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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, December 06, 2007

toby, the hawk

IN 1851, a woman speaks of one of her beloved childhood pets:

ABOUT the queerest pet that I ever had was a young hawk. My brother Rufus, who was a great sportsman, brought him home to me one night in spring. He had shot the mother-hawk, and found this young half-fledged one in the nest. I received the poor orphan with joy, for he was too small for me to feel any horror of him, though his family had long borne rather a bad name. I resolved that I would bring him up in the way he should go, so that when he was old he should not destroy chickens.

At first, I kept him in a bird-cage, but after a while he grew too large for his quarters, and had to have a house built for him expressly. I let him learn to roost, but I tried to bring him up on vegetable diet. I found, however, that this would not do. He eat the bread and grain to be sure, but he did not thrive ; he looked very lean, and smaller than hawks of his age should look. At last I was obliged to give up my fine idea of making an innocent dove, or a Grahamite, out of the poor fellow, and one morning treated him to a slice of raw mutton. I remember how he flapped his wings and cawed with delight, and what a hearty meal he made of it. He grew very fat and glossy after this important change in his diet, and I became as proud of him as of any pet I ever had. But my mother, after a while, found fault with the great quantity of meat which he devoured. She said that he eat more beef-steak than any other member of the family.

Once, when I was thinking about this, and feeling a good deal troubled lest some day, when I was gone to school, they at home might take a fancy to cut off the head of my pet to save his board-bill, a bright thought came into my mind. There was running through our farm, at a short distance from our house, a large mill-stream, along the banks of which lived and croaked a vast multitude of frogs. These animals are thought by hawks, as well as Frenchmen, very excellent eating.

So, every morning, noon, and night, I took Toby on my shoulder, ran down to the mill-stream, and let him satisfy his appetite on all such frogs as were so silly as to stay out of the water and be caught. He was very quick and active, — would pounce upon a great, green croaker, and have him halved and quartered and hid away in a twinkling. I generally looked in another direction while he was at his meals, — it is not polite to keep your eye on people when they are eating, and then I could n't help pitying the poor frogs. But I knew that hawks must live, and say what they might, my Toby never prowled about hen-coops to devour young chickens.

-- from the very charming book History of My Pets by Grace Greenwood (Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1851). Do notice the accepted usage of "eat" for "ate", common in literature of this time.

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