Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists
by Tom Benjey
University of Montana Press

Initially, the titular Craighead family is spoken of in the same manner that one would recall a historical legend or tall tale, but this capable and incredible family responsible for so many acts of natural preservation truly did exist. The story begins with the teenage twin Craighead boys, Frank Jr. and John bored in the springtime looking for a new skill to master. Surprisingly, the two set their sights on falconry, becoming just the fifth and sixth Americans participating in the sport and certainly the youngest. Using Cooper's hawks, the Craigheads learn the finer points of training a hawk and excitedly share this information with their siblings and friends. Despite the historical nature of this family recollection, the author fills in a number of specifics and details acquired from both indirect sources and interviews with naturalist and family member Jean Craighead George to make the retelling seem as if it were painstakingly recorded as it occurred. Lovers of lesser-known American history or stories of the wilderness will get a taste of the Craighead way of thinking with this memory of teenage falconry and be eager to find out what other milestones this remarkable family was able to accomplish.



Who Are the Craigheads?

“Just who are these Craigheads people keep telling me about,” I wondered shortly after moving to Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in the mid-1970s. Backyard neighbor Frank Hefelfinger told me they lived at Craighead Station, near where he grew up, and they had saved the grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park. Bill Coyle, operator of the planing mill that, generations earlier, had belonged to the Craigheads, reminisced about their exploits and feats of strength. Perhaps his story of the twins, Frank Jr. and John, walking on their hands as they raced each other across the top of the old one-lane, iron-truss bridge was exaggerated a bit. No one else saw them do it, but all who knew them said they could have. Over the years, I’d heard lots of fragments about the Craighead family but not enough to get a full picture. That changed when philanthropist Dr. David S. Masland came into my life in the very early two thousands.

“The trip with the twins out to the Tetons was the highlight of my life.” In the late-1930s when he was just fifteen, Dave accompanied twins Frank Jr. and John Craighead on a ten-week trip to the Tetons during which they slept under the stars every night, ate no meals in restaurants, and didn’t call home a single time. In spite of the indignity of riding in the back seat of the twins’ ’28 Chevy, with only a sheet of newspaper to shield him from the exhaust of the hawks and owls perched on the front seat backs, at ninety, Dave still considered this, his first trip out west, to be the most memorable, most exciting adventure of his life. By the time of that adventure, the twins already had an article published in National Geographic about training Cooper’s hawks to become falcons. Seeing the impact the Craigheads had on him, I figured there must be something to them. He also mentioned their sister, Jean Craighead George, his unrequited first love. She was the older women and four years difference was far too much for such an attractive girl to even consider this mere boy as more than a good friend. And so, at David’s urging, I started doing a little research.

It didn’t take long to get me hooked. While doing some genealogical work to get the names and ages right, I learned that, in spite of having no money, Frank Craighead (father to Jean and the twins, and son of Charles and Agnes Craighead, who lost their businesses around the turn of the 20th century) and his four siblings graduated from high school at a time when most people, especially those living out in the country, didn’t. Not only did they all graduate from high school, they all graduated from college—even the girls! Few people—generally just the he elites and mostly males—attended college in those days. One of them, Frank, earned a Ph.D. A little more research discovered that this couple’s grandchildren, all eleven of them, also graduated from college. Two of them, Frank’s twin sons, even earned Ph.D.s. The Craigheads were surely an extraordinary family that deserved further investigation.

Dave arranged a visit with Jean. Soon I was off conducting interviews with family members and friends. I soon learned it wasn’t just Jean and the twins who were naturalists: starting with their father’s generation, the family had produced a veritable army of naturalists that grew generation by generation. It didn’t take long to convince me that, other than a little background on their Scots-Irish pioneer ancestors, I would have to limit myself to studying only the first two generations of Craighead Naturalists or the project would quickly become unmanageable. Because so many people I wanted to interview were already in their eighties or nineties, I prudently prioritized interviews with the older generation. That turned out to be a wise decision because several of them died or became incapacitated some time ago. If I’d waited, it would have been too late.

Jean mentioned her hypothesis of a naturalist gene that runs through her family. Empirical evidence in the numbers of people in her father’s, hers, and following generations of Craigheads who work in or are interested in some aspect of nature supports her supposition. My challenge was to explore whether this Craighead naturalist bent is caused by nature or nurture.

