatest compliment that I have ever
received for our work, he went even further. The most charitable and inspirational
person that I have ever had the pleasure to meet, thanked me for my important work
with the most gracious praise that I have ever heard. I want to humbly thank you,
Mr.President. Our spirits our soaring high above the Georgia skies this week.
Try This! Journaling Question
- If you were a member of the flight team, what would you describe as the highlights?
Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).
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