PUBLISHED: 4:41 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Fate of swans connects Haines
In Haines we mark the scenery along our roads by mile markers. We get water from nine mile, the airport is at four mile, and the eagles are at 17.

The kids who ride the school bus to Klukwan (21 mile) are intimate with every part of this scenic road and give us daily updates on any changes to its surroundings.

By the end of spring our road has a new set of seasonal landmarks.

Photo by Steve Vick
  A swan sits on her eggs at mile 13 near Haines.
The moose and calf are still hanging out at 8 mile. The road is good at 18 mile but there is still evidence of the landslide. A bear was recently seen at 12 mile.

What was once rather bland milepost, soon became idyllic landscapes of nature.

Last year, a mating pair of trumpeter swans made a nest at 13 mile.

The towns' heart poured into their story. The female had been sitting on the nest for weeks.

Her photograph was a regular part of our weekly paper. Everyone was waiting for news of the chicks.

Then word came from the school bus. The mother swan was missing. And the town started talking: "Did you hear about the swans?" "Something happen at 13 mile?" A police investigation was soon underway. We held our breath and waited.

As a state biologist waded into the pond to recover the floating body of the female swan, the town mourned. Our worst fears were realized. Someone had shot her during the night and left her there to die on her un-hatched eggs.

Our hearts sank. Editorials were written. Many were enraged. Many were sad. Just the mention of mile 13 caused heads to bow in silence.

And the children that rode the school bus were left with unanswered questions. The magic at mile 13 was lost. Only an empty nest and a stranded male remained.

The police investigation of the shooting drew few conclusions. The swan was shot around 9 p.m. the previous night.

Incidentally, two boys had been picked up for shooting out power lines that same night. But the police were unable to connect them to the killing of the swan. Authorities said the suspects' denial of involvement with the swan seemed "forthright."

The state biologist called the situation grim. "It is particular bad with swans," he said, "since they mate for life."

The fate of the eggs was out of our hands. The male swan swam alone in the pond.

Why would someone do this and what can we do to make it right? Helplessness is the most undesirable of emotions.

Southeast Alaskans are, by nature, a hardy bunch. We withstand strong winds, long winters and rough seas.

We cherish the land we live on and respect the animals we share it with. For many, nature helps connect us with a higher power.

The swan incident shook this faith for some. But others never lost hope.

The eggs - though no longer incubated with the warmth of their mother - were still intact. And though survival seemed slim, there was still a chance.

When the eggs did hatch the town was as much relieved as it was surprised. We did a collective exhale and rejoiced. A picture of the new chicks adorned the front page of the newspaper. The caption simply read: "They're here!"

This summer, the magic has returned to 13 mile. Another pair of trumpeter swans swims humbly, if not courageously, in the same small pond.

A new young mother sits in the old nest and the town again waits for news of the chicks.

And though the presence of the young couple may remind us of a not so proud moment in our town's history, it also reminds us of our ability to persevere.

We strengthened are ability to remain hopeful and quite possibly, our ability to forgive.