Studying Craigheads is a challenge because they are not navel-gazers by nature: they are doers; they succeed. They don’t write memoirs, with the exceptions of Jean’s Journey Inward and her thinly veneered The Summer of the Falcon, so I had to glean information from interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, public records, and from school yearbooks (my personal favorite because they were so gossipy in those days). Occasionally details about their lives crept into their notes such as in later editions of Hawks in the Hand and Life with an Indian Prince. A year before her death, Jean said, “You know more about us than we know about ourselves.” I responded, “Not really,” and sidestepped to discussing education and accomplishment. She responded, “That was always assumed. We were expected to do well.”

In June 2014, I was approached by two school teachers about giving talks about the Craigheads to the junior and senior high school students. Fearing that adolescent children might not enjoy the talks I normally give adults and knowing that my school talk would have to fit into a single period, I concluded that it would be necessary to focus on a single aspect of the Craigheads and make it relevant to teenagers. While mentally outlining the talk about the twins first training falcons, it became apparent to me that, although the details of the talk would deal with the difficulties the twins overcame in studying and training hawks, the point of the talk would be that teenagers can and did make an impact.

Before the twins took up falconry at age fifteen, only four Americans were involved in the sport, all adult males. The twins soon influenced a dozen other boys, a sister, and a female cousin in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC to give it a try. Their first National Geographic article attracted the attention of an Indian rajah. Either their first book, Hawks in the Hand, or their sister Jean’s novel, My Side of the Mountain, or both convinced virtually every American involved in falconry since 1932 to pursue this tedious and time-consuming activity. Such is the impact these youngsters had and continue to have.

The Craigheads were not one-act wonders; they had second and third acts of even more importance than the first. Saving the grizzlies in Yellowstone Park or writing the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or receiving a Newbery Award would have been capstone achievements of most people’s careers. These accomplishments were all in a day’s work for Craigheads, for they are not people who rest on their laurels. They couldn’t afford to because they had to keep on working to support themselves as significant financial rewards did not accompany their scientific and literary successes. The Craigheads are a shining example of how people of ordinary means can change the world.

Biographies have been written about naturalists such as John Muir. A young adult biography of Jean was written two decades ago and numerous magazine articles have been written about Jean, her father, her brothers, and some first cousins, but no full-length biographies have been written about them individually or collectively. I contend that Craigheads are best understood when looked at collectively rather than individually because they are more tight-knit than most families and, according to their reflections on what it means to be a Craighead, they share some common traits, curiosity being first and foremost to them.


Chapter 1

The Dangerous Boys Train Their First Hawks

Spring 1932

The boys scoured the banks and islands of the Potomac River looking for hawks. Already experts at sling shooting, blow gunning, marble shooting and street fighting at the age of fifteen, identical twins Frank Jr. and John Craighead were embarking on a grand new adventure: falconry, the ancient sport of kings. Two neighborhood friends, Julian Griggs and Morgan Berthrong, followed close at their heels.

First, the boys needed to catch some hawks. Not just any hawks: they needed Cooper’s hawks, which were few in number. The easiest way to find a Cooper’s hawk’s nest was to spot the hawk flying and then follow it home. The boys readily found barred owls and red-shouldered hawks but, unfortunately, these birds had proved suitable for falconry. Cooper’s hawks have short, rounded wings and rudder-like tails that are well adapted for hunting in the woods and open country then found near Washington, DC and in central Pennsylvania, places the Craigheads called home. After countless hours mastering the intricacies of the Library of Congress’s book retrieval system, Frank and John found some old National Geographic magazines and a few books on their topic, including one written in 1615. Now they could study the observations of falconers from ancient times in far-off lands and learn of the attributes that made these particular accipters (hawks that inhabit deeply wooded areas) good candidates for falconry.

The twins decided the Cooper’s hawk was the ideal bird for their experiment. It didn’t bother them that Cooper’s hawks had never been trained as falcons anywhere in the world before then. Frank Jr. and John would be the first. As they saw it, Cooper’s hawks had all the attributes of other birds that had been successfully trained for falconry; however, the sport was almost exclusively practiced in the old world and these predators lived only in North America. In the early 1930s, only four people practiced falconry in the U. S. and one of them, Army aviator Capt. Luff Meredith, had challenged them to become the first in history to train Cooper’s hawks. The twins embraced their mission with unbridled enthusiasm, as did their friends Morgan and Julian. The four combed the rural Maryland countryside near Chevy Chase until they found their birds. This task required much patience, especially for teenage boys. On unsuccessful days, the twins had a favorite meal of their mother’s beef roast and orange pudding as a consolation prize when they arrived home cold and empty-handed.

