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Thread: Daily Bread

  1. #221
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    I have always dreamed of owning a woodlot that was home to a pair of breeding great horned owls. As a hunter being in the woods before dusk and just after dawn, I have heard the territorial hoo hoo hoo. And I have seen them silently blazing a path through the woods deftly avoiding tree limbs.

    My first close call with a great horned owl nearly stopped my young heart. As a college student I once lived in an old farmhouse at the outskirts of town where I snuck out into a farmers apple orchard to do some early morning archery hunting for deer. I was equipped with a second hand Golden Eagle compound bow, three razor tipped aluminum arrows, a buck pathfinder knife in a black leather sheath with a silver snap and a wild idea that with these possession I could harvest a mature whitetail deer buck.

    I arose before light and bumped my way around the bedroom trying not to wake my drunken sleeping roommate. He would sometimes get so intoxicated that he would black out. He once urinated into the bottom drawer of my dresser which I had foolishly left pulled open. The house dog, a big heavy boned Labrador retriever usually slept in bed with me. She followed me around curiously. I can still hear her nails clicking on the old hardwood floor.

    It was a crisp fall day as I stepped out into the dimmly lit dawn and made a hasty beeline for the woodlot. I had to walk about a quarter mile along a back country road before I could get into the corn field that protected the orchard. That walk was sort of nerve racking as I didn’t want anyone seeing me. I devised a plan to jump into the weeds and hide should a car come along.

    None did. At last, my heart racing, I ducked into the golden rod after jumping a drainage ditch. Without a flashlight I had to rely on my dialated pupils and the faint shadows of the moonlight. It was about then I became aware that my heart wasn’t racing so much as a result of me hurrying to get into the woods, but in anticipation of what might happen. As I made my way toward the orchard the footing of the cornfield was uneven and my ankles were absorbing the twisting and turning of the soles of my hunting boots. The frosty crunch of the hedgerow, and every once in awhile I’d stumble over a fallen branch or rotting log that was camouflaged by the shadows.

    I consciously kept my bow poised to react to an inadvertent mistep or fall which could seriously wound me if my broadheads jarred loose of their mooring in the carrier attached to the bow. This would be a tragic end to the hunt which I had lay dreaming about the night before. Well before hunting hours, half an hour before sunrise I slipped quietly into the orchard. The loudest sound being my beating heart and the slow stalk of toe down first and then heal. It seemed like forever getting to the tree I had scouted out.

    My senses were nearly exploding, the smell of ripening apples on the ground, the unfamiliar calls of waking birds, the sunrise just beginning with an orange promise of a blue sky day. I stuck one arm through the opening between the bows string and it’s cammed levers and wedged it on my shoulder. And I climbed. I’d had placed a small length of two by six with the cutouts into the crook of two spreading branches about fifteen feet above the orchard floor. Once settled onto the plank I leaned satisfyingly back onto one of the splits of the main truck. Comfortable enough to remain motionless for a few hours.

    I was sweating from the trip in so I unzipped my jacket and shook my sweatshirt forcing cool air against my heated chest. My heartbeat began to slow and I started to relax. The woods was beginning to awaken. It was not long until I began to feel unsettled. Their was someone or something nearby that I could feel but not see. With all the uncertainties behind me and the success of getting situated I couldn’t shake the feeling of company in the area. Was I being watched?

    I turned my head slowly to the right and scanned the area at eye level and below. And then I turned left. I found myself looking face to face with a great horned owl perched ominously on the limb beside me no more than 12 inches from my head. His eyes penetrated mine and then he exploded off the branch and left me ducking away from his immense wingspan. I nearly fell from the tree in surprise. I don’t think my heart beat for a full minute. When I recovered, only then could I appreciate the wildness of the bird and how close I had been.

    The rest of the morning was rather uneventful, thankfully. Anytime I hear the hoo, hooo, hoo of the great horned I think of our chance meeting and wonder if he was annoyed that I’d discovered his favorite perch or if somehow he too remembers and smiles.

    I dont have the buck knife anymore, nor the bow and arrows of that morning. But I have the memory of an encounter of the great kind one glorious fall morning in Penns Woods.

  2. #222
    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    What an incredible encounter, Williamsmith! I love owls! Have had several unique experiences.

    Pulling up over a hill on our road to the farm and dad slowing the car as we approached the first small iron and wood bridge on a moon filled night. I was 5 and of course standing in the back leaning over the front seat (before seatbelt rules). A barn owl landed on the bridge rail, then a 2nd, then 5 more. The entire family. We sat in silence and watched them in the light of the headlights.

    At 16 my first time driving to Wednesday night youth group on my own and driving through the country roads. I turned a sharp corner and something crashed into the grill of the truck. I got out to look (being very careful because there were mean dogs on that corner property). It was a barred owl carrying a shrew and it died. Of course I put it on the floorboard of the truck and the next day dad called the conservation agent. It's still on display at the conservation headquarters in Jefferson City.

    DH and I were working in the studio early one morning and a screech owl landed on the tree limb at the big garage door. It was soon followed by 4 baby screech owls. They watched us a bit as we watched them before they took off on their flight lesson.

