Friday, July 19, 2013

The Rukh of Arkansas

The Rukh of Arkansas
Bobby Derie

Now they say in the Ouachita Mountains there lives the rukh of Arkansas. They say that it is a true rukh, no matter what those ornithologists from Saudi Arabia would have you believe, and this is why they say it.

For the Arkansas rukh is exact alike to the Arabian (or Mediterranean) rukh in every detail, and as close a relation as the Garuda of the Indian subcontinent. The Arkansas rukh has the reddish-brown feathers so prized by the Quapaw and the Ouachita before ever a white man set foot on the land, and the same cruel curved beak that so differs from the eagle or the hawk.

Indeed, in every manner except size, the Arkansas rukh is nearly identical to the Arabian in every way. For of course, the Arkansas rukh is no more than eight inches from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. But aside from mere anatomy, there is one more characteristic that makes the Arkansas bird a true rukh: it eats elephants.

Now, it is true that the Arkansas mammoth is not a true elephant, and that is not because it stands only four inches at the shoulder. Archaeological evidence suggests that the mammoths came down to Arkansas around the last Ice Age, following the glaciers—and, it is thought, the ancestor of the Arkansas rukh followed their herds of prey. What settled them in the Ouachita Mountains no one can say for certain, but over thousands of years the well-known phenomenon of “continental dwarfism” set in, and both the mammoth and the rukh shrank to their current size. And on that fact not many scientists disagree, for the fossil record is very complete.

So of course of a sunset you might look up at the evening sky, and see a rukh carry off a small mammoth in its claws, flapping its mighty wings—almost three feet across! To carry the struggling pachyderm up to its nests, where the younglings wait for their meal. And many mornings has a young boy or girl gone out to the woods to hunt the morels, and found one of those mammoths struggling on the ground with broken legs, bleating terribly from its trunk, for many a young rukh misjudges their strength and finds they cannot carry their prey all the way back to the nest.

Then perhaps the young’un will carry the injured animal home, where it may heal or not as nature has it, and so many a young Arkansawyer has had first-hand experience of the depredations of the rukh, and will swear the truth of it as asked.

So friend, before you judge so harshly about our rukhs, come to the Ouachita Mountains in the spring, when the mammoth herds graze on the lush grasses at the base of the mountain, and wait for evening when those great wings spread, and the tiny trunks raise and give voice in terror because they have seen the rukh of Arkansas.

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