I picked up an old copy of 'The Prince Of Tides' by Pat Conroy at my children's school fete for 50c recently. Being a Barbra Streisand fan, I couldn't pass it up. I haven't read the novel yet, though today, I skimmed the first page and was struck by the beautiful way Conroy puts words together. I read the following passage out loud to one of my daughters and it was difficult to keep the emotion out of my voice. By the expression on her face, I could tell she felt much the same way.
It is the second paragraph of the novel, narrated by the main character, Tom Wingo, the son of a South Carolina sea island shrimper.
"When I was ten I killed a bald eagle for pleasure, for the singularity of the act, despite the divine, exhilarating beauty of its solitary flight over schools of whiting. It was the only thing I had ever killed that I had never seen before. After my father beat me for breaking the law and for killing the last eagle in Colleton County, he made me build a fire, dress the bird, and eat its flesh as tears rolled down my face. Then he turned me in to Sheriff Benson, who locked me in a cell for over an hour. My father took the feathers and made a crude Indian headdress for me to wear to school. He believed in the expiation of sin. I wore the headdress for weeks, until it began to disintegrate feather by feather. Those feathers trailed me in the hallways of the school as though I were a molting, discredited angel.
'Never kill anything that's rare,' my father had said.
'I'm lucky I didn't kill an elephant,' I replied.
'You'd have had a mighty square meal if you had,' he answered.
My father did not permit crimes against the land. Though I have hunted
again, all eagles are safe from me."