    Barn owls are now endangered. My son was thrilled to finally add it to last year's count on Dec 31st.
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

  3. #223
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float On View Post
    What an incredible encounter, Williamsmith! I love owls! Have had several unique experiences.

    Pulling up over a hill on our road to the farm and dad slowing the car as we approached the first small iron and wood bridge on a moon filled night. I was 5 and of course standing in the back leaning over the front seat (before seatbelt rules). A barn owl landed on the bridge rail, then a 2nd, then 5 more. The entire family. We sat in silence and watched them in the light of the headlights.

    At 16 my first time driving to Wednesday night youth group on my own and driving through the country roads. I turned a sharp corner and something crashed into the grill of the truck. I got out to look (being very careful because there were mean dogs on that corner property). It was a barred owl carrying a shrew and it died. Of course I put it on the floorboard of the truck and the next day dad called the conservation agent. It's still on display at the conservation headquarters in Jefferson City.

    DH and I were working in the studio early one morning and a screech owl landed on the tree limb at the big garage door. It was soon followed by 4 baby screech owls. They watched us a bit as we watched them before they took off on their flight lesson.

    Barn owls are now endangered. My son was thrilled to finally add it to last year's count on Dec 31st.
    Wow, Float On, I can see where your love of nature comes from and sense maybe a yearning for reflective solitude on occasion. Those are great memories. I really appreciate you sharing them.

    I’m sure you realize that these descriptions are mere outlines bereft of the detail of the true experience. Those details are there but I can’t tell you what sparks a remembrance for me and what protects the things that are lost permanently. I just know that when it comes out, it just flows.

    At 16 I can tell you that I would have been saddened by the death of that owl.

    Your childhood must have been an adventure. I enjoy you telling about it.

  4. #224
    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post

    Your childhood must have been an adventure. I enjoy you telling about it.
    I get that from my dad. I grew up begging for one more story of his childhood every Sunday afternoon. He grew up on large cattle and horse ranches of which his dad was a foreman. The stories felt like Gunsmoke, Green Acres, Bonanza, Big Valley, and Lone Ranger all rolled into one. His start in life was when the wagon team got spooked and took off with his mom in the buckboard, it went around a corner and she fell off into the ditch 8 mts pregnant with dad.

    Definitely sad about that owl I hit. Thankfully that was my only driving kill. A mink my mom hit is also on display. Anytime I run across birds or owls that have been hit on roads I put them in my freezer and call the conservation agent. They do a lot of biology research on roadkill.
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

  5. #225
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    My wife received good news today. For now, there is nothing further that needs to be done in the way of treatment. You don’t know what a tremendous burden this removes from her and me.......or probably you do. Perhaps the fact that every family is touched in one way or another by cancer is a benefit. Everyone is able to empathize without placing blame or requiring the person to suck it up.

    I was out at a traffic accident once in a blizzard and subzero temperatures. The visibility was so poor secondary accidents were happening until we could shut down the interstate. This kind of weather was certainly not unusual but the conditions were such that you couldn’t even walk from one side of the roadway to the other without falling down on black ice. I always kept a full face belaclava and a knit fossil cap to wear to prevent frostbite just for these types of situations.

    I set a box full of flares on the approach to the accident site and there were several crash trucks and ambulances scattered throughout the scene. However, I saw a car approaching what I thought was a closed interstate. As it got closer I realized it was an unmarked crown Victoria. It slid to a stop near where I was standing out. The window went down and a uniformed officer of the rank of Major signaled for me to cross over the highway to his car. I was pretty challenged to get there without falling down but I made it, thinking something really important must be happening.

    I hadnt quite sidled up to the car yet when he started deriding me in no uncertain terms with expletives about the way I was dressed. He wanted to know where my campaign hat was and did I know that I was out of uniform. I recognized he was from department headquarters some 5-6 hours southeast and didn’t experience this kind of severe weather regularly if at all. He was a policy maker and responsible for the kind of foolishness that required a person stand out in weather without the proper gear and freeze his face, hands and toes too just so we could look “good.”

    I also knew that he was not in my direct chain of command and that my Captain would fully back me after I told him what I was about to tell him. I said, “Major, I’d be glad to watch your car for you while you get out and show me how it’s done here.” His window went up and he barely had enough traction to get down the road. I was really hoping he’d end up in a ditch not too far from there.

    His problem was he had no empathy. And no damn common sense.

  6. #226
    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    My wife received good news today. .
    Wonderful!!!
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

  7. #227
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Great news, Williamsmith! I'm guessing everyone is breathing easier tonight.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  8. #228
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    What great news! Now plan that NYC trip with a lighter heart.

  9. #229
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    I’m sort of overwhelmed by the hotel options in Mid Manhattan. Plan on making a selection this weekend sometime. I’ve also decided to have an encore. My wife’s birthday is in September and Elton John is playing a venue within driving distance on his farewell tour. I’m taking her to that. Somehow, I feel an urgency to get busy living.

  10. #230
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    A scare will do that William smith and it's not a bad thing!

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