GAYS MILLS - As I may have mentioned in previous columns, Thatcher has shifted his laser focus to birds. Particularly owls, local song birds, and as spring comes, chickens.
He’s always been a bit of a backyard bird enthusiast. When he was younger he would lounge with me on the sofa and watch the cardinals and chickadees at the feeders or the flock of chickens roam the yard. His grandparents have furthered this with bird card games, books, and a chirping clock.
So, when the opportunity arose to attend the Eagle Day in Ferryville, presented by their tourism board and the Friends of Pool Nine, we certainly couldn’t pass it up.
The big draw for Thatcher of course was the Hooting Contest. We recently heard a pair of Barred Owls hooting back and forth to each other, either in our yard or very nearby. Thatcher stood stoically on the tiny porch and listened for a long time.
When he went inside to tell his Dad about it, Chasca responded with a rather impressive Barred Owl hoot himself. Because, a little known fact about Chasca is that he’s rather skilled in imitating animal noises. Much to the delight of his children, who love his squirrel barks, robin whistles, Eastern Screech Owl Screeches, and of course Barred Owl Hoots.
Ever since that night, Thatcher had been hooting along every chance he got, demanding to listen to audio of different owls and watching documentaries that featured them.
Being a busy, mixed up mom, I had thought the Eagle Day was a week sooner than it was. Hyping my kid up, causing his hooting to go into overdrive for a week, only to be disappointed when Saturday came and went and no official hooting occurred. My punishment was his asking for the entire next week “How many more sleeps until the contest MOM?”
Finally, the day came this past Saturday and Thatcher wasted no time, getting up before the sun, ready to hoot.
He’s developed this habit where he comes and stands at the edge of the bed when he wakes up and just waits, staring at me, hoping I guess that his presence alone will roust me from my sweet slumber. Which it usually does, in a rather startling manner, because, there few things creepier than the silhouette of a toddler with bed head staring directly at you silently, right when you wake up from a deep sleep–but I digress.
We made our way up the big hill and down into the village on the big river excited for the day. We had never been to Eagle Day before and we were certainly not disappointed! The small village hall was cheerful and filled with eagle themed treats, much to the delights of my kids. We found a spot right in the front row, and settled in.
Things started out with a bang as the kids got to build an eagles nest with the help of Larry Quamme, the Village President himself. Lucky little Waylon got chosen to be the 2020 Ferryville Eagle Day Eaglet even. Although, in the true fashion of a one year old, he wasn’t so impressed and was ready to just get back to running around, charming everyone and eating cake pops.
Waylon didn’t make it for the raptor bird presentation however–after all the snacks he became far too wiggly and retired out to the hall until the hooting contest. This was completely fine with the Bopper though, who rambled around making friends with everyone he encountered.
The contest time finally came. However, after three hours of birds, sweets, and lots of apple slices Thatcher was a little burnt out and tired. Waylon had completely passed out on Chasca’s chest. I was a little worried Thatcher might not pull through.
Luckily though, when they announced it was time, the little Hooter stomped up to the front and got to be the second one in line. The boy just ahead of him had a hoot that was also on point to a Barred Owl. But, he couldn't match Thatcher’s enthusiasm. Hands on his hips, chest puffed out, and eyebrows raised he hooted with all of his might. He hooted so well that he was challenged to a hoot off. Something we had not prepared for at all.
His competitor gave his well trained and smooth hoot hoot ha hooooooot, with murmurs of approval from the crowd. When the mic was passed to the very tired Thatcher though, he just stood and refused to hoot again. I even offered up a little hoot hoot of encouragement, but, alas, he retreated to my lap and buried his face in my chest.Despite his unwillingness to hoot a second time, his first round of enthusiasm helped him tie for the win, and he was able to bring home his Grand Champion Hooter medal, which he clutched in his little hands as he slept the whole car ride home from Ferryville. He’s already plotting next year’s hoot off–considering a new kind of owl, and preparations to hoot a second time if necessary.