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 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.