Monday, February 18, 2013

Inside the Carousel Carver's Workshop

Yesterday afternoon I drove through South Cambridge to the town of Buskirk. A hundred acre farm was my destination, home of Ed Hepp and his wife Patty. Ed's an amazing man, and a total character. He has been working with raptors since he was fifteen years old. He adores the birds and has been a member of the New York State Falconry Association since it started. I am guessing the gentleman is in his seventies, but it isn't slowing him down. He's a hawker, and an artist, a husband and a local legend. I was at his farm because I called him and asked if he could consider being my falconry sponsor. It's asking a lot.

To become an apprentice you need a mentor. The state demands an experienced falconer, at least five years into the sport, sign off on you. It's the first level of screening for newbies like me. If someone thinks you aren't right for the sport, don't have the time, resources, or gusto to make it as a hawker they don't sign you up. I was there to basically ask for faith and time, as a total stranger.

I arrived and Pat met me at the door. She and her home were beautiful, tidy and put together. A Brittany spaniel (I would learn was named Jake) wagged his cropped tail at me and loved me up as I entered the house. I told her who I was and why I was there and she pointed to the workshop-cum-mews outside where Ed was working. I gathered my books, early supplies I had gathered, and study guide the state had sent me, complete with the application Ed would have to sign off on. As I walked outside down the path to his workshop I saw him walking out towards me.

He was gray haired and tan, sturdy and of shorter stature. He walked like someone half his age would walk, confident without seeming arrogant. He walked like a man on his own land, and behind him in a dog run of chain link was a gorgeous Goshawk the likes of which I had never seen in books or online before. Unlike the dog, the hawk did not have a name.

I fell in love with Ed when we were walking from his workshop to the house so he could interview me for the sponsorship. As he smacked layers of sawdust and wood shavings from his worn jeans and jacket, he grumbled about being dirty. I asked him if he was working on his carousel horse carving and he said, without missing a beat, "I do too many things, and none of them well," and there was a smile in his words. If there is one personality trait I share with the man, it's that. I can ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow, brew a batch of stout, and knit a hat and none of them are mastered crafts. Ed and I are Jacks of All Trades, and I love being a Jack. Ed does too.

After a few hours of talking, touring, and walking through his property Ed signed off on me and accepted me as a sponsor. I could not be happier about that. Ed has been doing this a long time, and has the wealth of experience and stories that I can only hope to learn a fraction of. Monday I mail off my application and officially sign up for the written exam and once I pass that (80& or higher!) Ed can help me pick out a place for my Mews and help me get started on the path to training my own bird. He's really leaning towards a Kestrel for me, I think. I have my heart set on a Red Tail. Truth is I'll be honored and thrilled with anything I am lucky enough to share a few hunting seasons with.

This is how adventures start.


Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

And lucky for us readers we get to take the journey with you!

February 18, 2013 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

I would say that you have attempted and mastered several joys in life, Jenna. I look forward to reading more of your adventure. I always love it when a red-tailed hawk appears...taking over the skies and tree tops as the other birds scatter.


February 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Ed is so humble. He is a magnificent carver of horses, an artist.

February 18, 2013 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Ed is so humble. He is a magnificent carver of horses, an artist.

February 18, 2013 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Kestrels are real falcons in a robin-sized bodies. If you get to have one of those first, it will be like having a mini-Peregrine! Either way, I'm looking forward to reading all about this adventure and living vicariously through your words.

February 18, 2013 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

That is an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful bird.

February 19, 2013 at 10:06 AM  

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