It only happens to Cheryl.
Her nickname is “crash” in my family, which she accepts with a sheepish grin. Cheryl has been in so many auto accidents that weren’t her fault that you’d think she were some type of amazing human accident magnet. Don’t get me wrong, she can cause them also. She’s ripped the mirror off of a Saturn backing out of our garage. She’s rear ended another car. But she’s also been hit from the side by a deer, had cars run into her while she was stopped, and more.
…and Sunday it happened again.
I really needed to edit yesterday’s (awesome) podcast, so Cheryl was driving the mountain roads through the Ozarks back home from visiting our daughter. Suddenly she braked hard and swerved. I felt something hit the front of the car. We hit some semi tire on the side of the road and the car lurched.
“What the hell?” I said.
She’s been in so many accidents she was immediately defensive. “It hit me! I didn’t hit it.”
“What hit you?”
“A big bird!”
“What?” My mind raced. First, why would you swerve to miss a bird? We’re in a car. It’s a damned bird.
What I Imagine When Someone Says “Bird”:
Versus This: (Not Our Car, But Similar Look and Color):
Who’s gonna win that battle? Even something as big as a crow wouldn’t cause any real damage to our Chevrolet Equinox. I was just glad that we were still driving and everything seemed to be fine.
That’s when I saw the wing stretch out.
It was a big-ass wing.
It stretched from the grill up over the hood, then disappeared back below the hood line.
“I know!” Cheryl said, the I told you so tone in her voice unmistakeable. I ignored it. Hopefully the bird had finally rolled off.
That’s when I saw the big-ass wing stretch again.
Around a corner we spotted a gas station/fast food restaurant. We’re deep in the Ozarks. I generally don’t stop in these little towns without imagining banjos playing.
“I’m going to use the bathroom while you take a look,” Cheryl said as she pulled in, laying on thick the I told you so, so it had transformed into It’s Now Your Problem.
She pulled up, shut off the engine, and opened the door. Reaching the front of the car she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh my god, Joe.” Then she walked inside.
When I opened my car door I wasn’t sure what was waiting for me, but I was sure of one thing: I really didn’t want to see it. I had plenty of work to finish and I really wanted to just get home.
Still, I wasn’t ready for what I saw:
Stuck in a hole in my grill, with one wing out and one lodged inside, was a hawk. It was alive, trapped, and staring at me. I’m 99% sure he was more than a little stunned and 100% sure he was pretty pissed off, based on his beak opening as I peered in closer.
Okay, sports fans, riddle me this: how the hell do you extract a live hawk from your Chevy Equinox?
I’ll admit now, my first plan was beyond horrible. Well…before I get to that, I’ll tell you this: My amazing management experience leapt to the front of my mind, and I looked around to see if I could delegate away this nasty-ass job. Two old guys sat on benches talking. They were deep in conversation. I could barely understand them behind their southern mountain drawls. They weren’t an option.
So…really it was my SECOND plan that sucked. Here it is: I opened the hood to see if I could get behind the hawk from above and shove it back out through the hole with a stick. In the business I’m sure they call that the “Stick the Hawk” plan.
No Such Luck.
I’m unhappy to report to those of you who are reading this tale because you googled “Help Extract Hawk From Chevy Equinox,” that there is no cavity between the radiator and the space behind the grill. At this point I’m also thinking that those of you who googled “Hilarious Hawk-in-Chevy-grill-story” have far too much time on your hands.
So, now I’m standing in front of the Equinox, eyeing the bird. He’s eyeing me. It’s a bird-human standoff. That’s when a young guy comes out of the gas station and sees my hood open. Cheryl wasn’t far behind him.
“You haven’ car trouble?” the guy asked.
“You’ve gotta see this,” I said. I knew he was going to be amazed.
What happened next is, to me, where my previous definition of reality and what I saw happen separate. The dude walked around the front of my car, took one look and said, nonchalantly, “Huh.”
It wasn’t just any “Huh.” He said it as if it was the thirty-fourth time he’d seen a hawk half buried in someone’s hood. He said it like he’d just taken a look at a football score that wasn’t particularly close or interesting. With a bored look, he reached in and grabbed the bird above the wing, cradled the other wing through the hole, and carefully dislodged the adult hawk.
“He ain’t happy,” he said. The hawk lurched toward him, trying to get out of his hand.
Another guy walked over, nodded and said, “Hawk flew into your car?” knowingly. How often did this s%$@ happen around here?
The first guy flung the hawk. The bird flew about fifteen feet before coming to a quick landing.
“He’s hurt,” the second dude commented.
“He be alright,” the first guy said, walking over again to the bird. The hawk made a weak attempt to peck at the guy’s hand but undeterred, he picked it up again like some bird whisperer. Suddenly I realized that I was in the middle of Tyson chicken country. These people had tons of experience with fowl. Thank you, lord…..
He tried to help the bird fly again. It took off and went about 20 yards before landing.
“Yeah, he hurt,” the second guy reiterated before jumping into his truck.
“Thank you,” I said to the first guy.
“No prob,” the first guy said before he left.
That’s when I realized I hadn’t taken a picture for the insurance company! How the hell would they believe this wild story.
Well, if it’s good for them, it’s also good for my audience. Here’s the hole in the grill:
Here’s the damage in my wheel well from the semi tire on the side of the road.
Here’s the hawk, still pissed off.
I decided to visit the restroom. Honestly, I really just wanted a minute to process what had happened during the last 15 minutes before we settled back into the car. As I walked in, I heard the guy working the little fast food area saying to the line of customers, “and then he reached into the grill and took out A HAWK!”
That’s when I knew the legend of Crash Cheryl and the Hawk had taken flight.