A fresh start after 60: I worked in a small office for 30 years – then I started falconry and I’m out in the rain, the sun and the cold’ | life and style

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FFor almost 30 years, Mitch Law has gone to work in the same office – four square meters, with a window that overlooked a parking lot. As IT Manager at Warrington, he was not isolated. In addition, his wife Bernice was a colleague. But Law has spent his working life tied to a desk in a room like a box.

When they both asked to be fired, Bernice was denied. “But to me, they said, ‘Mitch, oh yeah, 28 – yeah, byeee! “”

He must be thinking about his small office when he pilots Chokky, the Harris Falcon he bought in 2019 when he was 65. “I climb a bit on a ridge. The west wind is coming. It disappears from sight, then slowly returns, working the wind, until it hovers above me, hanging in the wind, staring at me. When it lands on my glove you can barely feel it, it’s so soft. I never tire of it. »

Law had no family history of falconry, but when Bernice retired five years later, it spurred him to action. “That’s when I realized she was going to catch me doing nothing all day. I thought, what should I do?

” I called our local falconry and asked them if they wanted volunteers. They said, ‘Come on Monday.’ It must have been strange to introduce yourself as a novice; he had only been there once, when Bernice treated him to a falconry experience for his 50th birthday. “The first thing you are shown is cleaning. Sixty birds is a lot of poo.

Then he learned to tie the jesses, to tie the birds to the glove. He practiced at home in the “falconer’s knot” on the bathroom towel rack. “Slowly, I acquired knowledge and I never stopped learning. The contrast between being in this office – central heating, nice and warm, cup of tea – and going out every morning – rain, sun, cold… It was invigorating.

After five years of volunteering, he bought out Chokky. For the first two weeks, the falcon did not eat. Law sat in the dark in the mews of Chokky (as falconers call their nest boxes), with the bird on his fist. After a few days, he let the light in. Then he took Chokky to the kitchen; they sat watching TV. Law feared the falcon “died of dehydration.” Then, one day, Chokky gobbled down the food Law offered him; two days later, he jumped from the post to Law’s glove. Within a week he was flying freely.

“Harris Hawks get it. In the wild, they hunt in family packs,” and work well with people because of it, Law says.

On the wing… Mitch Law and Chokky. “When it lands on my glove it’s so soft I can barely feel it.” Photography: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Law describes himself as an actor; the management profile tests told him so. Before retiring, he dabbled in model aircraft piloting, canoeing, kickboxing, surfing and golf. His father was also a man of action, “a very accomplished man” who built boats by hand and flew model airplanes at the same club Law later frequented.

He had left home at 17 “because of friction” between them. He tried many trades, from deep sea trawling to wire drawing, working in shops, factories and warehouses, before discovering his talent for computer programming.

“Men have to leave home, make their own way, and come back to appreciate their fathers,” Law says. As adults, he and his father became close.

Unlike the myriad of activities he had tried before, “falconry was something I immediately loved and stuck with,” he says. “I know dad would have loved it and joined me.

“I sometimes say to Bernice, ‘Let me sort this out again. Am I 68? It doesn’t seem that long as he wondered, as his older colleagues celebrated their 40th birthdays, “What are they going to do now that they’re so old?” »

Chokky is expected to live around 25 years, Law says. “He will probably see me further. So that will be my future as a falconer. And I know in my heart that I will always love her.

Climbing the ridge to free the hawk is starting to look like hard work – Law isn’t in “very good health” now – but nothing will stop him from stealing Chokky. “When I get to a point where I can’t jump over that door and up that ridge, I’ll fly it out of the tree in my backyard.”

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