One summer in college, I volunteered at an animal hospital in the Pine Barrens. We’d take in injured or sick wildlife, for the most part, nurse them back to health, and release them after a while. We mostly took care of raccoons, small birds, maybe the odd deer. I remember a few baby ducks that came in around mid-June that I got to see released the week I went back to school. Really hard work, but one of the few truly positive things I’ve done with my life.
The highlight of the summer, however, was Richard. Richard was a red-tailed hawk who’d been on the losing end of a fight with a passing motorist and came to us with several broken bones. I say “us,” but he’d actually been nursed most of the way back to health by the time I showed up in May.
Anyway, he was ready to be released by the end of the summer, but we didn’t want to just turn him loose so he could get hit by another car. So we made arrangements for him to be sent to an animal sanctuary in Kentucky. The problem was that the undermanned and mostly volunteer staff couldn’t spare someone to drive a day there and a day back—probably two people, considering the complications of taking a bird of prey in a cage. And neither could the Kentucky folks spare someone to pick him up.
So my boss worked out a plan to ship Richard to Kentucky. He called around to a few places, expecting to pay a couple grand, tops, to get this bird somewhere safe.
The first company he called gave him a quote—I don’t remember the figure, but it was in excess of fifty thousand dollars. My boss would have been livid if he hadn’t been so confused. So he called the folks, and the conversation went something like this.
Shipping Company Guy: Oh, you’re the guy who called us about mailing the bird.
My boss: That’s right. Richard, the Red-Tailed Hawk. Why is it so expensive?
SCG: You want to put a raptor in the mail, you’ve got to send him the whole way by S-76.
Boss: What’s that?
SCG: Helicopter, man.
Boss: Helicopter? You can’t send him by rail or truck? That’d make more sense.
SCG: Sorry, man. Post hawk? Ergo ‘copter hawk.