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The hawk and the sea bass

Another summer job I had from the government summer work program was at a paper mill in the city. I don't exactly remember the process of how I was placed at the paper mill. Maybe I chose the spot or was randomly assigned there because it was close to my house. The old guys who worked there didn't like the summer work kids. They felt like we were always in their way. I was 14 or 15 years old and always carried a copy of The Hobbit or some other book in the same genre with me to work. I had plenty of time to read.

The day's work consisted of staying out of sight until it was time to go home. Every morning when we arrived, that was the order we were given. I was there with one other kid. I think his name was Anthony, but I can't clearly remember. We used to play sword fight and talk about stuff as we sat along the unused railroad tracks that led to the cargo bay. There was one worker who was always very nice to me. Some days he would give me a ride home. He seemed a bit rough around the edges and was a blue-collar redneck through and through. But for some reason, he seemed to enjoy spending time with me and talking. He always had a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and a million and one stories to tell. He often talked about his dreams of leaving the paper factory and owning his own company one day. I don't know what became of the man or his name, but I really hope that he got to live his dream.

One day Anthony, the man, and I had a big adventure at the paper mill. We found a baby bird that seemed to be trapped behind pallets of paper. I don't know what kind of bird it was, but we called it a hawk. He looked like a Hawk to us. There are four hawk species in Ohio: the red-tailed Hawk, the red-shouldered Hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, and the Coopers Hawk. According to the Internet, there are also three types of Falcons. So, for the sake of this story, let's assume that it actually was a hawk. That's what the man who gave me a ride home told us it was.

I remember climbing up a mountainous wall of pallets and then climbing down into a tight space on the other side. We noticed the bird because we could hear it calling out from the other side. It seemed afraid of me at first. I had a vivid imagination in my youth and believed that I had a special ability to talk to this animal. I thought I could get it to trust me enough to climb up on my arm and allow me to lift it from behind the well of paper. Anthony and the man were on the other side, cheering me on. Anthony was a bit heftier than I was and not so good at climbing. The man seemed all too eager to let me carry out the rescue. On the way down into the well, which was about a two-foot square and seven feet deep, I caught a nail in my shoulder, and it ripped a tiny hole in my flesh. It hurt, but I didn't let the pain stop me. I was determined to save the bird. When I reached the bottom and faced the bird, I talked to him as gently as possible. I might have even sung him a song. Eventually, I reached out my hand to pick up the little guy, and I carried it up and over to safety. That's where my memory ends. I don't recall what happened to the bird after that. I just remember the feeling of having done a good deed. I wish I had a camera back then to photograph the bird and kept it as a memory.

That moment reflects when I took my children to the beach when they were small. On the pier, in one of the holes, there was a fish trapped inside. It was the exact same spot that's shown in the picture above. I recruited my children, who were both in their early years of elementary school, to help me rescue the creature so we could return it to the ocean. It was a big fish. It looked like some kind of sea bass. It seemed it did not want to be rescued by humans because as soon as we got near it, it began to flail its body violently. We sat around the concrete well and tried to think of ways to set the animal free. Somehow there was some rope nearby, the kind that's used for packing boxes. We fashioned a noose and lowered the rope into the hole to get the noose around its tail, pull it tightly, and pull the animal out. My son was afraid of the fish and refused to get near enough to help. My daughter, however, despite being three years younger than her brother, was fearless. She got as close as she could and helped me to lower the rope into the hole so that we could try to snare the fish by the tail. It took several tries, but eventually, we managed to do it. Once the noose was tightly closed around its tail, we pulled the fish up out of the hole. Then we untied the rope and tossed the fish back into the sea.

I was thrilled to have been able to share that experience with my kids. My Hawk moment was transferred into a sea bass moment that will hopefully become a lifelong memory for both of them. Life is precious, and I was glad to be there both times to lend a helping hand.


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