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an unpleasant pheasant experience

John Price explains the title of his book “Man Killed by Pheasant”:

“Well, it’s based on a unique experience – nearly being killed by a pheasant. While I was still in graduate school, when my wife and I were living in a small Iowa town, I was driving down a rural highway when a pheasant flew in my open driver’s side window, flapped around in my face and nearly caused me to dump the car in a ditch. Luckily I knocked it back outside and was able to safely pull over, where I remained for a long time, trying to recover myself.

The surrounding landscape was also experiencing some dramatic surprises that summer. It was the summer of 1993, during some of the worst state-wide flooding on record. The rural countryside along my commute had become nearly unrecognizable, a mixture of massive destruction and surprising natural beauty. Flooded cornfields were full of wild birds, and the unmown ditches erupted with native grasses and wildflowers.

For most of my life I had thought of my home landscape and its wildlife as ordinary, overly-familiar and predictable – that wayward pheasant and the floods changed my thinking. I got a brief glimpse of what Iowa used to be, a rich ecology of wetlands and prairies, a place of surprises and danger … and it transformed me and my relationship to the place in which I had been born and raised.

Having spent most of my life wanting to leave home, I was now longing for a deeper relationship to what remains of wilderness here, a new sense of kinship with place. … This memoir is about those kinds of transformative experiences. But we don’t usually recognize their significance until much later. At the time of the pheasant incident itself, I was just frightened out of mind and embarrassed – who expects their obituary to read ‘Man Killed by Pheasant?’”

Read my review of this book.

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“an unpleasant pheasant experience”