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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: در دور دست های کوهستان / فصل 1

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH A Storm Breaks

This June morning is hot and humid with a haze so dense I can barely see the huge hemlock tree in which I live. I like the haze. It has erased all but the great tree trunks, making my mountaintop home as simple as it was when I first came here more than two years ago.

I lean back in the lounging chair I constructed from bent saplings held together with rope made from the inner bark of the basswood tree, and enjoy the primitive forest.

A wind rises as the sun warms the earth. The haze moves off, and I see my pond, my millhouse, and the root cellar. The first year I lived here I had only a tree, a bed, and a fireplace. But one idea led to another, and the next thing I knew, I had built myself a habitat. Things just kept evolving. Take this lounging chair, for instance. One day I replaced the old stump I sat on with a three-legged stool, and then I replaced the three-legged stool with this comfortable chair.

The people changed, too. At first I was alone. Then my family arrived and—except for my lively sister, Alice—departed. I don’t know where Alice is this morning. She was going to go strawberry picking, but the haze is too dense for that. Maybe she’s sitting on the porch of her tree house talking to herself just as I am. A haze mutes not only the birds and beasts, but people, too.

As a hot dry wind clears the air, I can see Frightful, my peregrine falcon, sitting in front of the six-foot-in-diameter hemlock tree that I hollowed out for a home. Unlike the chairs and people, Frightful has not changed. She still holds her body straight up and down and her head high in the manner of the peregrine falcon. Her tawny breast is decorated with black marks; her back is gray blue; her head black. When she flies, she is still a crossbow in the sky, and she still “waits on” above my head until I kick up a pheasant or a rabbit. Then she stoops, speeding toward her prey at two hundred miles an hour, the fastest animal on earth. She almost never misses.

“Hello, Frightful,” I say.

“Creee, creee, creee, car-reet,” she answers. That is her name for me, “Creee, creee, creee, car-reet.” All peregrine falcons call the high-pitched creees, but when Frightful sees me in the morning or when I return from the forest, even when she is flying high above my head, she adds “car-reet.” “Hello, Sam,” she is saying.

She is perched on a T-block that I covered with deer-hide to protect her feet. She lifts a broad foot and scratches her head with a curved claw on the end of a long, narrow toe.

“Creee, creee, creee, car-reet.”

I call her name in her own language; I whistle three notes—low, high, low. She responds by lifting the feathers on her body, then shaking them. This is called rousing, which is feather talk meaning “I like you.” I can’t speak in feathers so I answer by imitating her love notes. I do this by pulling air through my two front teeth to make a soft, cozy sound.

Sometimes I have nightmares that she has left me. I awake in a sweat and try to reason with myself. Frightful will not leave me, I say. If she were going to do that, she would have departed last spring when I was flying her free. A wild tercel, the male peregrine falcon, passed overhead. The last of the vanishing eastern peregrine falcons breed in Greenland and Canada, and a few winter as far south as the Catskills. This one was on his way to his home in the north. Frightful playfully joined him. Together they performed the peregrine courtship dance, swooping low, zooming high, then spiralling earthward. I was scared. I thought Frightful was going to leave me. I whistled. She instantly pulled deeply on her wings and sped back. Within a few feet of my outstretched hand, she braked and alighted on my glove as softly as the fluff from a dandelion seed. “Creee, creee, creee, car-reet,” she said. “Hello, Frightful,” I answered happily.

Now, I whistle her name again. She turns her head and looks at me. Her curved, flesh-ripping beak looks sweet and demure when you see her head on. Her overhanging brow shades large black eyes that are outlined in white feathers. She is a gorgeous creature.

At peace with me and herself, she bobs her head as she follows the flight of a bird. I cannot see it, but I know it’s a bird because Frightful’s feathers tell me so. She has flattened most of them to her body while lifting those between her shoulders. “Bird,” that means. “Human” is feathers flattened, eyes wide, neck pulled in, wings drooped to fly.

I get to my feet. I have daydreamed enough. While the last of the haze burns off, I weed the meadow garden and split kindling before returning to my tree.

A hot sun now filters down through the lacy needles of the hemlocks in my grove. I look for Alice, wondering what she’s up to. That’s how one thinks of Alice—what is she up to? She’s probably gone downmountain to the farm to see that pig she talks to.

Sticks snap in the distance. Someone is coming. Frightful has clamped her feathers to her body to say that whoever it is is not a friend. Her feathers read “danger.” The phoebe clicks out his alarm cry and I tense. I have learned to heed these warning signals. The birds and animals see, hear, smell, and feel approaching danger long before I do. I press my ear to the ground and hear footsteps. They are heavy: possibly a black bear.

I smell the musky scent of warning from my friend Baron Weasel. The Baron, who was living here when I arrived, considers himself the real owner of the mountaintop, but because he finds me interesting, he lets me stay.

Right now he doesn’t like what’s coming and dives into his den under the boulder. I glance at Frightful again.

Her feathers are flattened to her body, her eyes wide, neck stretched, and her wings are lowered for flight. “Human,” she is saying. I wait.

A man in a green uniform rounds the bend, sees me, and hesitates as if uncertain.

“Hello,” I say aloud, and to myself: Here it comes. He’s some official. I’ve got to go to school this fall. Dad didn’t pay the taxes on the farm. Alice is up to something again.

“Do you know where Sam Gribley lives?” he asks.

“Here,” I answer. “I’m Sam Gribley.”

“Oh,” he says and glances at my face, then my berry-dyed T-shirt, and finally, my moccasins. These seem to confuse him. Apparently he is not expecting a teenager.

Suddenly he looks over my shoulder and walks past me. I spin around to see him standing before Frightful.

