Chapter 16 - Mr. Personality
Sushi had now come into his own. He
wasn't afraid of anything, be it man, bird, dog, or cat. The only thing he has
not mastered yet was hooting.
We would spend hours with the owl hooting at him. The Barred Owls call sounds
like... who-cooks-for-you. So, here were two grown adults, nose to beak with an
owl, repeating over and over again... "Whoooo... whooo... who cooks for you?" Sushi
would respond... "gzbarwaaakernack?"
How was Sushi going to frighten prey
out into the open, or call a mate garbling, "gzbarwaakennack?" Sushi was trying
to talk to us in his owlese.
He had tones to his language; happy, worried, curious, furious, frightened and
the delightful laughing chuckle. Sushi was trying to talk to us in the human
language, and imitate our sounds. Most of the time he sounded like the old
pervert on "Laugh-In." Our attempts to teach him how to hoot were a disaster.
Soon he would lose interest in our
"who-cooks-for-you" routine and go back to hunting fiddler crabs in the mud. One
particular afternoon he goofed and attacked a good sized stone crab. Stone crabs
are much bigger than fiddlers, and they have one enormous and powerful claw.
Fortunately, this was a baby stone crab, or Sushi might have lost a foot.
The owl swooped down on the stone crab and made a successful grab. The stone
crab clamped down hard on one of the owls toes. Sushi shrieked in pain and fell
over in the mud, rolling around trying to get the crab off his toe. The whole
time he was garbling his frightened garble.
Unable to get the crab off his toe in the mud, Sushi flew up to the nearest tree
branch with the crab still attached to his foot. Finally, the owl ripped the
whole claw off the crab, dropped its body, and had to chew the still attached
claw off his sore toe.
Hunting and language lessons were over for the day. Sushi came down and sat on
the table in front of us, holding his hurt foot in the air and garbled excitedly
about his misadventure. By now, we were both used to talking to him, so we held
a long conversation about the "mean old crab."
During this time of Sushi's freedom,
we had many friends over to the houseboat. They were in awe of the owl. Sushi
would come down from the trees and just hang around like one of the gang. Some
people were afraid of him, but could not get over the experience of seeing a
full grown owl land on a table right in front of them.
A Party Visit
Sushi, with his love of fun, would do
his sudden appearance trick on all newcomers to the dock. Steve's best friend
was visiting us one evening. The owl had perched on the back of Steve's chair.
Our friend walked out in the the yard to his truck to get some fresh caught fish
out of the cooler in the truckbed. When our friend got up to go to the truck,
Steve winked at me and said, "Watch this."
Sushi took off from the back of the chair in his quiet glide. When our friend
straightened up from leaning over the cooler, Sushi was right in front of his
face. Have you ever heard a grown man scream?
We heard many grown men scream when
they walked out into the woods to "water the plants" and found an owl suddenly
appear on a branch in front of their nose.
Soon, Sushi began to explore the neighborhood. He would go farther, and farther
afield with each trip. Sometimes he would be gone for days. I would worry and
fret about the owl. Steve would just give me that LOOK. The LOOK that says, "You
ninny, this is why we raised the owl, so it could be wild." But, he didn't say
anything. Regardless, I was always relieved when Sushi came back home and was
waiting for me in Sushi's tree.
As Sushi began exploring, the phone
calls started. Fortunately, they were all favorable. We had warned all of our
neighbors that we were raising an owl. We had given them all instructions on
what to do if they saw him. They were not to attempt to pet him, or feed him.
Our neighbors fell in love with
Sushi. One neighbor had a small boy who had the thrill of a lifetime when Sushi
came down and sat next to the child on his own back porch deck.
Neighbors on the other side were an elderly couple in their 80's. Sushi would
make surprise visits to them when they were gardening. Another neighbor received
visits from Sushi when he had bonfire parties in his back yard. One immediate
next door neighbor had a working boat yard. Sushi would perch in the riggings of
the boats and watch the men work. The reaction was always the same. "What a
beautiful bird!" What a thrill to see an owl up close!"
A neighborhood watch was formed. All
sightings of the owl were dutifully reported to us. Our neighbors looked out for
him. Actually, they were disappointed if Sushi didn't visit them once in a
while. Sushi lifted the spirits of both the old and the young. Little care
packages would arrive at our front door from neighbors with fresh chunks of
beef, chicken, fish, and pork, carefully cut into bite size pieces for the owl.
We didn't have the heart to tell them none of that food interested Sushi.
"Almost everywhere owls have been
associated with strange powers, especially the forces of evil and misfortune.
The lore concerning owls has such basic similarities throughout most of the
world that it would seem to have arisen from a deep-seated and disquieting
emotional response, evoked by a creature having characteristics interpreted as
partly human." - Man, Myth and Magic
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