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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 15 of 19

Chapter 15 - The Hunter

Late one afternoon, I took a treat out to Sushi at the houseboat, and he refused to eat. That was most unusual. The owl was always hungry. Instead of eating, he kept garbling excitedly. "Quuuagooooba! Beeerlieek!" He was flying from branch to branch, and doing his little sideways dance.
"What is it, Sushi? The owl wanted my full attention for some reason, so I gave it to him. It wasn't long before he flew to Sushi's tree, and retrieved a freshly killed mole from a hole in the tree. Sushi had killed his first wild rodent! Instead of eating it right away, he hid it so he could show it to me. I made a very big deal out of it. "Good owl!" "Way to go, Sush!" Sushi chuckled contentedly and settled in to eat his mole. It wasn't a pretty sight.

Finally, the owl was hunting, really hunting, on his own. The next day I found him in a tree with a snake dangling out of his beak as he tore off little pieces. Sushi was having a little difficulty with the spine of the snake, but he just kept picking at it, like you pick meat off a turkey neck. That wasn't a pretty sight either.

More and more the owl snubbed the food we brought him. We began to find little piles of wild bird feathers and small carcass remainders all over the yard, but never, ever a chicken. The chickens were his "buds". He was raised with the chickens and still didn't know they were a food source. Sushi did like to dive bomb the chickens in a sneak attack and watch them run screaming in all directions, but he never hurt them. It was just owl fun.

Before Sushi came, we had a very large nest of tree wood rats in a palm tree by the deck. Within two months of Sushi's release, every single rat was gone.

Along with his ability to kill, came a new attitude. The owl was becoming more aggressive. Anything that moved was now fair game. The wild birds that used to torment him, now had to flee for their lives. Bunny rabbits, frogs and snakes stayed well hidden. Lizards scrambled for their lives. Anything that moved was subject to attack. Anything but people. Sushi loved people.

Sushi had the added advantage of being out during the daytime, and was feeding himself very well. He had turned into a magnificent bird.
We watched in total amazement the day Sushi decided to chase a big dragonfly. The acrobatics were incredible. The owl dove, and swooped, swerved and climbed. He almost did complete flips. He stayed right on the tail of that dragonfly and almost caught it! We were astonished and amused. Sushi didn't want to eat the dragonfly, he was playing owl games again.

The cats normally did not come out in the big back yard. They stayed close to the house. But, Tripod, the three-legged Siamese decided to follow us out to the houseboat. Sushi swooped the little handicapped cat, knocked it down, and when Tripod got up to run, the owl would swoop again. Poor Tripod was knocked down three times before she made it under a boat in the yard. The whole time we were running across the yard screaming, "NO SUSHI!!!!!" NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

But, the owl didn't hurt the cat. It could have clamped down on the cat with its talons, but it didn't. The owl simply bowled the cat over. Sushi was playing owl games. The only thing that was hurt, was Tripod's pride. Tripod did not find the attack amusing, and has never to this day returned to the back yard.

Now, for the first time, I believed the owl might actually make it on his own in the wild. There was always a fear that one day I would come home and find one of my cats dead in the yard. I loved the owl, but I also loved my cats. The cats sensed the change in the owl and started voluntarily staying close to home.

I made the mistake of feeding Sushi a can of catfood atop a flat covered trailer in the yard. Apparently, he hadn't made a kill in a while and he was unusually hungry. Canned catfood was always handy in case of an emergency.
As I popped the can open and dumped it in the dish, Sushi made a perfect glide and precise landing atop the trailer. Suddenly, the Calico cat, upon hearing the delicious sound of catfood being opened, leapt atop the trailer also, not realizing the owl was already there. They were beak to nose over the food. In a flash, Sushi puffed himself up, spread his wings to their full length and ran at the cat screeching like a banshee.
The last I saw of the Calico was the tip of its tail as it scrambled under the nearest parked car. Owl 2, cat 0.

"In many cultures, owls signal an underworld or serve to represent human spirits after death" - The Owl Pages - Owls in Lore and Culture

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