Let me tell you a little story about owls. Some of you know the peculiar tale about how a parliament of owls gathered around the night I told my sisters the story that became my first fiction novel. It scared my baby sister so badly that she ran away and cried.
But this is not that story. This is yet another true and very bizarre tale about what happened one night in Proctor, Oklahoma. I stayed over at my family home that night for some reason I cannot now recall. I woke up in the 2 o’clock hour with the strong urge to make water. I might’ve consumed some of my Dad’s wine before retiring. I stumbled into the bathroom and felt struck by a strange compulsion to look out the small bathroom window. Again, I can’t explain why. An old Oak, some wild blackberry bushes and honeysuckle were the only things to be seen back there. Our neighbor Herbie’s field stretched out beyond the fenceline.
My eyes were still bleary with sleep when I peered out the window. But the spectacle I witnessed in the backyard caused them to go cold-sober and wide as saucers. There, sitting on the lowest branch of the old Oak under the yellow light of a full moon was the largest bird I had ever seen. He looked to be four feet in height, his eyes easily the size of my mother’s tea cup saucers. The owl was looking down, directly below his perch. I followed his gaze with my own. Sitting there on her haunches and looking up was Stella, my mom and dad’s gentle-giant St. Bernard. She was a beautiful darling and we treated her as such. My parents sometimes put a pastel beret on her head, which she wore with aplomb.
So there they sat, these two, just staring at each other. I had to get closer for I could scarce believe the spectacle before my own eyes. As I bolted to the door I thought it must have all been a hallucination. By the time I eased the screen door open and crept along the side of the house I had convinced myself that nothing would be there. I knew I would go back to bed feeling very silly.
I slowly maneuvered around the corner. To my horror and great delight there they sat even still, only now I could hear a very strange sound the owl made at Stella. It wasn’t a hoot at all but rather a rapid series of low staccato sounds. I shouldn’t have done it but I felt I had to move closer. The moment I took a forward step, the great horned owl dropped out of that tree like an open-air glider. The staggering sight of it was made all the more spectacular by the whipping sound of those massive wings as they carried him away, off into the darkness. Stella looked at me and if I didn’t know better, I’d believe she had a countenance of embarrassment on her face, to have been caught cavorting after the midnight hour with, of all things, a creature of the night.
When I think about it now I know that it is one of those visions in life that will go with me to the grave. One of those lucky snapshots that can never be replicated. Stella is gone now and she is sorely missed. But she never quite looked at me the same after that. I guess I will spend the rest of my days wondering what message he delivered to her that night, perched up on the gnarled old Oak branch in the light of a full Harvest Moon. #okienoir