It takes a lot to turn a gun-totting, drug dealing protagonist into someone you want to go hang out with, but Rodney Stotts and Kate Pipkin do just this very thing in their story of “Bird Brother: A Falconer’s Journey and the Healing Power of Wildlife.” Look, I don’t live with my head in the sand. Dealing and carrying a firearm to protect yourself is part of life in certain parts of this country. I don’t lump everyone under one label and condemn them for life. You have to do what you have to do, and who am I to lecture someone like Rodney about life on the streets? But this is a damn good story, and that trumps all.
Stotts grew up in DC in the late 1980s and would ditch school to visit the zoo. (I like him even more now.) The birds of prey section became his escape. As he grew older he became more involved in the drug game but also took a part-time gig with the Earth Conservation Corps. You know, those folks with bumper stickers on their Prius. Just kidding. Stotts dug trash out of the Anacostia River, one of the most polluted places you can imagine. A great place to throw a body but not so great for anything else. During his time on the river his life began to change. First, one of his team members is brutally murdered. He has run ins with fellow workers and eventually he goes down for dealing when a buyer turns snitch.
He wants to be a falconer. My guess is that most of us have no idea what this entails, me included, but he book breaks down the requirements, and I’ll just say this. It’s not easy nor fast. Becoming a falconer takes years and years of commitment and Stotts just powers through. Eventually, he saves to buy property he plans to turn into a sanctuary and also trains his son to be a master falconer. This book is a small window into multiple worlds that many of us know little to nothing about. And at the center is the power of nature. The Eurasian eagle-owl vs the .45. Get it, read it.