January 16, 2012

A secret is not something unrevealed, but something told privately, in a whisper. — Marcel Pagno

I have a love/hate relationship with vultures.

I love the fact they take care of the ugly aftermath of death — pick it clean and remove the reminder (or at least most of the reminder) so life can move on.

I hate the fact their presence signifies death. On the farm, whenever I see a set of vultures flying, I am suspicious. When I see a huddle of them resting on a line of fence posts or hung about a tree, I get down right worried and am compelled to go see what tragedy has befallen whatever they have gorged themselves on — or are waiting to gorge themselves on. It is never pleasant.

The bad part of this love/hate relationship is that I live very near an area where vultures like to roost and therefore see them often — even when something has not died. The massive power line that runs near the north side (and actually crosses a part) of my ranch is almost always swarmed with vultures during their seasonal stay. Something about the big structures that hold the lines makes perfect nighttime roosting and they return here each spring and set up camp. And this means they fly over my ranch every day, two times.

There have been times when I’ve had to walk their roost area at dusk, looking for stock, and be present under the watchful eyes of these carrion eaters. It makes you very aware of your life force — and very aware that someday it will leave you and, if that were to happen out here, these guys would not fail to bear witness to your final breath.

The two vultures in the photo were just on a layover from somewhere else. They stopped at this dead tree while I was out for a hike with the camera and, because I was behind a tree, they hung out to be photographed. Vultures are not always easy to catch with the camera, they tend to be very shy (possibly because people scorn them and chase them away). I chose the quote because it looks like the one vulture is telling the other one a secret — the secret of one death eater whispered to another.

Here is an interesting article from the Missouri Department of Conservation on Missouri Vultures: http://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2003/12/missouris-vultures

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