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Harrass the Hawk

Updated on May 14, 2009

This morning I took a day off the bike to recover from three straight days training and took the train to work. It was another crisp, clear morning, the fourth in a row, temp in the mid-forties. I am savoring this spring weather as the leaves burst forth from the trees as if in time lapse photography and the birds squabble noisily over all the best nesting spots.

My work is near a small wildlife preserve made up mostly of the flood plain of the Neponset River and four hundred or so acres of wetland. A few weeks ago the trees were alive with the songs of all the early male birds staking out their turf and holding forth to attract females too smart to be in the neighborhood while the morning temperatures were still in the thirties. Now they are all busy playing house, though. Judging from the territorial going on, the females are doing a lot of sitting these days.

I got off the train and headed the wrong way up the platform, away from the station, past the "Authorized Personnel!" sign, down the steps and down onto the rail-bed. A siding leads right past the front door of my work and there is plenty of room alongside the tracks to walk, unhindered by speeding trains. As my foot hit the coarse gravel, the big red tail hawk that hangs around the area took off from the top of the utility pole that seems to be his favorite. Immediately on him was a little black bird, turning and twisting in a spectacular attack of a bird maybe ten times its size. Strange, don't you think, that the hawk meekly leaves and does not seek to harm the aggressor?

There is no courage involved, I'm sure. It's all hard wired instinct, nature's aerial display of fatherhood's protective territorial nature. Things are pretty cut and dried in the avian world. The female sits the eggs (most species) and the male goes out and harrasses the hawk. As a result of the development of our society, our human gender roles are not so well delineated, although we have vestigial territorial instincts that manifest themselves in bar fights and squabbles between neighbors. Yet it is never clear whose job it is to fight the hawk. When the predator comes, it might be the female who is the most effective defender, seeking help from a higher authority instead of rushing in with stupid bravado as a male might do. There is a right place for heroics, but it is a narrow place, difficult sometimes to know.

Sometimes the choice is clear and there is no alternative but physical confrontation. Most often, however, it's a cool head that's called for, not a fight.

There was a bully that victimized one of my children. When I heard about some of the things he did, I was pretty angry. This bully was bussed in from a less fortunate neighborhood. My first instinct was to send him back to his parents in a bag, but then I thought, my going to prison would probably not help matters much. I thought if I contacted the kid's parents they might beat him and then the kid would take it out on my kid. I contacted the director of the busing program, but she tried to gloss it over, as if it was not an issue. So I went to the superintendent of schools and tried to get the kid sent back to his own neighborhood school.

I told the superintendent that I don't think that my tax dollars should pay for a kid to be imported from another neighborhood to beat up my kid. I told him I didn't care what color he was, or what color the kid he got to replace him would be. That was not the issue.

The superintendent spoke to the director of the bully importation program who spoke to the kids parents. Apparently whatever talk they had with the child had the desired effect. So all's well that ends well, I guess.

Later we moved to a new condo. The bully had gone on to high school in our neighborhood and became friends with the kid who lived downstairs from us, so he was in our building fairly often. I always said, "Hi." Then once I was putting my bike away and the bully and his friends were talking fifty feet down the road. He was suggesting that he and his friends give me a little hassling, but my neighbor's kid - honor society, leadership award, junior mentor - thought it was not a good idea.

"What if he takes it seriously?" my neighbor's kid wisely asked.

Naturally if I am hassled by four teenage boys twice my size, someone in addition to me is probably going to the hospital, so I am glad my downstairs neighbor had good sense. They're all off to college now and I wish the bully good luck. I hope he learns the lesson of humility without harm.

What do you think?

When Tom called the Superintendant of Schools instead of the bully's parents, did he do the right thing?

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, BSloan. It is interesting how parenting pans out, whether active or passive, and affords some of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. Thanks again.

    • BSloan profile image

      Barbara Sloan 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Great Hub. I've learned from personal experience with my children that going to the parents is not the answer. They usually know exactly what their child is doing.

      I also had to go to the administration and do everything in writing in order to get some action.

      Thanks for your article.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much for so poetically sharing your story. Your solution / fate is good. The right thing obviously occurred.

      I went through personal hell to allow us to stay in the good neighborhood where we're at. It's not easy to be a locksmith in a population of post-doctorates. Lucky for us the school committee does not have their collective head up their butt as yours seems to have had. It was worth staying here, as much as it emotionally, monitarily, and stressfully cost me. It was worth it. For that I thank God or whomever is listening.

