(originally uploaded here
Baker's Hawk by Jack Bickham was my choice for the book with an animal in the title for the What's In A Name Challenge
. This book came off of my shelf where it has been since I was in Junior High School, so it's been many many years since I had read it. I was surprised to find how much of the story I had forgotten. It was almost like reading something for the first time. This book has been compared to Where the Red Fern Grows which is one of my all time favorites.
It is about a young boy, Billy Baker, in 1882 Colorado who has a great love for wild animals. Billy's dad has told him that he cannot bring any more pets home, so when one of the young hawk's that Billy has been watching falls from the next on his first attempt at flight, Billy takes him to the old crazy man of the mountains. Rumour is that this old crazy man has a special way with the wild creatures and may be able to help Billy's hawk heal his injured wing.
In town, the lawless antics have caused a group of citizens to form a vigilance committee to try and run any bad elements out of town. These citizens feel that the Sheriff isn't doing a good enough job, so they decide to take the law into their own hands, pressuring all to join them. Billy's dad refuses, raising questions in Billy's young mind. Is his Dad not brave? Is he a coward? Why will he not join this committee? Things quickly get out of control. Billy takes to spending much time in the mountains with the old man who turns out to not be crazy at all. Together they are training Billy's Hawk to fly on a tether and come back to him when a whistle is blown. Meanwhile, the vigilance committee is scouring the countryside to get rid of any individual who is different. Is Billy's friend in danger? What will happen to Billy's Dad for not joining in?
I really enjoyed reading this book again. It evokes alot of concern and emotion for the charachters and keeps you reading.
Here are a couple of my favorite passages:
'You imagined old things were put away, he thought, and in one way they were indeed gone forever. But in another way the past was never behind a man; he carried it in his mind and sinew, and in his gut. And he never knew when it would come back.'
'Billy, knowing hawks had to have roughage, bones and feathers to keep their digestion straight, had been catching small sparrows and offering these to the hawk. It got to the place by the end of the week that the hawk knew whether Billy had a dead sparrow for it before Billy was even halfway up tghe last rise from the woods to the house. If he had a sparrow, the hawk cried and spread its wings, moving around nervously, in anticipation. If Billy was empty-handed, the hawk just sat there like some regal king, giving him the cold-eyed stare.
"He's getting trained to expect the sparrows," Billy told McGraw, "and that's good."
"I think he figures he's getting you trained to bring them, only sometimes you're a little dumb and forget," McGraw said.