Oct 16

Retirement, Day 4: Crone visits hay barn with camera

Yep-o, I’m back. It’s good to see you guys.

Meanwhile, a thorough appreciation of the Slug Life still eludes me. As I mentioned last time, ever since Mickey, the new farm hand, took over the farm chores, I’ve been sort of flumpy. Without purpose. Like something is missing. Which is weird, because prior to having abandoned civilization for the country life, I was as lazy and aimless a professional human blot as ever hoisted an iced Americano at Jo’s coffee shop. For some reason I haven’t yet been able to reconnect with that excellent, dear old slacker Crone.

My nieces, subscribing as always to Blake's assertion that originality is a romantic disease, have named it "Owlie." This photo doesn't adequately convey how tiny Owlie is. No more than 7 or 8 inches.

My nieces, subscribing as always to Blake’s assertion that originality is a romantic disease, have named it “Owlie.” This photo doesn’t adequately convey how mini Owlie is. No more than 7 or 8 inches.

My mother suggested that I use my newfound free time to clean out my garage. She ticked off a whole list of stuff she thinks I should get rid of.* I was a little surprised that my mother is so intimate with the contents of my garage. She lives 200 miles away and only visits once every couple of months. But apparently, behind my back, she has whiled away many an informative hour rootling around in there. Between passive-aggressively cleaning my house, complaining about “the Moslems,” and warning me that everything I do is doomed to failure, I don’t know where she ever found the time.

Needless to say I won’t be cleaning the garage any time soon, but one thing I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while is photograph my famous hay barn owl. So there’s that done, at least.

On the subject of owls, let me just say this: I’ve been around, so you can believe it when I say that few contingencies generate such pleasure as the discovery that a tiny owl has moved into your hay barn. Unlike the attack owl terrorizing joggers in Bethesda MD, the excellence of my owl cannot be overstated. It has decimated the mouse population in the barn, which is terrific, and it does all the owlesque party tricks like rotating its head and flying absolutely silently. But it’s the other, more esoteric aspects of its owliness that I find most resonant. For example. It is laconic. It is asleep. It has no problem whatsoever with me climbing up the hay stacks to within a few feet of it, whereupon it regards me with the wisdom of the ages. And it’s reliable. A crone gets to where the first thing she does when entering the hay barn, after checking that she isn’t about to step on a snake, is to check the rafters and confirm that the owl is still there, which it usually is. Last month it went on the lam for a few weeks, and we all felt a terrible pang of loss. When it returned, it brought along an even tinier bonus owl that stayed for a couple of days; we were unaccountably ecstatic.

I’ve attempted to identify this bird, but let’s face it: my ornithological chops are kind of crap. So don’t laugh when I say I think it’s a Western screech owl, even though the field guide says Cottonmouth County is a bit outside its range. Apparently — and this is the dreadful aspect of this owl — climate change has screwed everything up so bad that it wouldn’t be the first time a kick-ass bird showed up in a somewhat more easterly hay barn than tradition would suggest. Thanks, Exxon!

BINARY SEX UPDATE: I have been informed that female screech owls are larger than the males, and that Owlie is likely a female.

* This is where a lesser crone would list a few of the funkier items, to illustrate what endearingly quirky and eccentric tastes she has. But I will spare you, since my quirky tastes are as banal as anyone’s.

** This owl’s reputation extends all the way to Dripping Springs and beyond; when I was acquainting Mickey with the hay barn, he looked up and asked about it. Apparently Owlie’s the talk of the feed store.


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  1. tuckova

    Crones: They’re just like us! With funky things in their garages.

  2. Jack

    Your heartwarming nature crap is a delight for the soul. I revel in its return.

  3. Friend of Snakes

    If you don’t get that danged thing outta there you won’t have snakes to worry about stepping on soon. That’s not good. First they came for the rodents, then the reptiles. Do you really need one goofy bird decimating your varmints?

  4. Pinko Punko

    Ha. Just the other night when on the porch I heard, interspersed amongst the usual yap of theneighbkrhood pups forced to stay alone I their yards, and the coyotes, I heard the hooting of owls. Except I’m so stultified in age that I first thought “oh hah, stereotypical outside Halloween noises. That’s soooo October” and then I had to actively thing about what the hell it was. Like I had forgotten that owls exist! Shameful.

  5. Pinko Punko

    This darn phone. I am not drunk. Good gracious.

  6. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Hey Friend of Snakes, I saw a red tailed hawk swoop off with a rough green snake recently. It was sort of horrible, because the rough greens are my favorites, but it was also pretty impressive. The Circle of Life, the Infinitude of Nature, the Dreadfulness of My Acres, etc.

  7. Belle

    I am in awe of the tidiness of your barn. There are no generations of spider webs and crap up there around Owlie! The beams are pristine. Obviously your housekeeping is amazing when even your barn is spotless. I saw you mix up a pitcher of margaritas and take a month or three off.

  8. Pinko Punko

    Ooh, the hawk with a snake was one of our first Texas experiences. “Hey, what does that giant bird flying over the road have? Hey, the thing it has is wriggling! Hey, that giant hawk has a big ol’ SNAKE that is still alive! Where am I?”

  9. Friend of Snakes

    “…I saw a red tailed hawk swoop off with a rough green snake recently.”

    Dang, I hate when I see something like that. Green snakes are the best! Makes me want to shake my cane at ’em and shout, “go try that with a rattler, you big bully!” And I never know who to root for when I see a snake eating a frog. Hands off, anyway. Circle of Life, indeed.

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