These quail were wild birds. I shot them myself during an afternoon with Dr. Jill Carroll, tromping across several hundred acres of South Texas grass fields—a glorious piece of God’s good creation.
I ran track in high school. Specifically, I ran the two hundred meter race. I wasn’t the fastest sprinter by any stretch of the imagination, but I could run a respectable race and a respectable leg on the relay team. My teammate Shannon West, on the other hand, could smoke the track. He could sprint; he could hurdle; he could high jump, and our coach took full advantage of Shannon’s athletic talents. But at a track meet in Newport, Arkansas one fine spring afternoon, Coach Carter made a simple mathematical error. He entered Shannon in more events than the rules allowed. It wasn’t until the runners were called to the blocks for the four hundred meter race—that’s a full lap around the track—that Coach realized his mistake. If Shannon ran the four hundred, which would put him over the event limit, his results in every event in which he’d participated would be declared void. That couldn’t be allowed to happen, and so two minutes before the starting pistol for the four hundred meters was fired, Coach Carter looked at me and said, “Barkley, you’re running this race.”
On January 15, 2009, the plane took off at 3:25 p.m. into clear skies from LaGuardia en route to Charlotte. By 3:27 the plane had risen to 3,200 feet—that’s not very high—and was over a densely populated area of the Bronx when a flock of Canada geese flew headlong into its nosecone. In a split second the windscreen turned dark brown, and both engines sucked in birds. Passengers heard very loud bangs, and exhaust was seen streaming from the engines. Thirty-six seconds later, the captain radioed back to LaGuardia that both engines had failed. He was returning to the airport. But seconds after that, the captain assessed that he had neither the altitude nor the time to make it. “We can’t do it,” he calmly reported, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”