There's a sweet side-story to the tale of the ultra rare redwood in Cotati that may be cut down to make way for SMART train tracks.

Lori Carter's story noted that retired newspaperwoman Prue Draper, co-founder of the Cotati Historical Society, has researched the variegated albino redwood for months.

A restlessly curious traveler, Draper was satisfied when she left to explore New Zealand weeks ago that the tree would be preserved.

But during that trip, an email notified her that SMART now finds it necessary to remove the tree because a second track is going in there, at East Cotati Avenue, and the tree would be dangerously close to it.

That bit of news was a low point of Prue's Pacific journey. And this was a high one:

Draper stopped over in Honolulu to take care of some unfinished business. A decade ago, amid a Pacific cruise with her late husband, Lloyd, she'd become miserably ill.

She was shocked to learn in a Hawaiian hospital that she was suffering heart failure.

"I wasn't a very nice patient," Draper said. She grudgingly submitted to procedures that Dr. Wesley Kai, a cardiologist, recommended.

Draper said these past 10 years have been pretty darned good, and she owes them to that doc. So en route to New Zealand she sojourned in Honolulu long enough to thank him and give him a bottle of Sonoma County wine.

It did both their hearts good. Now she's back to bird-dogging that peculiar tree alongside the SMART rails.

KIDS SHRIEKED, naturally, as a hawk clutching a pigeon flew right into the open doorway of the computer lab at Santa Rosa Middle School just after lunchtime Tuesday.

A substitute teacher dialed the office as the bird of prey screeched, dropped the dead pigeon on the floor, smacked into a windowpane and settled above the window frame.

Assistant Principal Tom Fierro came running, along with science teacher Neal Arneson and Angel Sanchez, the student advisor.

Principal Kathy Coker watched from a prudent distance as they pondered how to safely displace a bird that presumably could claw and peck them blind as quickly as it snagged the hapless pigeon.

Then Arneson rushed out. In a flash the science teacher was back wearing goggles and thick gloves and wielding a large, handled net.

Quickly, he and helpers Fierro and Sanchez had the hawk in the net and out of the classroom. It struggled and became entangled in the net, so Arneson toiled at a gentle, cautious extrication.

At last, the bird — Arneson is quite sure it was a Cooper's hawk — was free. It flew well up into a tree, prompting cheers that the encounter had ended without injury.

Well, there was the pigeon.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and