Oklahoma Bar Journal

The Back Page | The Way of Man and Beast

By Rhonda McLean

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First, the rustling. That noise. The noise that sounds, to me, like the omen of death. It's a noise I'd become slightly accustomed to, although I'll never be completely comfortable with it. Then the eyes. Small and beady. A look one way into soulless void, down a long instrument of destruction.

I began repeating to myself, "Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax your fingers. Relax your hands. Relax your neck and shoulders." I think of the platitude, "He's more afraid of you than you are of him." I realize whoever said that wasn't an ornithophobic who had 40 more minutes in a car with a loose Mississippi kite.

Cars pass us by, then slow to make sure they haven't hallucinated a large black bird looking out the back seat window of a car. The kite and I came to a mutual understanding. The back seat is his, the front is mine. As long as we both honor the understanding, everything will be just fine. We continue this detente for miles, each of us wary and untrusting of the other.

After what felt like an eternity, we arrived at our destination and laid down our collective arms. My retreat from the battlefield is immediate and swift. His is by a caring wildlife rehabilitator who is sure and fearless, ready to begin her examination of the soldier and determine the extent of whatever injury led him to this place.

Such is the way of man and beast. A never-ending tension of distrust and necessary respect for the other. A tension that too often results in harm to one side or the other. But if a raptor and an ornithophobic can share a 40-minute car ride in rush hour traffic, it gives one hope that we can all coexist.


Edmond lawyer Rhonda McLean is a volunteer transporter for WildCare Oklahoma, a wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release facility in Noble. 

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 1 (January 2023)