or flight, rather...
Every year in mid-February we trek down to the Lehi area of Utah for the Utah Sky Trials.
See, my husband has this addiction...
He could survive and figure out ways to try and be happy without a heck of a lot of things.
But, these nutty birds of prey are not one of them.
He requires them to be really, truly fulfilled.
Usually I just let him drive down the road on Thursday and Friday, sometimes Saturday, afternoons on his own, Zues (bird) and Rocky (dog) in tow. But Utah Sky Trials are different somehow.
I go along to watch the boys dig in the dirt, feel small in this beautiful valley, conjure up potato chowder or some other soup over the propane stove on the tailgate, and be pretty darn proud of my hubby as he hobnobs with people who have this same crazy addiction.
So Friday is the day that 20 flights get narrowed down to 10, based on things like how close the falcon stays to the falconer, how high it goes, what kind of stoop it turns in to try and catch the pigeon they release, how well it responds to the lure when it needs to come down.
Stephen flew Zues when the sky was clear blue and we had all taken off the heavy coats in favor of hoodies.
And the flight was spectacular, impressive! He climbed higher than any bird had so far. He stooped long across the sky, hit the pigeon three times and turned on it six times!
And when the pigeon was eventually gone, having bailed into the tent they set up in the middle of the desert for who knows what reason, well, Zues started climbing again. And enjoying the warm thermals. And not paying attention to Stephen's anxious lure tricks. The judge covertly tells Stephen, "You need to get him back, because right now, you have the highest score." Thanks, thanks for that.
I should mention here that falconers can't use live bait to get their birds out of the sky. Bummer for a game falconer like Stephen (who actually does hunt with Zues, rather than just toss pigeons for him).
Anyway, alas, Zues was waiting for the next target and Stephen had to drive out to toss him a live pigeon to ensure that he would get him back. Disqualified. But, wow, the best flight of the day and the best feeling we all had for him!
Really, I just go so I can hang out with Ryder in the truck and eat Vanilla Wafers :)
Stephen did get to do an exhibition flight on Saturday after all... No cash prize at the end, but, yet again, one of the best flights of the day. He really might just have won.
Stephen was really pleased about how things went no matter what. He still has Zues and that's what mattered in the end. Because now he can load up on Thursday and find some sage grouse- his real prize :)
Or medicine, whatever you want to call it...