Our “No Place Like Home” columnist, Lorry Myers, decided to visit Eagle Days because she’d never seen our national bird up close and personal. It was cold and cloudy, but now she didn’t want to go. Suddenly, everything changed.

Illustration by Merit Myers

By Lorry Myers, Flight Attendant
It was the first weekend in January, a Saturday that brought with it cold and clouds that I hadn’t invited. Snow was left on the ground the night before, so I grumpily pulled on heavy socks, pocketed furry gloves, and grabbed my heaviest heavy coat.

I wanted to go, but now I didn’t.

I had never driven the Great River Road and had certainly never seen a bald eagle, which was the point of this little adventure. I am a grown adult, and one day realized that I had never seen our country’s national bird!

Now, I was too cold to care.

I didn’t trust that I would randomly find an eagle on my own, so I found Eagle Days instead. Clarksville, Mo., on the Mississippi River, partners with the Conservation Department to offer educational sessions about our national bird and, get this, a chance to see bald eagles up close and personal.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Still, it was windy along that river, and chunks of ice were flowing in the dark water. The wind had picked up and the temperature had gone down. But I’d come this far, and I wasn’t going to let cold weather cheat me out of this chance.

A fellow eagle-seeker and I wandered by the River Park where a learning session was about to begin. It was held in a shelter that provided a break from the wind. We ducked inside and found empty seats in front. Right by a heater.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. I forgot about the cold, and my nose and toes, and fingers. When the conservation agent walked in with a giant hooded bird on his gloved arm, I forgot about everything. This particular bald eagle had been injured and now was scheduled to be released back where he was found. I was glued to my seat.

This bird was so magnificent and far, far grander than I had imagined. When the eagle had settled and his hood was removed, this giant bird shook his impressive white head, which wasn’t bald at all, then sat up tall on the agent’s arm. To claim his space, the eagle
raised his giant wings and spread them fully as if to test them out before he tried them out. I could hear the beat of those massive wings before I felt the air move around me, and there, right in front of me, I saw something I will not forget. An eagle taking flight.

I know it sounds silly, but as I watched that spectacular creature spread his wings and show his might, I felt something change inside me. It was the wind and the wings, the talons, and the intent, and at that moment, I fully comprehended why the eagle was chosen to symbolize America. This bald eagle was nothing but powerful, proud, and protective, and made me feel that way, too. She was confident and seemed to know his place in the world. I could tell, this bird was a force.

A fierce lover of freedom.

Later, out in the cold, I took a deep breath of that freedom and wiped my eyes. For some reason, I felt warm inside and walked a little taller, and stood a little prouder than I did before I went in. Seeking out a bald eagle started out as an obligation, something I felt like I needed to do. Seeing that symbol of freedom turned out to be more than I expected—more than words can say.

Call me sentimental, call me an overzealous patriot, but I am telling you, if you have never seen an eagle fly, you are missing a piece of who you are, and a peace you never knew you needed.

Clarksville holds its annual Eagle Days on the last full weekend of January. The Clarksville site is Missouri’s oldest Eagle Days event.