“Tin Hinan”, Chapter 7, Part 2

Falconry with Goldens (Berguts), but in China. Huge Goldens.

Falconry with Goldens (Berguts), but in China. Huge Goldens.

The sun had just begun to mount the sky when ten men collected in the courtyard. Horses shook their bridles and pranced, while the smoke of breaths, beasts and men, rose in the morning chill.  The men had their hunting birds on their wrists or in cages made of thin branches.

I was dressed in my woolen robes, with good, stout leather sandals and knitted socks and except for my hands, I was warm enough.  Standing apart from the men, as was only proper, I wondered where Immel was.

I watched the birds sitting quietly on thick carpet- covered wrists, mostly falcons and a few larger hawks amongst them. They all had tiny metal bells around their ankles.

I went to sit down and await Immel.  He appeared on his large horse holding the reins of a smaller mare.  My eyes widened with surprise when I saw what was on the back of that mare.  It was the biggest eagle I had ever seen!  A Golden, but much bigger than I could have imagined.  Immel and another mounted man took a long tree limb and stretching it between them, perched the eagle upon it, tying the bird securely to the limb with thick thongs.   He motioned for me to come and mount the smaller horse, and swung me up.  We left the ksar and wound around a mountain trail, higher up on the mountain than I had ever gone.  They were going after mountain dove and pigeon, and by the size of the eagle, probably bigger game.

Immel gestured for me to fall behind his horse and there I had a chance to observe this eagle.  Most of the hawks and falcons had their eyes sewn shut with strong thread passed through the top and lower lids. They rode quietly on the wrist. This Golden rode like a king,  his head unhooded, nor did Immel blind him with the threads.  He looked from side to side as he occasionally called out with a barking laugh.   I could tell Immel was proud of his eagle, and as eager as the bird to have him flown. He was secured with braided thongs, almost as thick as a woman’s arm, and the bells around his scaled ankles were large silver ones of different tones. I could tell, for he raised his feet constantly and shook them.  He was quite a handful, and only a man the size of Immel could have commanded him.

We came through the forest, as it rounded up the mountain and came to a large plateau. The men carefully got off their horses with their birds. One hawk’s eyes were unstitched, and launched into the air.

“Hip-hip-hip-hip!”  The man’s voice was high pitched and excited.  This was the call for the bird to cast out into the sky, looking for prey on the ground.  The eyesight of a hawk can see up to a mile away, and find a rabbit hiding in the grasses. After a while, the man called him back, twirling his lure with a rabbit head on the end of it.  It must have been a young bird, newly trained but rebellious, for it took time to get his bird to earth.  Then the stubborn bird mantled over to within five camels’ distance, and the man had to chase the young bird over the ground.  The laughter of the men was tolerated, but I had seen men kill their hawks in a rage.

Next a peregrine’s thread was pulled from her eyes and she was sent aloft from the wrist of her master.  There is nothing so beautiful as a falcon soaring on the thermals far above in the heavens, and then to see her fold her wings and drop through the air. We saw her disappear above us, just a black speck in the blue. Then hurling to the earth, a sudden burst of feathers told us she had killed a bird on the wing.

This was all sport, for there was little expectation the hunting that day would bring food for the tribe at home.  It was the way men enjoyed themselves, with their hawks, kinfolk and out of the sight of women.

Each falcon or hawk was launched and tried in the air.  Each came back except one.  It was a black mark on the man who lost his hawk to the heavens.  Perhaps a child had thrown a stone at the bird while he was tied to his perch outside the door.  For whatever reason, this hawk decided that he could hunt for himself.  The trick was to starve them enough and to only feed them from the wrist.  If they got a sense they could hunt for themselves, they were lost to human commands and would reverted to the wild.

When all of the birds had flown, Immel dismounted and placed his bird on his forearm.   The eagle barked in excitement and lifting each foot in turn, rang his bells.  Immel talked softly to it and then with a strong upward thrust, threw him into the air.

