Tag Archives: hawk

Forget Friday the 13th—Thursday the 12th!


Dr. Eden Wales Freedman and Scarlett O’Hara–two strong feminist icons.

Of course, the superstition is that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, so any comparison to Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, isn’t totally apt. It wasn’t, for me, a particularly unlucky day, although it did wear me out.

I had to give a mid-term exam that afternoon, and it was a bit dicey getting everything ready and printed. I am behind in grading for that class, too—and how I have an exam to add to the pile. After hustling to the exam, I had a newspaper meeting. There may have been cookies.

Anyway, the meeting broke up early because there were three big events that students needed to cover that night. First, at 6 p.m., the MMU Law and Politics Club was sponsoring a visit by Ronald K. McMullen, former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea. He shared many interesting stories about his career as a U.S. diplomat.


Ronald K. McMullen, former U.S. ambassador, speaks Oct. 12 at MMU.


MMU Times reporter covers the ambassador’s visit.


2017 Fall Faculty Series Logo by MMU.

He also noted that he had wanted to study geology, and admired the many geodes in MMU’s Grotto. The state rock, he said the geode “is rough on the outside, like many Iowans, but inside we are all gems.”

But I had to rush off. At 7, Dr. Eden Wales Freedman, assistant professor of English, was speaking as part of our Fall Faculty Series, “Divided we Fall.” Her topic was “Feminism is for Everyone.” The theme was that the feminist movement in this country has often been focused on the needs of affluent white women, to the detriment of others.

Despite the many competing events on this crazy Thursday, Dr. Wales Freedman attracted yet another full house to Flaherty Community Room.


Dr. Eden Wales Freedman, demonstrating the face we’ve come to call the “Robertson eye roll.”

eden and joy

Dr. Wales Freedman with Dr. Joy Ochs, professor of English. Dr. Ochs coordinates the Fall Faculty Series at MMU.

On the way in, I had been greeted with the thump of Latin music. The Latin Club was doing some Zumba on the plaza. Because, you know, Thursday the 12th.

I noticed my sister and sister-in-law attending, but felt bad I could not linger and chat with them. Because at 8, Jason Sole was visiting to describe his personal journey from prison to earning a PhD.


Jason Sole speaks in the Chapel of Mercy to the third sizeable crowd drawn to an interesting Thursday night lecture at MMU.

Sole’s speech was compelling, but I didn’t quite make it to the end. I had to finish grading an exam I needed to get back to a Friday class, so about 8:30 I packed it in and headed home. To work until about 11 p.m. or so.

That’s what Thursday was like. MMU is an exciting, vibrant place, and was, especially on this Thursday. To cap it all, right before the 6 p.m. speech I had spotted a pair of hawks hanging out on Warde Hall. Honestly, birds of prey on that high perch are not that unusual, but I’ve not seen two together before.


Iowa hawks at MMU–on top of Warde Hall, framed by pine trees.

I’m cheating a bit on the hawk image—they were back on Friday and I shot this image that day. But here are links to more images from Thursday: the ambassador’s visit, the feminism speech and the student-organized prison to Phd presentation.

Thursday the 12th—it was a day that we’ll remember for a long time. Honestly, I hope it’s not repeated—I liked all of the events, but may have liked them even more spread out just a bit.

But it was still my best day this week.

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The Big Birds Distract From the Sandbox Rebuild

Four of  the six boards we bought--four to become new sandbox sides, two to provide some seating areas.

Four of the six boards we bought–four to become new sandbox sides, two to provide some seating areas. A fifth board is leaning against the sandbox in the background.

We had a busy weekend—a mini family reunion Saturday because my youngest daughter was in town to buy a new car that is a Taurus but not quite because it’s a Mercury and gray according to its legal description, but sort of blue and sort of green and sort of sparkly—one of those new car colors that would make it a great crime car because nobody could describe the color and nobody would see it and call it “gray.”

And today was bike ride day for my spouse and I, as well as shop at Menards and Home Depot. We were buying lumber and lag bolts and gloves for a project.

Basically, the sandbox I installed about 10 years ago is starting to fall apart because time and termites and wet have eroded the timbers used as the borders of the sandbox. My solution is to basically encase the old sandbox in a new one of roughly the same construction (10 years is 10 years, after all), but add benches on the sides.

I started the actual work around 6 in the evening. Early on, I was distracted when there was a loud sort of cheeping, and a shadow—a very big shadow—passed overhead. Something heavy landed in the big maple at the top of our backyard hill, and I found myself in a close encounter with the neighborhood hawk.

He or she has been around all summer, but we mainly spot the big bird of prey at a distance hanging out in the woods behind our house. This was a much more personal inspection, and I can’t help but think the child of dinosaurs just wondered what that big pink child of rats was up to.

He (me) was up to gathering the wood, digging trenches around the old sandbox, putting the new timbers in place, trimming them where needed (we bought all 10-foot lengths, the sandbox is 10 by 8, but I needed extra length so that the new frame would totally encase the old, so I cut two 10-foot lengths down to 8 and 4 inches or so). I was glad to have a power saw.

Mr. or Ms. Hawk didn’t stick around long and headed west after a few minutes of inspection.

An Iowa hawk eyes me as I work on the sandbox.

An Iowa hawk eyes me as I work on the sandbox.

I continued my slow work. About an hour later, I suppose it was around 7:30, my wife came home and noticed a loud stirring in the ash trees behind the fence. It could have been the hawk, but a few minutes later, after Audrey left to run an errand (fetch me drill bits, actually), I heard fussing again, and this time it was two wild turkeys engaged in some dispute.

They were a lot louder than the hawk. Not quite as big—still big birds—but much noisier.

I’ve heard of distraught turkeys occasionally abusing humans, so when one landed in the oak 10 feet over my head, I loudly encouraged it to move on and festively waived my hammer at it. It took the hint.

Turkey in a tree, in some territorial dispute with another turkey.

Turkey in a tree, in some territorial dispute with another turkey.

Anyway, I sized the boards, dug holes for them, put them in place and then lag bolted the corners together. I got all the corners pinned with one bolt each when my wife arrived back from a quick trip to a daughter’s to get back borrowed drill bits, and with the help of pilot holes, the pace of lag bolt installation picked up.

Me installing a lag bolt at a corner. Yes, the gap closed after the bolt entered the second board and was tightened.

Me installing a lag bolt at a corner. Yes, the gap closed after the bolt entered the second board and was tightened.

I didn’t finish the whole project by 9 p.m. when I called time due to darkness. I still have two boards to measure, cut and install as seating areas on the side of the new sandbox, but that should go fairly quickly. I would say the project is 80 percent done, and the new sandbox is mostly installed.

All in all, I don’t think I did too badly for several hours of work that started fairly late. I’m sure a person who is more handy with tools may have finished, but I am what I am, and “handy” is not in this writer’s self description.

Still, the sandbox sides are done and will hold for another 10 years, I think, which is good because the sandbox was originally installed mostly for the good of my youngest son, who turns 21 tomorrow. But, now, the sandbox sees heavy use by grandchildren.

The plastic pails and shovel has been passed to a new generation. And dinosaurs are among the most popular toys in the sandbox, so maybe having the biggest of the neighborhood dinosaurs stop by on inspection tours was only appropriate.

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