“My name is Leon Longbridge,” he says with his back to me. “I’m the conservation officer. You’re harboring an endangered species—a peregrine falcon.” I am unable to speak.

“Keeping an endangered species carries a fine and a year’s imprisonment.”

“I didn’t know that.” He faces me.

“You should have, but since you didn’t, I won’t arrest you. But I will have to confiscate the bird.”

I can’t believe what I am hearing.

“I’ll let her go,” I say. “I’ll turn her free.” I step between my bird and the man. “Won’t everything be all right if she’s free?”

“No,” he snaps. “I’m a falconer, too. You set her loose, and as soon as I’m gone, you’ll whistle and she’ll come right back.” He walks up to her and places his gloved hand under her breast. She steps up on it as she has been trained to do.

With a twist of his wrist he slips a hood over her head and tightens the drawstrings with his teeth and free hand. He is a falconer, I see, and a good one. My knees feel rubbery.

Frightful sits quietly. She cannot see, so she does not move, which is the reason for a hood. If a falcon is hooded she will not bate, that is, she won’t fly off your fist and hang head down by her jesses, beating her wings and hurting herself.

“What will you do with her?” I ask.

“How old was she when you got her?”

“About ten days.”

“Then I can’t let her go. She’s imprinted on you. If you raise a bird from a chick, it thinks you’re its mother and that it looks like you. Such a bird won’t mate with its kind, because it sees people as its kind. Set free it is worthless as far as the perpetuation of the species is concerned. And perpetuation of the species is what protecting endangered animals is all about—to let them breed and increase their kind.

“No hunger streaks,” he comments as he turns Frightful on his fist and looks her over. “I must say, you take good care of your bird for a kid.” Hunger streaks appear in tail and wing feathers if a bird does not get the right food during the time the feathers are growing in.

I am thinking what to do. Mr. Longbridge has wrapped the leash tightly around his hand and now begins to move.

I walk beside him, desperately working out a plan to save her.

I try pity. “Sir, I need that bird badly. I hunt with her. She provides food for my table.”

“There’s a supermarket in Delhi,” he says, hurrying along. I hurry along, too.

I try politeness. “Please, sir, let her go.”

“You heard me.”

The sun now shines out of a hazeless sky, and I can see his face more clearly. He has bony cheeks, a long nose, and heavy brows. Dark crow’s-feet mark the corners of his eyes.

I try reason. “Sir, you say you can’t let her go because she won’t breed. If she is useless, I might as well keep her. She’s useful to me.”

“She’ll be bred in captivity.”

“But how, if she won’t mate?”

“Artificial insemination. The university has a very successful artificial breeding program for endangered birds of prey.” He is holding Frightful out from his body; I reach out to grab her. He sees me move and draws Frightful against his chest. I can’t reach her.

I try philosophy. “But captive birds are not really birds. A bird must be part of the landscape and sky to be complete.”

“Her young will be returned to the wild,” he replies. “The juveniles are hacked to freedom.”

He really is a falconer. Hack is an old falconry term. Trainers put young unleashed birds who are just learning to fly and hunt on a hack board, a sort of artificial nest. They leave them there with food, just as the parents do at the nest. The youngsters, falconers say, are “at hack”—free to fly and hunt. If they miss their prey, they come back to the board to eat. After a juvenile makes its first kill, the falconers leash and train it. I guess Frightful’s young would be put at hack, but not jessed and leashed when they learned to hunt. Instead, they would fly on and live out their lives in the wild. I ask the officer if that is so.

He ignores me, so I get in front of him and walk backwards while trying to think what to do next.

Pity didn’t work. Politeness didn’t work. Reason and philosophy failed. I try compassion. “I love that bird. She knows me. We are bonded. She’ll die without me.” “She’ll adjust. All she needs is the right food.”

Walking backwards, I see the color of the officer’s eyes. One is brown and the other is blue. I am so fascinated that I lose the perfect opportunity to cut Frightful free, because, in spite of the hood, she bated and hung down, exposing her jesses. But I saw too late.

The officer puts his hand under Frightful’s breast and returns her to his fist.

I move closer.

About three inches of leash is exposed. I whip my hunting knife from my pocket and lunge to cut it.

A karate blow to my wrist doubles me over and I stagger backwards.

“You’re stealing my property,” I shout.

“It’s not yours.”

“She is.” Once I had the idea conservation officers were gentle people—not this one.

“You are harassing and talking back to an officer of the law,” he shouts. “I can book you for that, and for harboring an endangered species.”

We have come to the edge of my meadow, where a trail leads to the bottom of the mountain and the county road where he must have parked his car. He trots down it. I run after him.

Then I think of Alice. I’ll call her. If he sees her yellow tufts of hair, her large eyes and bony arms and legs, and if I tell him her life depends on the falcon’s catching food, he might make an exception of me and my bird. He would see that I need Frightful to fatten Alice. Adults always want to fatten Alice, even mean adults.

I don’t call her. I know her well. If she saw what the officer was doing, she would dive and bite him as she bit the man who was stealing eggs from my old friend Mrs. Fielder’s chicken house. Then we’d really be in trouble, as we were that time. I can only threaten.

“I’m getting a lawyer,” I call out.

Mr. Longbridge stops and comes up the mountain a few paces.

“You get a lawyer into this, and you’ll go to jail for sure. You’re violating the law. I really should arrest you, you know.”

He turns and hurries down the trail. I run after him a short distance and give up. The law is the law.

I sink into my lounging chair and put my arms and head on my knees. I’m glad Alice isn’t here. I don’t have to tell her about Frightful. I need time to be alone.

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