Quails

November 2020

The other day I went hunting for the first time in Florida, out on a 3000 plus acre preserve. The environment was magical, evocative of an African savanna. Though I was concentrated on the activity at hand, it was only a week after the election and politics were on my mind. I couldn’t help but see some parallels between my experience that day and some of the larger events taking place in our country. My quarry was the tiny Florida bobwhite quail–the Colinus virginianus floridanus–a small bird with speckles and earth-toned feathers which help it to camouflage in the undergrowth. Though their lifespan can be up to six years, most don’t live past two because of predators, both animal and human. Yet their numbers are steady due to short incubation periods and their prolific egg-laying – up to 300 in a season per adult female. They are individually vulnerable to the vicissitudes of their environment, yet they persevere and flourish as a species. It rained while we were out and the quail is unable to fly if its wings are wet, so it seeks shelter from the weather and its natural predator—the hawk—in bushes. However, its safety within the shrub is illusory, as it is there that it becomes victim to even greater forces: the hunter and his dogs. Our bird dog was able to lean in and grab the quail in its mouth with ease and deliver it to the hunting guide unharmed. The guide then threw the quail into the air, forcing it to fly a bit further, allowing the sport hunter the opportunity to shoot it down.

As Americans, we live proudly in a democratic society and don’t think of our system of government as ever being seriously threatened—especially from within. And yet we are witnessing something going on with the outgoing President that is at the very least dampening the wings of our democracy, making us vulnerable and subject to risks and unintended consequences. Like the weakened quail, we are diminished by these events–temporarily. But the recent voting results spoke louder than what any one person—or President—might say or do to destroy. We will persevere and flourish again because also like the quail, sheer numbers prevail.

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