An Ungraceful Visitor

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is GRACEFUL

Which immediately makes me think of SWANS. Don’t they always look so graceful when they’re floating serenely in a stream?

Swans my webst

Other birds just don’t have the knack.
Duck down. Alexas Fotos

🙂

Which calls to mind an rather ungraceful visitor we had one morning some years ago.

Great horned owl.Pexels
Image: Pexels — Pixabay

On the wing, a great-horned owl can be a very graceful bird. I’ve read that the owl has a feather construction and placement that allows the predator to fly without a whisper of sound, swooping down with no warning on its prey.

Its efforts on the ground are another matter, rather ungainly, as we were to learn one day.

We’ve often heard a great-horned owl in the woods beside our yard and in the evenings we’d see one flying over the pasture behind our acreage. We’ve heard them and have seen le Grand Duc, (Grand Duke) as the French call it, many times in the tallest bare trees, surveying their domain or looking for some unsuspecting morsel of lunch. One evening we saw two owls in the treetops hooting back and forth to each other, discussing prospects.

One September we could hear a screech or squawk and decided that this noise was coming from a young owl. Then we went away on a five-day trip to visit friends in mid-September, and early on the first morning at home I let our long-haired black cat, Panda, go outside. A few minutes later I was hearing this funny loud peeping or squawk outside, so I glanced out the window and beheld a fascinating sight.

A great-horned owl chick was sitting in our driveway near the car shelter, staring toward the house with its big golden eyes and letting out a screechy sort of peep about once a minute. Fluffy and cute with its pointy “ear tufts,” this young owl looked almost white to me. Our huge black Panda, about the same size and shape, sat silently on our deck eyeing the owl with her big golden eyes.

Were they curious about this odd specimen in front of them? The way it was peeping, you could almost think the chick was lonely and thought Panda might be another owl for company. Or were they sizing each other up, wondering who should eat who? Perplexed as to what should be done about this strange white cat – or black bird, depending on whose viewpoint you took?

I decided not to take any chances, so I let Panda in and the owl soon got bored sitting there. It proceeded to make its way down the driveway and back again, snapping up grasshoppers as it went. Its “running” was quite amusing and anything but graceful — a kind of waddle-and-hop from side to side as well as forward.

For a couple of hours the owl chick stayed around our yard, entertaining us and eliminating some of the many grasshoppers we had that year. It did the rounds of our garden and lawn, flying up to roost on the clothesline post in between. We never did see it fly away, nor see it again. My husband guessed the chick had made itself to home in our yard while we were away; it must have decided not to come back when people were around.

I Witness A Mugging

Since my other domain is about to expire and I’m not sure what will happen when it doe or how my other blogs will be affected, I’ll re-post a few past stories. This was initially posted on March 25, 2012, the year I started blogging.

I Witnessed a Mugging Today…
…And Rescued the Victim With My Bare Hands!

One day fellow blogger Apronhead Lilly wrote about witnessing a murder: she saw a Cooper’s Hawk kill a blackbird in her back yard. I know that the cruelties of nature play out around me every day, but I’m so soft-hearted: I do sometimes intervene to prevent the slaughter of some helpless creature. The next day I had the chance to do just that.

I woke up from my afternoon doze in the recliner and found the living room quite warm, so I went out sat on the side deck — not a deck, exactly, but a corner platform where our steps come up to our side door. Because it was sunny and mild I left the door open in case one of the cats wanted to join me, and Angus did a few moments later. Then, bored with my inaction, he went to snoop under the stairs to our main entrance.

Suddenly he dashed into the house and I decided to get up and shut the door. Then I saw him inside — with something hanging from his mouth. He’d snagged a mouse? “Outside!” I insisted several times, but he just stood there looking at me.

Closer inspection revealed that what he had was a little junco. He had it by one shoulder, but it was still twitching. Likely he’d brought it in to play with and here I was, being such a wet blanket. I ordered him outside again, fearing he’d let the thing go and we’d have to chase it all over the trailer. When he didn’t budge, I picked him up and carried him out, thinking he’d let go of it any second, but he was still holding the bird when I dumped him on the deck.

Then I reached down and pried his mouth open. Unmugged, the bird flew away–showing no sign of injury. He dashed after it, but it settled in the caragana hedge and he never did catch it again. I tried to impress on him our “NO BIRDS” rule; I doubt it sank in. To him a bird is a toy and that’s that.