In early April, they spied a Cooper’s hawk catching a blue jay. Over the next month, they glimpsed the same predator often. In early May, its mate appeared. The pair of accipters soared above a group of tall oaks where some hawks had built large nests of sticks. But which nest belonged to this pair? The boys noticed a new aerie in the crotch of a gigantic oak about 50 feet above the ground. They couldn’t be sure it was a Cooper’s hawk nest because the nest was at the upper elevation of where hawks build their homes. Needing to know, Frank climbed the tree to see the aerie up close. That woodland oaks had upward-pointing limbs and Cooper’s hawks nested close to the main trunk, made the ascent easy for someone so practiced in tree-climbing. He shinnied up the trunk to the lowest branch and climbed up the oak from there. As hoped, he found a nest made of sticks and lined with thin flat pieces of pine bark. It also contained a surprise—five eggs with a slightly green tinge. Exactly what the boys had been searching for all this time!

Full-grown hawks are difficult to train; young ones are best and the nest held five future hawks. Knowing birds sometimes desert disturbed nests, the budding ornithologists exercised caution and stayed away until the eggs hatched.

The four boys took turns climbing high to watch the hawklings several times a week after school and on weekends. Between hawk viewings, they voraciously read the few falconry books they had found. Using the knowledge thus gained, they developed a plan to take the young birds from the nest at the state of development that would give them the best chance of success. So, on Friday, June 24, when the eyases (hawk nestlings) were almost ready to leave the nest, Frank and John climbed up to select their passages (immature wild hawks). One of the nestlings, apparently startled by the intruders, fluttered down to the ground by Julian. The twins lowered the two largest ones, both believed to be female because of their size, to the ground in a knapsack, leaving two behind for the mother to raise. Females were chosen because the Craigheads claimed, “Among the hawks, the female is ‘deadlier than the male’—bigger, stronger, more spirited, and hence far better adapted for use in falconry.” The nestlings still wore much down as they were just beginning to feather, yet they were old enough to be taken from their mother.

The twins recorded their observations in journals as their scientist father, Frank Cooper Craighead, Chief Forest Entomologist for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, no doubt had taught them to do. On the first day of captivity, the hungry birds ate English sparrows for breakfast, shared a starling for lunch, and ate another starling for dinner. The boys tore the meat from the sparrows and starlings into small enough pieces to stuff into the tiny hawks’ mouths because the birds were too young to eat on their own.

The very next morning the Craighead family, birds, dog and all, left for summer vacation at Craighead Station, Pennsylvania. It was a good time to leave the nation's capital because 1932 marked the depths of the Great Depression. Bonus Marchers simmered in makeshift camps after the Senate voted down the Patman bill a week earlier, eliminating any hope of the veterans receiving their WWI pensions before 1945. Ultimately, Army troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur swept them out of town in a violent, one-sided battle. The Craigheads did not let the Bonus Marches delay their departure, as vacationing in bucolic environs was far more desirable than staying in the hot, humid “Foggy Bottom” air, long before the advent of air conditioners. Each summer, the twins’ parents Frank and Carolyn would stuff belongings, wildlife, the twins and their younger sister Jean into their Ford, strap suitcases onto the running boards and embark to Craighead Station.

Frank would drive his meticulously maintained car to his boyhood home in south central Pennsylvania, then leave the family behind next the day to inspect his experiments in forests of the southern and western states being devastated by spruce budworm infestations. But before the family could depart for their annual trek north, the birds had to be fed. Their parents insisted, if their children were to keep these hawks, they must be responsible stewards. After the two hungry little hawks choked down three sparrows for breakfast, the family left for what the boys called their “Ancestral Home.” The twins considered the place ideal for the task at hand: “The country around Carlisle is open farmland, excellent for training and flying both hawks and falcons.” It was also studded with groves of tall trees.