Ah! His wings were as long as a camel was tall!  He flapped strongly until he had obtained the heavens and soared above us, circling and barking like a malevolent jinn. He was so vast when he soared low over us he cast a shadow and spooked the horses.

“Immel, my brother! This time your eagle might not come back!”

This made the others laugh and Immel shrug his shoulders.  “What can I do? Sigi has a mind of his own.  I can only implore the Gods he remembers where he is fed.”

I was still watching the sky, looking at the Golden circling higher on the thermals.  He was such a large bird he was easy to watch, as he gave a flap to lift himself as he floated effortlessly over the mountain.

“You have never seen a Bergut before?”  Immel’s voice cut into my scanning the heavens.

“I have never seen a such a bird!”  I glanced up at him, shading my eyes with my hand.

“I bought Sigi from an Arab as a fledgling.  He is the largest of the Golden Eagles.  I am told by this trader they are used in pairs with metal sheaths on their talons to hunt tigers.”

I started to laugh, until I saw his face.  He was serious, but considering the size of his eagle, perhaps it was possible.

“What game has he brought down?”

“The occasional lamb or goat from someone’s flock.”  He smiled and shrugged.  “Sigi has cost me for his appetite.”

I laughed.  Sigi could cause some trouble between tribes.  Wolves did harm, too, when they could.

“Of course, he has paid me back with the wolves he has killed. The skins make a nice barter.”

Wolves! A bird, even a bird as large as Sigi, killing wolves!  That was something to think about.

Today though, when Sigi reappeared over the mountain, Immel called his return cry and the eagle looked down at the rabbit offered on Immel’s wrist.  The hunting was short and Sigi must have been hungry, for he flew down and landed at a distance.  Immel whistled to him and twirled his lure, enticing the eagle closer.  The horses didn’t like this huge bird near them, and shied and snorted in fear.

Immel walked out to where he had thrown the rabbit to Sigi, and found him mantling over the prey.  Sigi knew the game and started to take off again, but Immel had strung long leather braids on his two legs, and with a dive to the ground, grabbed them before the eagle could regain his flight. For a matter of moments it was not clear who would win, as Immel fought to keep the eagle on the ground.  Sigi was strong enough to pull Immel over and only when he sat up, was Immel able to wrestle the bird closer.  Sigi barked and hissed and finally Immel pulled him in.  Picking him up, stuffed under his arm and holding his leathers firmly, Immel brought Sigi back to the men.  There was general laughter and comments aplenty about Immel’s sense in having such a bird, but Immel was used to this behavior, both from the bird and the men.

That was my introduction to Sigi and I was allowed to accompany Immel and the others again. I was told that the value of Sigi would be two camels, but I knew Immel would never sell him for a hundred.  Soon, I had my own falcon, a little sakir who was fast and brought down doves for the pot. It was a gift from Immel and she started our friendship.  Most women would want silver or a sweet oil from a man.  I got a bird.

Jane Kohut-Birdtells
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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2 Responses to ““Tin Hinan”, Chapter 7, Part 2”

  1. Christian Yorke Says:

    I loved reading this piece. I can tell you that as well as being very well written it had a real sense of the erotic about it. Was this the intention?
    You have a genuine ability to convert a vivid imagination into clear and engaging language-well done!!!

    Best wishes,

    CY

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Christian.

    Thank you for reading “Tin Hinan” and leaving such a nice comment.

    Was the intention of “Tin” to be erotic? I think you can’t get around life, or the life and doings of our characters without a curiosity as to their sexual doings…LOL!

    But I started writing with a group called ERWA, and it’s an erotica writer’s site. There are readers, too.

    I took a look at your site….A good one, not the ‘dog’ you refer to…but yours is so much more complex than this site. I agree with you absolutely about TV being the robber baron of time and attention.

    And writing is the time where we get to travel the world of our imaginations and make them ‘real’…at least on page.

    Well, I hope there are other pieces that you get to read here, and I will certainly be back on your site. Very provocative.

    Best!

    Lady Nyo

    Like

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