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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 7 of 19

Chapter 7 - Flight School

I felt like a parent whose child had just taken his first step! Sushi could fly! My friends were wrong. It was instinct, just like the attack on the fiddlers. However, just like a parent whose child starts to walk, this presented a whole new set of problems. Sushi wouldn't stay in his basket anymore.

At work, the owl was making clumsy attempts at flight, usually missing his target and ending up hanging upside down from one foot. Everyone would rush to set him upright.

Sushi's first few flights were short hops. All the employees were amused by his constant antics. If we all kept his belly full, he would sit quietly on the edge of his basket. And, just like a child, when he awoke from one of his many naps, he was full of energy, owl poop and owl pellets. There was no stopping him.

Sushi would flutter from the counter to the floor, sometimes making an awful prat fall by misjudging the distance. Then he would strut, or rather waddle, across the floor. He waddled like a baby with an overfull diaper. Nothing in the world walks quite like an owl on the ground. We quickly learned that when Sushi fluffed up his feathers, held his wings out and backed up, he was about to make a mess. It was scatter or get splattered.

His favorite owl game was "mock attack." Anything on the floor was fair game. A scrap of fabric, a wad of cotton, would call for an elaborate leap into the air landing, sometimes, with both talons clenched on the item, and sometimes miss altogether. He would puff himself up, and look around proudly at us, as if to say... "Look what I did!" Sometimes he attacked thin air with the same sense of pride. His talon/eye coordination had not fully developed yet.

All non-food items had to be taken away from him. And, larger items, like a pencil, were a big no-no, because he would up-end it and attempt a Houdini sword swallow on it. When we took took these non-food items away from him, he would cuss us in owlese. "Burlakamog!" "Reberredin!" Sushi mumbled under his breath a lot.

Work became difficult with an owl crashing around the shop. We were forever vigilant. One "owl movement", or owl pellet on a customer's fabric could spell disaster.
Fortunately, Sushi had several favorite places to land. Once he landed successfully, or semi-successfully, he would be content to stay put for a while. His favorite perch was atop a huge roll of foam. This put him high above everyone. There he could watch everything.

The tall roll of foam was covered in towels and washable plastic. Sushi looked like one of those fake owls you see in marinas. Many a customer walked right by him and never saw him. Others were quite startled when the "fake" owl moved. One customer thought he was one of those silly battery powered toys!

All good things must come to an end. It was too difficult to contain Sushi when he decided to go on one of his "walk-abouts", or rather "waddle-abouts." Plus, he was getting too big for his basket and would sit on the rim of the basket when I drove him to and from work.

Sushi was a big hit at any drive-in window. All work would cease while the employees ran to the window to see him. But, when Sushi decided to start flying around the inside of my car as I was driving, it was time for the next step in Sushi's training.

Everyone loved the little owl, and had hours of entertainment watching his antics in the shop. But, Sushi was around people too much, and becoming much too tame. He needed to be removed from so much human contact if he ever was to be wild.

"When the young leave the nest at about 4 weeks, they are not able to fly, but crawl out of the nest using their beak and talons to sit on branches. These owls are called branchers. They fledge at 35 to 40 days." - The Owl Pages - Barred Owls - Strix varia

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