The Osprey's View (Paperback)
Lucia Powe, 9780692561942, 208pp.
Publication Date: January 4, 2016
A ten-foot wooden motorboat swerved around, negotiating with difficulty the rapidly-racing current of the Roanoke River, when the shortest of three men crowded in lost his footing and, thereby, control of his tiller. The second man was flung into the bottom of the boat, and the third man, the tallest, was thrown backward, slamming into the gunwale before sliding broken-backed into the swift, cold water.
How in hell did this happen? Did the boat crash into a submerged rock? Did it collide with an underwater cypress stump?
Sixteen seconds earlier, perched atop the tallest cypress in the Conine Swamp beside the Roanoke, the deepest and swiftest river on the Eastern Seaboard, a two-year-old mother osprey spied a weather-beaten motorboat buzzing south directly toward her. Far, far below her perch, the tea-colored waters of the majestic swamp oozed out into the river's battercake-colored waters. This ancient river carried melted snow from the mountains of Virginia and valuable topsoil from the farmlands of Virginia and North Carolina down to and through the Albemarle Sound on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. In spring, the swift current pulled even the normally stagnant waters around the tannin-soaked roots of the swamp's lacy cypress trees into its race to the sea.
An area of the bird's brain might have concerned itself with her two nestlings only twenty feet away, alone in their nest on top of a less-tall cypress. However, at this moment her eyes were focused on a small boat overloaded with three men fishing as they puttered down-river near the swampy shoreline. She may not have recognized the men as humans, or even cared what they were. However, she did recognize their catch--fresh, live fish collected in a large bucket as the perfect lunch for her two babies.
She streaked down, looking neither left nor right, and snatched a lively striped bass from the rusty fishing bucket, then soared up to her nest with the fish wriggling in her talons. The osprey turned the fish in her talons after she was in the air so that it faced forward, like a skater's blade under her. Quite pawky for so young a bird, yes? Well, all hell had broken loose in the boat below.
The moment she lit on the bucket, but before she flew away with her catch, in that quick second, all three jumped up startled from their seats and almost flipped the boat. When they realized that one of them had been thrown into the water, the two remaining men howled with laughter, struggled with the motor, and turned the boat in the direction of their mate.
But the boat was having trouble reaching their friend in the spring-swollen river. He was swept out to deep and swifter middle-river, then fast away downstream. The small craft sputtered along after, its motor not designed for speed. And the third man, the poor fella in the water, seemed not to be helping them by swimming in their direction. In fact, he seemed not to be swimming at all.
Truth was, he was barely keeping his head above water in this mad spring river rushing hell-bent to the ocean.
So simple. All so simple. An innocent swamp beauty, the osprey, hunting for then gathering a perfect meal. The sun kept shining and a pileated woodpecker in his formal tuxedo suit kept hammering at an ancient cypress trunk, both bird and tree well at home in the wide, antediluvian swamp.
From the west bank across the river a black bear, too, had been fishing--slapping for fish in the shallows to feed her two cubs. Her right paw hesitated in mid-air as she noted the curious activity across the river. Then she returned to her maternal duties on this good day for fishing.