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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 6 of 19

Chapter 6 - Tap Dancer

Regardless of my failure with the beef heart, Sushi was growing rapidly. Our ugly duckling had finally turned into a beautiful, but ravenous swan. A fortune was being spent on live mud minnows, vitamins, canned catfood and occasional mistakes like the beef heart. Sometimes we had minnows in our minnow trap, but most of the time we didn't. That meant a trip to the bait shop on a regular basis for live minnows.

Almost every morning, on the way to work, I would stop by the bait shop to buy a bag of live mud minnows to go. The lady who ran the shop always asked about the owl. We joked about fast-food for an owl.

One particular morning, while on my minnow mission, I decided to take Sushi inside the bait shop and introduce him to the lady. She wasn't there. Instead, her husband was outside the building retrieving live shrimp for a customer from the big bait tank.

As I carried the owl into the bait shop inside his big open basket, I noticed a cooler on the floor to my left full of tiny, live fiddler crabs. The little crabs were scrabbling about in the sawdust floor of the cooler. About the time the owner walked back in the door... Sushi took his very first flight!

Sushi took off from the basket, landed smack-dab in the middle of the cooler full of fiddlers, and proceeded to tap dance all over them. Sushi was grabbing talons full of fiddlers, stuffing them into his beak, and swallowing them whole! He was garbling delightedly between gulps.

The owner yelled, "Hey!!!", to stop the owl from gobbling down all of his profit. But, it didn't phase Sushi, who seemed to be having a grand time doing his tap dance.
Although the wife knew about the owl, the husband didn't. What a shock it must have been to walk into his own business and find a large owlet inside a cooler eating his hard gained fiddlers.

Sushi had to be physically removed from the cooler by gently grabbing him with both hands around his wings and lifting him back into his basket, still with two talons and a beak full of squirming fiddlers.
The owner had to smile. He was paid much more than the fiddlers were worth, and I added a new "to go" item to my shopping list with them. Sushi had a new food source... fresh fiddlers. The owl had never seen a live fiddler crab. Yet, his instinct told him this was food. He did what would come natural in the wild. Relief! I didn't have to teach the owl everything. There are some things they just know. The owl was teaching me!

Even with this new food source, the concern was that the owl might be undernourished. So, Sushi was constantly tried on new food items. Chicken livers, giblets, and beef liver were met with the same distain as the mouse and the beef heart. Here was an owl that didn't like the taste of blood. My worries continued.

"If a habitual drunkard was given owl's eggs broken in a cup, he would henceforth detest strong drink as much as he formerly loved it." - The Encyclopedia of Superstitions

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