The idea for the story came to me before I determined what kind of bird he was, or for that matter, what his name might be. Once the seed was planted in my brain that a story could be told about a bird that was afraid of heights, I started thinking what kind of bird would be fun to write about.
The idea for the kind of bird to feature came serendipitously soon after our family had visited the Grand Teton National Park. My family knows that I have a penchant for wanting to wander through the visitor facilities at all the National Parks we visit, as well as participating in Ranger talks and walks. But after much coaxing, my reluctant family joined me on a Ranger-led walk around Jenny Lake. Late in the evening nearing sunset, the Ranger pointed out an Osprey flying over the lake heading to its nest high up in the trees.
What was intriguing was that the Osprey was carrying in its talons a fish that he had caught in the lake. The Ranger explained that the Osprey, after catching a fish and having gained flying height, would turn the fish head first into the wind to reduce the aerodynamic drag that would otherwise be encountered as it flew. By some method, evolution had taught the Osprey how to minimize the effort of carrying the extra weight and bulk while flying.
It was a moment that I still vividly remember, 30-some years later, and when my wife later suggested using the Osprey as the main character, it resulted in my having three basic elements that would be interesting for me to write about—a fun story, an interesting character, and a great location. That’s why I like National Park Rangers and thoughtful wives.
I immediately started doing some research on Ospreys. I learned, as The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Western Region) currently says: Ospreys are worldwide and truly cosmopolitan, large, hawk-sized, hook-billed birds of prey, nesting on trees or crags near water, fishing by hovering and plunge-diving, and have sharp scales on the bottom of their feet for holding their prey, and have 2-4 young in a stick nest.
I was hooked. Ospreys were majestically beautiful creatures with characteristics that fits Oscar’s story. Oscar’s name came simply from the alliteration with the Osprey name and my push to emphasize the letter “O”.
So that’s how Oscar got a name and became an Osprey!