I have a strange and sometimes unexplainable attraction to bald eagles and cougars.
Not the alcoholic, over forty, two-legged kind of cougar, but the mysterious cat that slinks around out west, virtually unnoticed.
But, yeah, I guess I like the woman version too.
I've yet to see a mountain lion in the wild. God knows I've tried.
Someday I will. Maybe even in my home state. They've been sighted in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, so it's an eventuality that they'll be back in Ohio; I know people who have seen scat, tracks, and other evidence not too far from Cleveland. With the Northeast Ohio deer population being what it is, a resident cougar population would make sense, as the food source would sustain a few of these big cats.
Anyway, I've seen sixteen distinct bald eagles in Ohio over the past four years. Most folks don't understand my abject fascination with these birds.
The women I've dated have all had the same reaction when I ask them to go see them with me.
It's just a fuckin' bird, they've all told me.
Wow. Maybe so.
But a bird and a species that was almost extirpated because of our influence. Pesticides almost wiped them out until the government banned all DDT use in the 1970s. We placed them on the newly-created Endangered Species list in the early '70s, and with time, care, and patience it's worked.
I read that, a few decades ago, there were only four bald eagle nests in the whole state. Today, there are well over 250, and each year new chicks are born to add to the total of eagles soaring over the Buckeye State.
My son and I used to drive twenty miles each weekend morning to see the eagles in North Ridgeville. It was a journey highlighted by the errant sighting of a coyote, or sandhill crane, or the eagles dancing on the thermals.
I've got a secret.
I found a nest not too far from my house. I can roll out of bed, put on my shoes, grab my camera and walk to the nest in less than ten minutes.
Why do they fascinate me? And how do I explain it the girlfriends that didn't want to share in this thrill?
Because they, like a Rocky movie, are about the underdog. Due to our intercession, they've made a comeback. They're thriving, and seeing them prosper gives me hope for our future.
Besides being our national symbol, they're a symbol of resurrection. I hope someday these birds are as common as sparrows.
I dare you not to be emotionally-affected when this bird, all six feet of wingspan, white head, and triangular tail, soars over your head with a fish in its talons.
It's a sight. And I compare it to seeing something as rare as a dinosaur or a truly compassionate conservative.