I can often be found walking the golf course in the early morning as the new day comes to life or in the evening as that day dies and from the east the darkness begins to slowly cover the unsuspecting land. I carry with me an old seven iron and as I walk I pretend to practice but, if the truth be told, my time is actually spent in thought while I admire the landscape and the wonders of life that call the golf course home.
I walk on the fourth hole’s fairway and make the turn as the dogleg right makes the turn after crossing the small creek that meanders across the course. The two ponds that lay just off the right side of that fairway beckon to the golfer’s poorly struck second shot as do the group of trees on the fairway’s left side.
As I make my way around the course I think of my many tee shots that have found the creek or old pecan tree that lay two hundred yards from the eighth hole’s tee box. Hole number two seems oddly shaped to me. The tree lined fairway is narrow and slopes to the right. The seemingly non-threatening second shot often falls short of the green as longer shots find the pasture beyond the putting surface.
I believe the view from the seventh tee box is my favorite. As I look out over the course’s third pond where the creek finds its final destination I can see the sand trap guarded green. As my eyes become wider and look at the sky above the cup’s flag I can see the cows grazing in the pasture just beyond the winding cart path. On the other side of the grassy field I often look with amazement as the nesting bald eagles fly from the branches and soar over the field and river that flows just beyond.
The Elk River Golf Course has two full time employees. John manages the course while David handles the course’s maintenance issues. While John welcomes the golfers and tends to their needs David cuts grass, maintains the equipment and applies the necessary chemicals to keep the grass green and healthy.
Not long ago I took a respite from my daily walk and stopped at the pro shop. I found John standing behind the counter and as I lowered myself into one of the large, and comfortable, wing back chairs we began to talk about the weather, the problems with our golf swings and the course’s upcoming golf events.
Just then, David came into the small shop. I didn’t speak as it appeared that he urgently wanted to talk to John. “Do you have a knife,” he asked. I was a little surprised when John didn’t ask about the need for the cutting instrument but rather said, “Just a minute, I’ll check.”
John walked to the back of the room and after the passage of only a few seconds returned to the counter holding what looked to be a small steak knife. John looked at David and casually said, “Here you go.”
David didn’t reach for the knife and without expression said, “I need a bigger knife.” I hadn’t yet spoken as I wondered if John would ever ask why David needed the knife. John looked at David but didn’t speak as he finally turned, again walked to the rear of the shop and after another brief moment returned with a much larger knife. “Do you have anything I can use to hold onto something,” David asked.
“Okay, why do you need this stuff,” John finally asked. Now, I thought, I was finally going to learn the purpose for the tools. While examining a short pole with a handle and finger-like pinchers on the other end David finally came to the point. “There’s a big bird near the pond on number seven that’s in trouble. A turtle has clamped onto the bird’s leg and won’t let go.” I had to admit that David’s tale was one I hadn’t heard before, and now it was time for me to express my questions.
“What are you going to do with the holding pole-like device and the knife,” I asked. David looked at me as though the answer to my question was so very obvious. “I’m going to hold onto the bird while I decapitate the turtle.” “That big bird is a Blue Heron and I doubt that he will take kindly to your attempts to grab him,” I said. David then stated what he believed to be the obvious, “He won’t hurt me, and after all he’ll appreciate my efforts to help him.”
Without further discussion, John and David left the pro shop and carrying the large knife and grasping tool went to the pond. There they saw the Heron on the bank with what could be described as a medium sized turtle attached to one leg near the bird’s foot. The two spent some time attempting to catch the bird but to David’s dismay the bird didn’t appear to see the two as potential rescuers.
The large Heron went from the bank, into the water and back again several times as John and David continued to try new techniques to corral the bird. Formulating the plan was simple enough but its execution was proving to be more difficult than expected.
Finally, the two slightly out-of-breath pursuers with wet and muddy shoes tired and as they looked on and talked about new strategies the huge bird flapped its wings and began to raise itself up from the pond’s water. Without speaking John and David looked on as the bird’s large body came out of the water and just then, and quite unexpectedly, the turtle released its grasp of the Heron’s leg. The two still hadn’t said a word and silently watched as the bird flew away; it flew away so gracefully and with such little effort. The turtle fell into the pond causing the smallest and quietest of splashes then quickly disappeared from sight.
“Well, let’s get back to work,” John said. “Okay,” David replied. The two walked away and although, and even now, they won’t admit it I suspect that in many ways they are glad they didn’t actually catch that bird with the turtle attached to its leg.