The Bird Watcher

            Hadley Dumont was born and raised in Beverly Hills in the 1950’s.  His father Harry made a fortune developing immense tracks of land in the Los Angeles area that became the birthplace of the baby boom generation.  Hadley grew up watching his father overcome any and all obstacles that stood in his way toward real estate development.  There were no environmental laws at the time, so things like open space, saving trees and blending in with Nature were concepts that Harry thought were only for kooks and losers.  His philosophy about life was, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, when there is so much money to be made today.!”

            So Hadley grew up with the best of everything, went to prep school, got a business degree and always drove the nicest car accompanied by some beautiful styler queen.  His house was gigantic and the envy of all the jealous types in the Hills.

            Suddenly, Harry died of a heart attack at 58 from the stress of pushing too hard and eating artery clogging food.  That is when Hadley took over the business and became far more ruthless in real estate than his father ever was.  It was now the 1980’s, and Southern California had gone berserk with building.  Hadley was making ten times the amount of money his father had and didn’t care about wetlands, birds, open space, green or anything that could stop him.  He gobbled up land like Pac Man and pushed his new developments to the extreme in places such as Lancaster and beyond. 

            Rarely did Hadley go on site to visit one of his properties.  On one particular day he chose to drive out into the mountains to his latest 2,000 home development in an area with pine trees and thick chaparral.  He found out that there was some kind of holdup with the land grading, because the workers didn’t want to cut down a tree that had nesting birds in it.  This really made Hadley hot, and he raced over to the tree, jumped out of his Cadillac and started ripping into the workers. 

             He screamed, “Listen you stupid idiots, nothing is going to stop this development!  I don’t care about some stinking birds in a tree, because they mean nothing to me!  Now get your asses over there and drop that damn tree, pronto!”  Nobody said a word or moved an inch.  This infuriated Hadley and he grabbed one of the chainsaws to cut the tree.  He was like a demon-possessed madman, as he relentlessly sawed the tree.  Sweat was pouring down his forehead, as wood chips and sawdust became glued to his face.  After ten minutes Hadley stepped back as the tree began to fall.  There was a big thud and dust cloud when the tree hit the ground.  Hadley yelled to the men, “Alright you pussies, get this tree out of my way!”

            When the dust had cleared, Hadley heard a small chirping sound.  He looked down and saw several little baby birds spinning hopelessly on the ground, injured beyond repair.  The momma bird was close by dead from the enormous impact of the falling tree.

            Something happened to Hadley at that moment, and he had an epiphany.  He knelt down, scooped up one of the dying birds and began to sob uncontrollably.  In that moment he saw himself for what he really was-an evil, selfish man.  He became full of remorse and vowed to change his life right then and there.  Everyone was silent as Hadley walked away from the project wiping his tears away, but they knew something big had happened. 

            He took some time off to think about things and went to his cabin up in the woods for a few days.  The sounds of the songbirds in the morning were soothing to his tired soul.  When he returned to work, his employees were blown away.  He immediately hired an environmental consultant and became obsessed with energy efficiency, affordable housing, open space development, saving and planting trees and natural landscaping. He formed a group of developers for responsible land use and asked them, “Did your mommy and daddy ever teach you about the birds and the bees?  If your development doesn’t benefit them, then it doesn’t benefit us!”  The real irony is that Hadley became a bird watcher and would take his family on camping trips to see them. He purchased the best scopes for everyone, took great delight in getting up early to watch the birds and always hoped to get a glimpse of a rare one. 

            In full circle Hadley had become one of the people that he once despised.  He had learned the golden rule that when one takes good care of the animals, plants and environment, it will take good care of you.  He spent the rest of his life buying up conservation easements at every opportunity and supporting responsible development of the land.  The more money he made, the more land he saved.  Hadley had come a long way from being a man who was hated and despised, to a man loved by all.


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