Endearing Qualities…

All of the world’s fifteen crane species have them. Endearing qualities. A certain je ne sais quoi about them that makes people fall in love and want to protect them.

Is it their sheer size and stature, their grace or elegance? Or is it that they’ve been on this planet for millions of years and we therefore want to make certain they continue to survive against all the obstacles humankind has tossed in their path? Whatever the reason, fall in love we do.

At the risk of stirring up sad memories, I have to share a little story. On Saturday, I stopped in to visit with Edward and Lois who live near the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area. Those of you who traveled to the Crane Festival last year very likely stood just outside Edward and Lois’ front lawn to watch the Class of 2012 Whooping cranes fly overhead during a training flight.

The reason for my visit was to ask if they might consider allowing us to move our dsl line; used to stream live video from the pensite, to their property. Doing so would mean we could cut down the distance we need to send our wireless video signal by 3 miles.

I explained our current setup and asked if they would consider allowing us to erect our receiving antenna and our dsl router. Edward replied ‘We already have something Whooping crane related on our property, so why not’?

I wasn’t sure what the other Whooping crane related item was so while we were doing a walkabout to look for a suitable location to mount our antenna, his wife Lois directed me over to the large spruce tree at the corner of their lot and told me to part the boughs and look down.

What I saw brought me to tears. There, among the grass and spruce needles was a small memorial stone for Whooping crane number 10-12. The spirited girl crane that entertained the camera viewers last summer when she caught her first mouse and pranced around the wet-pen, holding it in her long beak like a trophy. She must have done 15 laps – stopping everyone once in awhile to whack the mouse on the ground to ensure it was indeed dead before she swallowed it whole.

The same crane that the pilots regarded as the best flyer of the group and who, even though we don’t name our birds, was dubbed ‘Ruthie Louise’ by some because her hatchday was the same birthday as the Mother’s (Ruthie & Louise) of two CraneCam viewers.

And sadly, the same Whooping crane who somehow broke her femur when landing after a migration flight on October 26, 2012. Despite everyone’s best efforts, number 10-12 aka Ruthie Louise died during a surgery, which we had hoped would save her.

10-12 Ruthie LouiseEdward explained that a couple from Baraboo turned up one day and asked if he would mind if they placed their memorial stone on his property as this was where they had stood last September to watch number 10-12 and her flockmates fly overhead. After hearing the couple tell the story about this young crane and that she was no longer with us, Edward said he couldn’t tell them no.

So to the couple from Baraboo who carried out this very kind act, and to Edward and Lois, and to everyone else that cares so deeply about these cranes… You’re good people. Really good people.

Whooping Crane #10-12 in flight

#10-12 in flight over the White River Marsh SWA in Green Lake County, WI on August 31, 2012 – Gone but not forgotten. 

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  1. Kathleen Kaska July 7, 2013 9:52 am

    Number 10-12 will forever fly in our hearts.


  2. Lori (loriearn) July 2, 2013 4:00 pm

    Heather, as I write though big crocodile tears, (oh yes, while at work) I just had to Thank You for writing this. Being new to Whoopers back then, Ruthie Louise certainly was a favorite of the chatter group. Watching her “wrap the tumes around her long toes” was a delight every day! Getting extra grapes after every training was something she figured out early on and she captured our hearts as we watched this “little” Diva manipulate Brooke, Goeff, Richard & Julie, toying with them while they tried to entice her back into the pen. #10-12 will always be in our hearts, and how sweet to know she is memorialized by a little white stone placed on a dear couples homestead, set there by loving Craniacs for us all to visit….. (((Ruthie Louise, we miss you)))

  3. Jane Crone July 2, 2013 1:41 pm

    So hard to read because of the tears.
    All that have been lost are togather .

  4. Margie Tomlinson July 2, 2013 11:05 am

    Oh, Heather!!! I have a box of kleenex next to me, and my eyes are full of wetness about to fall. We ALL remember #10-12 so well.
    How could we not! That little stone is absolutely precious, too! Thanks to all who contributed to this story. We will never forget her!

  5. Charly July 2, 2013 10:09 am

    Now I’m crying all over again. My husband and I put that memorial under there last fall, placed flowers in the tree, and posted a photo for the Craniacs to see. It was a pleasure to meet with Lois and Edward and share their wonder in watching our ‘babies’ grow and master the skies. I’m so happy to see that little plaque survived the winter.

    • Heather Ray July 2, 2013 3:41 pm

      Thank you Charly 🙂 It did indeed survive the winter. It’s pretty well protected by the spruce boughs…

  6. Claire Timm July 2, 2013 9:50 am

    Amazing how that sweet girl affected so many hearts!!


  7. Deanna Uphoff July 2, 2013 9:39 am

    Thanks for such a beautiful story. Thanks to the couple who allowed this memorial and will allow the dsl.. Crying tears.

  8. Claire DeLand July 2, 2013 8:30 am

    Thank you, Heather. This is beautifully written and brings to mind not only our beloved Whooper (#10-12) but those wonderful friends of Whoopers in whose yard Terry and I also stood during that Sunday morning flyover.

    I think it’s only by remembering all we have loved and lost that we learn to appreciate all the more what we still have with us, and I certainly feel the “presence” of # 10-12 right now.

    Were they amenable to having the DSL line moved? That would be so wonderful of them if they will!!!

    Thanks again . . . so many things to admire about OM and the “team”, but nothing more so than the “heart” each of you display as you work so tirelessly to help these magnificent creatures!!

    • Heather Ray July 2, 2013 8:55 am

      Thanks Claire. Edward and Lois were amenable, however, CenturyLink cannot accommodate any more lines on that particular dsl appliance. We will stay put.

  9. Warrenwesternpa July 2, 2013 7:32 am

    Endearing Qualities, July 2, 2013 – Heather Ray

    A beautiful but sad reality of our Whoopers and those who care for all living creatures. Ruthie Louise took the journey that we will all share. In doing so, we can visibly see the inherent compassion that we have for each other. Wonderfully written Heather…Thank you!