The editor of SOARING Magazine asked me to send them an article about the Taos Soaring Fiesta that the Colorado Soaring Association hosted each year at Taos. He was expecting one of the usual we flew this high and so and so flew this far type article but I surprised him with this bit.

We were having a wine and cheese party around the pool one evening and someone mentioned flying with an eagle at 18,000 feet. When someone asked how did an eagle fly where the air was so thin, someone made the joke that he was wearing a very small A-14 oxygen mask. That was the genesis for this story.

A Parable
Or Don't Start A Fight With The Boss

parable1t.gif (13685 bytes)It's written somewhere that God created the earth with its mountains and streams. When he finished, he stepped back to admire his work and found that he had left a tiny valley in northern New Mexico, which was so small that it would serve no apparent purpose at all. Since everything, which God creates, has a purpose, he spoke, "I will call this place Taos and it will be the home for the Hopi and the Hippie (or something to that effect). I will give the eagle dominion over the valley and provide strong thermal currents so he can soar high and watch over his domain. I will send people called tourists each summer to provide clothing and food for the Hopi and the Hippie. And in the winter, I will cause snow to fall on the mountains to attract people from the land of Tejas to come and play." When God found that the Tejas people played foolishly in the snow and broke their bones, he created orthopedic surgeons and Mercedes automobiles.

Time passed and the tourists came each summer and the Tejas people came each winter and the eagle soared high in the sky. All was well. Then at the summer solstice of a recent year, when the Hopi danced to corn and the Hippie smoked strange plants wrapped in Zig Zag papers, the eagle observed a strange band of tourists arriving in the valley. Each was dragging a large cocoon behind his automobile. Then the eagle watched in awe as those cocoons went through a metamorphosis and changed into sleek white birds with long wings. Some of these birds were made from glass from the sands, some from metals from the ocean and other from trees in the forest. The eagle laughed, "Look at those silly birds with only one foot as they lean on a wing to keep from falling over."

Then to the eagle's amazement, one by one those new birds began to take flight, chasing after smaller roaring birds with the mark of a young bear on their tails. When they seemed unable to catch the roaring Cub-birds, they would give up the chase and begin to circle in the eagle's thermals, joining him in soaring flight.

"I will climb so high that these strange new birds cannot follow," thought the eagle as he beat his wings furiously against the thin air. But up and up went the new birds until they were mere specks in the sky. This was just too much for the eagle to accept so he called on God to rid the sky of these new birds.

parable3t.gif (24439 bytes)"God, strange new soaring birds have invaded my sky. They are much larger than I, each one carries a tourist in its beak and they can fly as high as the clouds, or at least to 18,000 feet. I might be able to drive one or two away, but there must be thirty of them up there right now. Besides, they have a good 20 point of L/D better than what you gave me and can climb right through me."

God replied, "I can't have something like this happen to my eagle! I'll stamp my feet to raise a cloud of dust to blind them and I'll bring down rain to wet their wings so they cannot fly. I'll blow hot winds to dry the throats of the tourists who brought them to this valley." And did he ever!

The next afternoon the eagle was back squawking at God. "They are back! They are in my sky right now! You didn't do any good at all yesterday! The tourists simply put the new birds back into their cocoons or lashed them to the ground so they could not blow away. Then they washed the dust from their bodies in the pools of water where tourists stay and quenched their thirsts with bottles of Rocky Mountain Spring Water brewed with your finest barely and hops."

God was really steamed at the eagle's report so this day he stamped even faster, brought down a deluge of rain and blew great winds directly across the place where the soaring birds had to alight. But alas, his efforts were of no avail and the strange new birds, with the strong winds in their faces were able to land across the runway with almost no forward motion at all. As soon as they touched their single foot to the ground, hoards of tourists would rush to their aid to keep them from being blown away until they could be returned to their cocoons or lashed to the ground.

The eagle screamed at God, "You really blew it again yesterday! Can't you do anything right? Those birds were back in my sky all day."

God replied, "Eagle, I've been observing those new birds and they seem to be nice enough. None of them have attacked you, they don't eat your rabbits and they don't pollute the sky. So what's you beef?"

"But," protested the eagle, "they can fly higher and faster than what you made me able to do. I heard that one of them flew ten thousand zeloups (that's eagle talk for 500 kilometers) around a triangle using Villa Grove and Espanola as turnpoints in only six hours. It would take me three days to make such a flight and the tourist in its beak had only 30 hours in those soaring birds. When I had that little flying time, I was doing well to keep from falling off my perch when I landed. And to top it all off, the bird that he made the flight in is called a Zuni, not even a Hopi or Hippie that you created this valley for."

By this time God was getting rather ticked at the eagle and said, "Eagle, you are always bitching about something. First it was the rabbits I proved were too skinny and hard to catch; then it was about the mate I sent to you being a nag; and now it's these new birds. Just what does it take to keep you happy?"

The eagle whined, "It just isn't fair. You made me and people with funny names made those other birds. Besides all that, they are much better at soaring than I am. Am I a factory reject or just another one of your stupid mistakes?"

God replied, "You are no reject and I don't make mistakes!"

"How about the size of avocado seeds?" snapped the eagle.

parable2t.gif (20109 bytes)"Don't you get on my case about that avocado seed thing," roared God. "I get enough static about that from the Guacamole people. I think they are just the right size."

"If avocados were the size of watermelons," retorted the eagle.

"That does it," thundered God, adding a lightning bolt for punctuation. "One more word and you'll spend the rest of your life as a chicken, you stupid bird. I don't care if you are the national symbol, you are a pain in the butt. Go eat a lizard."

The eagle went to the top of Wheeler Peak to sulk, God took the seventh day off and the new birds flew and flew. A great time was had by the tourists, the Hopi and the Hippie prospered and all was well.

The End

Oh yes, This story won me the Joseph Lincoln Memorial award for the best published article on soaring for 1984.


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