Anyway, now I could say that I prevented a murder today. 🙂

I wrote a story once about a little elephant that finds a child and sort of befriends it. Later he sees his child friend asleep and a huge snake is about to swallow the child, so the elephant intervenes: he stomps the snake flat.

“No, no, no!” said my writing school instructor. “You can never have your main character commit a murder!”

“But it’s a snake! All children know that being swallowed by a snake is bad.” No dice. I had to cut out all the violence. He could chase the snake away, but not stomp on it.

I figured a child reader would identify with the little elephant, but I hadn’t considered that a snake would be seen as an animal — and of equal value, too. In my books, a snake is a reptile. I suppose you couldn’t have the family cat, if it talked, catch a mouse and eat it, either. Life gets complex in the world of “correct” children’s literature. We never thought of all this back in the days of Sylvester and Tweetie Bird.

Grand Duke & Duchess

From time to time we catch a glimpse of the great horned owl that lives nearby, but one evening at dusk we looked out our dining room window and saw two of them in the tallest tree in the woods beside us. From all the hooting we could hear, they appeared to be in a serious discussion. I prefer to call them by their French name, le grand duc; it suits them so well.

Grand Duke & Duchess owl
begin their evening discourse,
discussing matters of the realm.
Prowling cat pauses to eavesdrop,
glancing fearfully into the sky;
mother skunk gathers her kits
and hustles them into the den;
meadow mouse freezes,
shudders, then scurries away.
What tolls will the royals inflict
in their tour of the realm tonight?
Which of their subjects will pay?

Prairie Groupings

With apologies to Linda at Linda’s Writing Blog for carrying this to ludicrity. 😉

A bevy of buffaloes made its way across the fenceless prairie, followed by a flock of aboriginal hunters dreaming of sizzling steaks. In the wings, a murder of crows settled on the buckbrush bushes that grew in the coulie. A file of coyotes trotted along the coulie as well, awaiting the aftermath of the natives’ nefarious plans.

Overhead an assassination of vultures circled, hoping the hunt would provide them with a few feasts as well. Should the hunt fail, the vultures, opportunists rather than fussy eaters, might still be left a trampled coyote or two.

Ahead of the buffalo a cluster of startled grouse flew up, propelling their plump bodies toward the coulie. Before they could recover from their sharp-tailed flight a couple of the birds met a sad fate at the paws of the wily lead coyote. Life on the prairie tended to be short for meaty birds.

Slowly the hunters advanced and the buffalo moved ever closer to the ravine ahead. Near the lip of the ravine an amazement of other natives had concealed themselves in the sagebrush. The plan was stellar. As the buffalo approached the ravine, this group would spring out at the side of the herd, making a cacophony of noise. Fenced off from flight on one side, hopefully some of the startled buffalo would dash over the lip of the ravine, where a dispatch of men with spears would finish off any survivors.

The animals, quickly attacked by a clan of carvers, would be transformed into strips of meat to be pounded and smoked by a web of women. This meat would provide the natives with food for another winter. Buffalo hides would become blankets. A scrabble of miscellaneous wild creatures would scrap over whatever remained when the natives were done.

As the moon rose over the ravine that night, a smudge of smoke rose toward the stars. Fifteen beasts from the bevy had hurtled over the precipice; buffalo meat had filled the tribal tummies and the rest was curing over the fires. The hunters, old and young, sat in a circle visiting. A herd of youngsters played “hunters and buffalo” while the mothers sang softly to dozing infants.

Writing prompts for today:
Ragtag Community :  HERD
Fandango’s challenge : FENCE
Word of the Day :  STELLAR

A United Defense

Blackbirds sound the alarm
warn the neighbors of a robbing
raven who dares drift over, checking
menu offerings in the nests.

Two, three, four parents rally
to the defense, dive-bomb the foe.
No slackers here; from every field
they rise to the cry, on guard
for home and fledglings dear.

The fighter jet swallows soar
into attack mode; even a passing seagull
joins the effort. All together, resistant,
insistent, they chase the marauding foe.

I watched, amazed. What teamwork!
We should be so smart.

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Word Press daily prompt: Collaboration