Today, the 100-mile trip from the Craigheads’ home at 5301 41st Street, N.W. in Washington, DC to Craighead Station, Pennsylvania takes a little over two hours to drive, but in 1932 the drive took half a day—if the car was well maintained. Frank drove a few blocks from their home to Wisconsin Avenue and headed northwest on what had been re-designated U.S. Route 240 six years earlier, through the towns of Rockville and Gaithersburg, and continued westward to Frederick, Maryland. At Frederick, they turned north onto US Route 15 to wind their way over the Catoctin Mountains, across the Mason-Dixon Line and push on to Gettysburg. At the circle in downtown Gettysburg, they took Pennsylvania Route 34 north toward Carlisle, by way of Biglerville, past historic Thomas Brothers Country Store, and through the lush orchards of Adams County. They could see the apple and peach crops were more plentiful than in previous years. Their father may have told them prices would have been high had money been plentiful, which it never was during the Great Depression.

After crossing South Mountain, they descended into Cumberland Valley at Papertown and passed through Mt. Holly Springs, where they could pick up last-minute supplies. Continuing north on what was known locally as the Holly Pike, they completed the last leg of their trip. Two miles north of Mt. Holly, they turned east on Old York Road toward their long-awaited destination. The last, and shortest, stretch of the trip was over an occasionally oiled dirt road that ran past their summer home and through the middle of the area that served as their playground. Depending on the weather, it was dusty, muddy, or rutted. Younger sister Jean recalled, “There weren't any places to stop then. Mother prepared sandwiches and a thermos of milk. No paper cups then either, or at least we didn't spend recklessly on them when we could wash cups when we got there—.It must have been a tough ride because I remember how glad we were to get there and run free down the lawn to the creek. Arrival is a very pleasant memory.”

Craighead Station, was an unincorporated area adjacent to the tracks of the South Mountain Railroad (later the Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad Company) that extended for about half a mile in any direction, give or take. “Craigheads,” as local people call it, indisputably included the store, feed mill, train station and other businesses along the train tracks, and that were originally operated by Craighead ancestors, west to the iron bridge—hence the name Craighead Station. Some considered the planing mill to be part of the town; others didn’t. The twins’ paternal grandfather built the Victorian house in 1886 for his new bride and placed it diagonally across the tracks from the station and store. They raised their children in it and, after 1907, summered there until their deaths in the mid-1920s, after which their children used it as the clan’s vacation home.

After arriving and stretching their legs, Frank and John fed their birds again, sating their appetites with two sparrows and a starling. The next morning was Sunday. The boys surveyed the spacious back yard extending from the back of the kitchen to the bank of the Yellow Breeches Creek and the side yard between the east side of the house and the railroad tracks to select a place to keep their hawks. They then set poles in the ground of the side yard and fenced off a large enclosure with screen wire for the birds’ summer home in clear view of the young males’ sleeping porch. The twins also hung a box on the maple tree within the enclosure and placed their young hawks inside it. Although the boys chomped at the bit to start the training, they knew they had to wait until the hawks feathered out. In the meantime, they had much work to do getting their birds—and themselves—ready to to hunt.

The boys bent two bow perches low to the ground in the enclosure but the birds weren’t quite ready to sit on them yet. Later on Sunday, for the first time, Frank and John did not have to tear the birds’ food into pieces and stuff it into their little mouths. The little ladies devoured three sparrows, one starling, and almost a whole pigeon on their own. The hawks had gotten noticeably stronger; one sat on her perch for two hours.

The twins expended vast amounts of time and attention caring for their young birds. John later wrote, “Falconry requires patience, perseverance, and hard work. It also demands dedication and a full-time commitment needed for few other sports.” He and his brother practiced these new traits while raising their Cooper’s hawks that summer. Hawk food wasn’t found in stores and the twins didn’t have money to buy it had it been. Instead, they found plenty of sparrows, starlings, pigeons, blackbirds and rodents nearby. All that was necessary to harvest them was a sure eye and steady trigger finger on the trusty .22 rifle. Jean, the twins’ younger sister, their first cousins, Sam and Bill, and some neighbor boys assisted in filling the larder that occupied a corner of the icebox their mother shared with their aunts. The barn, located just across the tracks from the house, provided a virtual shooting gallery full of the much-despised sparrows, starlings, and pigeons.

