A Heart to the Hawks

When I was twelve or so, I read a book (checked out from the Newport, Arkansas High School Library) called “A Heart to the Hawks” by Don Moser, who just recently retired as editor of Smithsonian magazine. That book changed my life. I finally found a copy via Alibris.com. I read it in one sitting last night, and it was as good as I remember it.

It’s about a fourteen-year-old boy in suburban Cleveland just after WWII. He’s a loner, a bit of a geek, and fascinated with nature. He spends most of his time in the pond, cataloging its inhabitants (and often collecting them, too) — a naturalist of the old school. Taken in context, he’s a radical environmentalist, though by today’s standards he could do with a little more Leave No Trace” education. Still, the message is there, and I heard it when I read this book for the first time.

When developers start to take apart his “stomping grounds” (as my dad would put it) to put up shopping malls and tract housing, he decides to take matters into his own hands, though, in the end, it’s ultimately futile. It’s a remarkably ambivalent ending, and one that I appreciate more now than I did twenty years ago. I can see how this kid might have grown up to be George Washington Hayduke III. Whatever the case, it radicalized me and instilled in me a sense of activism that has waned somewhat in recent years. Re-reading that book, though, has inspired me to get back to taking action (though not as radical as Hayduke) instead of sitting around and bitching.

Thanks, Mr. Moser.