Sunday, June 23, 2013

Owl Wrangling 101

Once upon a time in the murky past, Dr. Airedaleparent was a wildlife biologist, or as they were then called, a zoologist. I know more about the Indiana brown bat than I should, because he wrote his thesis about them, and have a low opinion of flat worms owing to his dislike of his thesis director (for whom a species indigenous to Kentucky is named). Although I had a strained relationship with my father throughout my childhood and young adulthood, we could communicate about things biological.

Growing up, I had a thing for owls. Because I was 'smart', people gave me a lot of gifts and cards with 'wise owls' on them. I still dig owls, so does that make me a hipster because I thought owls were cool before owls Anyway, this morning, we were all reminiscing about my father's brilliant owl-wrangling technique.

At the Chez, there's a large fireplace in the family room. Often, in the winter, we'd keep a roaring fire going in it which was banked at night for reasons of safety. One night, as my mother was getting ready to relight the kindling, she put a paper torch up the chimney to check the flue. She was a little surprised when she saw, well, talons skittering along the iron flue frame. She leaned into the fireplace and was shocked to see a pair of beady eyes staring back. She turned to my father and said, "I think there's an owl in the chimney!"

Dad came over and checked, confirming that yes, indeed, there was a juvenile barn owl sitting on the iron flue frame. He said, "Surely when it gets hot, the owl will fly up the chimney and out."

It didn't. We kept hearing that poor little owl's claws ping on the iron all night as it danced frantically on the hot frame. My sister and I begged our parents to dampen the fire, but the night was cold and the furnace was out. We lost. The owl continued his skittering all night long, and then it stopped. Dad assumed the owl had found a way out, while my sister and I feared that it had died from the heat.

The next morning we arrived downstairs the sight of a pissed off teenage owl glaring back at us from the fireplace.

Dad walked out and returned wearing his official owl-wrangling gear, to wit, Mom's bright yellow dishwashing gloves, and carrying a towel. He instructed me to stand at the patio door and on his signal, open it and get out of the way. Mom gingerly held back the iron mesh fire curtain; Dad pitched the towel over the owl, snatched the whole thing up, and trucked it for the door. I flung wide the door; Dad hurled both towel and owl into the yard.

If we thought the owl was pissed off before, you should've seen it when it disentangled from that towel.

I just remember my father standing there in his blue bathrobe and the Playtex Living Gloves, admiring his handiwork. For a long time, we had a resident owl in the trees behind the house, and I've always wondered if it was our friend from the chimney, silently plotting his revenge for being thrown outside by someone with no fashion sense.

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