On Monday, John’s hawk sat on her perch from two o’clock until seven in the evening. Both birds acted more tamely than ever and ate more readily, ingesting two sparrows, a starling, a pigeon (breast and entrails) as well as a bit of beef. Their feathers continued coming in. The next day, the twins fitted their hawks with jesses and leashes in preparation for the start of their training. (Jesses are leather strips attached just above birds’ ankles.) John wrote in his journal, “Frank’s hawk twisted up his leash and hung himself upside down. It did nothing but frighten him. Must adjust the sliding ring.” On Thursday, they bought heavy leather gloves for carrying their birds and changed the feeding location and schedule.

Birds of prey often ingest fur, bones and feathers along with the meat but cannot digest these things. They get rid of them by casting out indigestible material as pellets. The twins observed their birds casting each morning around nine or ten. They started feeding them twice a day, once shortly after casting, the other in the evening, both times on the perches, soon giving them whole birds to eat. The hawks tore up their food themselves and ate fresh-shot sparrows and starlings. Still-unnamed, the raptors balked at eating legs because of their low blood content. But when Frank and John dipped the legs in blood, the hawklings gobbled them. Hearts and livers were their favorites.

By the second week of July, the boys attempted to carry the birds on their fists. At first, it took plenty of effort to keep the birds in place, but soon the growing hawks learned to take off and land on fists and to take their food there as well. The arms of the twins were surely tired by being extended in one position for hours on end while they walked around, providing perches for the birds on their gloves.

Training was finally in full swing. Once the birds could be carried on fists, Frank and John granted them occasional freedom. The hawks loved to bathe in the stream, providing quite a show for the twins and their gang. As they matured, the differences in the personalities of the hawks emerged. Frank’s bird was more active, responding excitedly to each and every stimulus. Her hyperactivity came with a price tag as she broke three tail feathers by mid-July. The twins learned to approach the hawks very slowly and deliberately, taking care not to startle them. They took a step-by-step approach to releasing the birds for flight. First, they prevented fly-aways by attaching strings or tethers to the birds’ jesses. Prior to feedings, the boys allowed their raptors-in-training to fly ever-increasing distances before returning to the glove for food. Eventually, the birds returned promptly after hearing one of the boys whistle.

After considerable practice with tethered flight, the time for moving to the next step arrived: “Now at last we were ready to set them free. It was a thrilling moment when we turned our first hawks loose. The birds skimmed along the ground, then rose up, up to the topmost branches of a pin-oak tree. They ignored us while taking account of their surroundings, and then tested their wings with a few short flights directly away from us. Were we really going to lose our hawks after months spent in patient training? No. They were just seeing how it felt to be free. As the novelty of their first real flight wore off and they became hungry, they recalled their two months’ training and at last dropped down to our gloves.”

The boys learned more than did the birds they were teaching. They observed the difficulty of providing young hawks proper nutrition as their birds developed hunger streaks and weak spots in their feathers. They fed the birds more to eliminate hunger streaks and supplemented the regular food, pest birds, with bone and liver to ward off rickets. Our apprentice falconers also learned to make the equipment they needed. With only four other people in the country practicing this sport, paraphernalia specific to falconry wasn’t readily available. Using pictures from books as guides, they fabricated jesses and leashes with snaps and swivels out of long, supple strips of leather less than a half inch wide and fitted them to their birds. They fashioned perches of various styles out of wood they cut from nearby trees. If something they needed couldn’t be found among ordinary, inexpensive household supplies, they made it themselves or adapted something else to their purpose.

Perhaps most of all, they learned the differences between birds—not just by species but also by individuals within a species. Frank observed, “Some are spiritless, puny, slow. Some are much faster than others; they are just born faster or are more spirited and try harder.” His bird provided a ready example of high spirits. She loved to hunt rabbits and could spot them well before human eyes could detect them and would be off. In her first overeager attempts, she swooped at a rabbit hiding in thick undergrowth, hitting the bushes hard and damaging her feathers. But soon she learned to follow her quarry to a clearing where she could make a clean strike. One day, she followed a wily rabbit for a half mile from tree to tree until he entered a little open space. She saw her opportunity and struck. However, her wily target dove through the crotch of a small locust tree, leaving her in his dust as she hit the “Y” hard enough to wedge herself between the branches.

Falconry was anything but a solitary activity for these boys; they worked with a constant audience. Their sister Jean, cousins Sam, Bill, and, on holidays, Nancy and Barbara, along with several neighbor boys watched their every step and participated to whatever extent possible. Frank and John were natural teachers with patience even for much-younger children. David Masland, Barbara Gawthrop, and Bill Craighead were seven, eight, and nine years younger than the twins but were still included in their activities. These kids weren’t just tolerated; the twins patiently taught them what they were learning as they were learning it. Not surprisingly, David, Bill, and Barbara idolized these innovators, as did their older friends.

