No Way But Gentlenesse: A Memoir of How Kes, My Kestrel, Changed My Life
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There is no way but gentlenesse to redeeme a Hawke.
--Edmund Bert, 1619
Born and raised in the South Yorkshire mining village of Hoyland Common, Richard Hines remembers sliding down heaps of coal dust, hearing whispers of "accidents" in the pit, listening for the siren at the end of mine shifts, and praying for his father's safe return. At age eleven, Richard's prospects suddenly dimmed when he failed the trials for English Grammar School, though his older brother Barry, evidently their mother's favorite, had passed and seemed headed for great things.
Crushed by a system that swiftly and permanently decided that some children do not merit a real education, and persecuted by the cruel antics of his English schoolteachers, Richard spent his time in the fields and meadows just beyond the colliery slag heap. One morning, walking on the grounds of a ruined medieval manor, he came across a nest of kestrels. Instantly captivated but without a role model to learn from, he sought out ancient falconry texts from the local library and pored over the strange and beautiful language there. With just these books, some ingenuity, and his profound respect for the hawk's indomitable wildness, Richard learned to "man" or train his kestrel, Kes, and in the process became a man himself.
No Way But Gentlenesse is a breathtaking memoir of one remarkable boy's love for a culture lost to time, and his attempt to find salvation in the natural world.