      But when there was a glitch, I fought the only way I knew how. I will always be thankful for this small chance victory.

    • Paper Moon profile image

      Paper Moon 

      10 years ago from In the clouds

      We live in a suburb, right by the city line. It is not too bad, but there are a few section 8 apartments down the street. We worked and struggled to get our kids to one of the "nice" schools. We actually rented a house in one of the nice towns close to here while our house was on the market. We were thrilled to get our youngest boy into a "Nice" school for his first grade. (he was home schooled in kindergarten). He was beaten up 5 times in the first 3 weeks. The school was teaching a very limiting cut and dry version of "No child left behind" teaching rote with 4 square digit pattern learning. They acted like it was nothing, when my wife complained about the abuse. When our house did not sell (no surprise considering the market) we moved back between semesters. He has been in the school in our old "hood" for just over 4 months. Lots of friends, no bullying, and much better teaching. Just goes to show, the bird sanctuary on the other side of the tracks is not always greener.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks PGrundy. Once a hawk flew up low over the creek behind our house during nesting season and was just mobbed with sparrows, wrens, chicadees, swallows - it was quite a noise and sight.

      The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but not always. If your kids can draw the lesson of standing up for themselves from the experience I don't think that you could ask for a better result.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I just saw this same thing coming home in my car yesterday. A large raptor of some kind (it was either a red tailed hawk or a turkey vulture) was getting chased through the skies by a very small bird. It's an odd sight, but the big guy was running away, not fighting back.

      I've had less success fighting bullies when my kids were growing up. I've talked to parents, school officials, I once called CPS on my neighbor, and none of the outcomes were satisfactory, but I think it did teach my kids by example to stand up for themselves. So that is definitely a good outcome. Thanks for another fine hub.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      I'll be happy to oblige! I have a couple of stories about our local red tail to tell that should make a nice hub for tonight or tomorrow.

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      The beginning of your story reminded me of Frightful's Mountain, a book by Jean Craighead George.  I was thinking Frightful was a hawk but when I look it up I see she was a falcon.  I read it long ago, and loved the way George described the bird and her behavior.  In the same way, I loved your description of the hawk.  I would have liked to hear more about that.  Thanks.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      I wish you the best with your school issue, Felicia. Sounds like your solution might be like mine: take it upstairs. And, of course, it always helps to talk about it with other parents like me :0) Could be, too, you could get in touch with some of the older kids' parents. That might have an effect.

    • feeweewv profile image


      10 years ago from Between A Dream And Reality

      I think you did the right thing Tom, by calling the superintendant. I'm having issues too right now with my youngest daughter in school... she goes to my older daughter's classroom each day to catch the bus and the older kids talk her into doing things she shouldn't do... like pulling down other kid's pants.... my Cheyenne is only 5 and I think it is easier for her to do the wrong thing to be liked by the bigger kids than to do what her mommy tells her she should do... and I've always told her not to listen to the big kids, they will just get her in trouble.... I'm goin way off here aren't I... anyway, to finish, The big kids aren't gettin in trouble for telling her to do it... only my Chey and I don't think that is fair. I'm going rounds with the teacher about it... I hope it all turns out fair.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks HeSaidSheSaid. It's funny how when I'm walking out along the ocean or in the woods, things will just occur to me. Nature must have that effect.

    • HeSaid SheSaid profile image

      HeSaid SheSaid 

      10 years ago from our favorite love seat

      What a wonderful intro. I always enjoy a good nature's example story. Have to say you made the right choice.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom rubenoff 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks, JJ!  I go over it in my mind once in a while.  It is a difficult situation.  I would have preferred my kid to deal with it, but it was not in the kid to do so.  I don't want to hurt anybody and I don't want to get hurt.  It's good that no violence was required of me. 

      Thanks, Candie! Ya, whatever one does, it should never be in anger. Anger makes bad choices.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      10 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      My Greg's favorite saying was "cool heads prevail". I've adopted it and I see you follow the same thinking! We (parents) always want to protect and defend our kids. We also need them to learn the right ways to do it. Some times we do it the way you did, and sometimes we do have to stand and fight. Be fearless both ways. this is good! Thank you!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I loved this...what a great transition into your own personal experience. Some youngsters don't get it! I like how you said "if I am hassled by four teenage boys twice my size, someone in addition to me is probably going to the hospital".. I like your estilo!! That's right!!! But preferably you wouldn't get hurt too much!~~ JJ


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