Time-consuming training left the boys little time to log their activities in their journals for the rest of the summer. On September 14th, after returning to Washington, one of the twins wrote:

“We continued to train our hawks throughout the summer, flying them frequently to strengthen their flight muscles. We entered them on any type of live quarry we could capture. The preferred prey, cottontail rabbits, were scarce at our summer home, so starlings and pigeons had to suffice. In early September we returned to Washington, D.C., and began flying our hawks at wild quarry. Frank’s hawk was always keen and aggressive; John’s hawk had a poor appetite and showed little interest in capturing prey. It frequently took hours to retrieve her after a flight. She was finally released and our efforts were concentrated on hunting with Frank’s hawk. Cottontails were unusually abundant near our home in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1932.”

On September 15, Frank finally named his bird. He dubbed her Comet, probably because of her speed. This was a landmark date in her training: “Her first real flight was at a full-grown pigeon thrown from my hand. She started fifty feet from behind the pigeon and overtook it in a hundred yards. She bound to the pigeon fifteen feet in the air. She was flying against the wind, which enabled her to rise fast. I walked up to Comet slowly and took her on my glove.”

This was a marked improvement over the first time Comet flew at free birds, who fooled her completely. Using her keen eyesight from far above, she spotted a flock of pigeons feeding in a field of wheat stubble and dove toward them at top speed. They scattered. She selected as her target the last pigeon to take flight. With a 100-yard head start, the foxy old pigeon flew through an open barn door and out another door on the far side, banked sharply to quickly circle the barn, then reentered the barn through the first door and hid among the rafters. Baffled, Comet perched on the barn roof, perhaps too ashamed to come down. She wasn’t fooled so easily in later hunts, though. Learning quickly was one of her greatest assets.

Another attribute of Cooper’s hawks is their quickness on the ground. Comet put her foot-speed to work when her quarry shook off her strike from the air. Once, when one cottontail ducked under a fence as she raced in hot pursuit, Comet almost knocked herself out when she hit the wire. Another time she chased a full-grown rabbit down a groundhog hole, which is not a wise idea considering the strength and sharpness of rabbit claws. All of these incidents took a toll. By late September, she had broken the last of her tail feathers and could no longer make sharp turns or stop quickly when flying at prey. So, Frank and John found it necessary to learn yet another skill.

From the falconry books, the twins discovered Comet was far from the first hawk to damage her feathers. Centuries earlier, falconers developed a procedure, called imping, to replace broken feathers. The twins couldn’t find Cooper’s hawk feathers, so they substituted marsh hawk (later called hen harrier) tail feathers. They inserted long needles they fashioned from hacksaw blades into the stubs of the broken feathers, slid the new quills onto the needles, and glued them fast. Books recommended salt water to attach the needles to feather stubs but some of Comet’s tail feather stubs were so short or split, glue was necessary. Comet's new tail worked well before going the way of her original one. A crow’s tail was tried but didn’t last long. The twins imped in a barred owl’s tail next. This proved to be the most satisfactory due to the flexible nature of the feathers, although it turned Comet into a rather odd-looking bird.

Their interest in falconry immediately attracted their friends and relatives to the sport. The twins captured young birds for their sister and cousins, including the youngest ones, Bill and Barbara. Pennsylvania friends David Masland and Chestin “Chet” Eshelman also took up the hobby as did Washington buddies Julian Griggs, Morgan Berthrong, and Gates Slattery. Alva Nye and Otho Williams may have been out of school already but joined with the boys because of their common interest in the sport. Frank, John, and their Washington friends continued to fly their birds through the fall and winter, becoming minor celebrities along the way. On November 19, The Washington Star sent a reporter out to photograph them, their friends, and birds for a story about them in the Sunday edition. Hawks are often released into the wild after a season of hunting, but the twins decided to keep Comet through her molt. They planned to get John another Cooper’s hawk and also to try their hands at training sparrow hawks (American kestrels) the following spring. All this and more for two boys who had just turned sixteen in August and only two years earlier had set the city-wide record for the 200-meter relay in the under-70-pound class.


book text © Tom Benjey

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