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
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
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
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
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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