I recall the worst case of mistaken identity that I ever encountered. It was a beautiful July day from my childhood and I was camping with my dad on Stevens Lake, up near the Wisconsin / Michigan border. We were in a back bay catching perch. My father grew up fishing for perch on Green Bay, so to him fishing was perch fishing. I didn’t mind. When they were biting there was plenty of action, and in the pan, I still don’t believe there’s anything better. The fishing this day was not great but consistent enough to keep adding weight to the stringer.
To make the afternoon even more enjoyable we had been treated to a fishing lesson for most of an hour. There were a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead with three immature birds that must have been their brood. That was unusual enough, as one or two hatchlings seems typical for nesting eagles; three I think is pretty rare.
The adults would circle above the youngsters patiently letting them test their wings. But every once in a while, an adult would dive down at one of the young ones encouraging them to dive towards to lake. That was a much-needed skill for a bird that makes its living fishing. It was the living image of the Scripture that speak of the Lord adopting Israel as his own special people: “As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11)
There was another boat anchored in the bay. There were two adults and a boy who sat in the middle seat. I always sat in the front because my job was to lower and raise the anchor. The three has motored in after us and watched. When I pulled up a nice perch and slid it on the stringer, they dropped anchor and got their poles ready. My dad didn’t mind; that’s kind of how perch fishing is. I was less hospitable, thinking they should find their own fish.
My impatience with them grew because as the eagles circled and dipped and dove sometimes very close overhead, our neighbors in the other boat paid no attention. They seemed fixated on the tips of their poles. They weren’t catching much either, so that helped satiate my growing smugness.
Then I looked up and saw him. It was another huge adult bald eagle coming straight at us from the far side of the lake. Even when he was still a long way off his pure white head caught the bright sunshine. His wingspan was easily more than six feet. He closed the distance quickly, coming all the way across the lake without flapping his wings once. He flew without effort but powerfully; he flew with majesty like the visible hand of God. No other bird flies like that.
The big eagle glided right over our neighbors, maybe only 25 feet above them. I looked at my dad and shook my head. “Can you believe they didn’t even notice that!” Just then I heard the boy from the other boat, “Look, Dad”. He was pointing at the eagle. The dad looked up and then called out loudly, “Caw. Caw. Caw.”
I had a somewhat related experience recently. A couple of weeks ago while on my morning walk, a van pulled up alongside me. I assumed that the driver was going to ask for directions but instead he said, “I don’t know who you are, but I see you walking down the road every morning. I just have to tell you that you are the spitting image of my uncle. He’s Irish.” “I’m Irish too on my mother’s side,” I answered. He went on, “He has the same white beard, and even the same cheekbones. He looks just like you!” “Lucky man,” I said. He chuckled, and shaking his head he said, “Even the same sense of humor.” I wondered what he meant by that as he drove away.