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The Owl Pages
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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 14 of 19

Chapter 14 - Me and my Shadow

This was the beginning of the NEW Sushi. Everywhere we went in the yard, there was a silent shadow gliding right behind us. When we were in the house, the owl was perched outside the window of that room.

Now that Sushi had become an excellent flier, life was never the same. You couldn't hear the bird. Sushi could soar so close to your head, his feathers would barely brush your ears. But, the only way you knew he was there was by the woosh of air as he glided by.
It didn't take Sushi long to learn that he could startle us by suddenly appearing out of nowhere. It became a new and favorite owl game. Even though we knew about the game, it was still quite unnerving when the the owl appeared right in front of you without a sound. Sushi could also disappear as quickly as he appeared, once again without a sound.

It wasn't necessary to call the owl anymore. When we appeared, he appeared. It was strange to see an owl out in full daylight. Sushi did just as well in the daytime as he did in the dark. But, he would stay in the shadow of the trees most of the time.

We often drove out to the houseboat, since it was a good distance from the house. Our vehicles parked out by the deck became new territory to explore for Sushi. He discovered the rear view mirrors. Instead of attacking the bird in the mirror, he would sit on the open window of the vehicle and look at himself for long periods of time.
Sushi also discovered that if he sat on the open window, or on top of one of our vehicles, it was difficult for us to leave. It was his way of trying to keep us with him. Sometimes, he would ride to the front of the house on top of Steve's van.

Every evening, after work, we would head straight to the houseboat with a treat for the owl. Sometimes a mouse, sometimes fiddlers, sometimes mud minnows. We trained him to hunt by throwing live fiddlers over the deck into the damp marsh mud. There, under the deck, were a lot of wild fiddlers living in the mud. Sushi had to learn to go under the deck and his food would be walking around. The owl was a fast learner. Soon, he was perched on the walkway, still as a stone, watching the wild fiddlers under the deck, diving down and catching them himself!

The same thing happened with mud minnows. Sushi had been trained to catch live mud minnows swimming in a shallow bowl. Discovering that the marsh held food, Sushi would wait for the tide to go out and would hunt mud minnows swimming in shallow tidal pools. Our wild food bill started going down. My meals on wheels for the owl were further apart now.

Being the smart bird he was, Sushi also quickly learned that when we were going fishing, and pulled up our minnow trap off the back of the houseboat, there would be plenty of food in that trap. He would come sit on the piling and watch us pull the trap. The trap contained both crabs and fiddlers. We would toss a few up on the flat roof of the boat, and Sushi would fly up and tap dance all over them.

As we relaxed in our tall bar stools on the deck, discussing the day and watching the awesome sunsets, Sushi would "hang out" with us. Sometimes he would perch in Sushi's tree. Sometimes he would quietly land on the back of the bar stool where we sat.
Upon occasion, Sushi would delicately reach out with his talons and try to catch a strand of my hair, or chew on my hair tie. We had to discourage this. As cute as it was, if he ever attempted to touch us, he got a firm "No!", and we would move away from him. Once again, he learned quickly. He might sit within an inch of us, but would not touch us, and we would not touch him.

This was the most delightful time we had with the owl. We would watch him hunt mud minnows and fiddlers from the deck. Sometimes he would sit with us. Sometimes he would fly from tree to tree and ignore us. Most of the time he would carry on his garbling conversation, as if we understood everything he said. It was common practice for us to talk to the owl. He seemed to enjoy it.

Once in a while he would perch right above our heads and stare at us in sterigne silence, as if he were in deep thought.
When we went inside the houseboat, Sushi would land on the piling nearest to the window where we sat, and watch us. A few times he actually flew inside the houseboat through the open sliding glass door. But, he ended up knocking a lot of stuff over and scared himself. So, he was content to stay outside on the piling.

Every morning, Sushi would be outside the front door of our house, terrorizing the cats. The owl was much bigger now, and the cats seemed to realize now that this wasn't just a big chicken. Uno, the Rottweiler, and Sushi had an uneasy truce. The owl would stay just out of reach of the dog, but would also tease the big dog by doing his sudden appearance trick and surprising Uno.

One bright, sunny morning we were outside the front of the house, gardening. I thought Sushi was out in the woods. As I walked across the driveway, I picked up a big pine cone and lofted it in the air for Uno to retrieve. Uno loved to fetch, and she took off in a gallop to catch the pine cone.
Unfortunately, the owl appeared out of nowhere and also dove for the pine cone! We would have never expected the owl to do something like that! I watched in terror as the big dog and the owl headed for a collision.
It was like slow motion. Uno never heard the owl coming. Just before the moment of impact, the owl grabbed the pine cone out of the air and flew silently away with it, leaving Uno standing there quite confused. We both heaved a sigh of relief, but didn't play fetch with Uno anymore.

Several times in the morning, Sushi would follow my car all the way down the driveway to the main road. It then became necessary to drive all the way back to the the house and try to distract the bird with something. I was late to work a lot. It would not have surprised me to find Sushi perched outside the door of our shop at work. Fortunately, that never happened, but I swear I heard him a few times.

"In certain regions of Nigeria, the natives avoid naming the owl, referring to it as 'the bird that makes you afraid'" - Man, Myth and Magic

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