This One Time, 108

This one time I was fixing breakfast and I found an owl in my orange juice. It was a small thing, probably not old enough to fly, apparently sealed into the cardboard carton at the packaging plant.

I’m not one of those people who look for impossible-to-lose lawsuits as a kind of a lottery, but I did take pictures to send back to the company owners so they can figure out how owls could be getting into the system, probably either the tankers or the packaging machinery. I like owls and drowning in orange juice isn’t exactly a natural and fitting end for what would one day have been a beautiful and breathtaking predator.

I fished the little thing out of the glass and spread it out on a stack of paper towels to take its picture. Then I rinsed it off under the tap, washing off all the pulp and stickiness, then spread it out on more paper towels and patted it dry. Then I washed my hands thoroughly and sat down to my eggs and microwaved sausage patties, composing my letter to the juice company in my head.

It occurred to me that it was probably illegal for me to have the owl as well. Should I call the Wildlife Commission? For which state, because I’m pretty sure we don’t grow oranges here, though we could conceivably have done the packaging. Maybe I should do some poking around to see where I should send copies. Should I include the Department of Agriculture or the FDA? Could owls conceivably carry salmonella?

That seemed like so much bother. “He’s found a dead baby owl in his orange juice, ladies and gentlemen! Call out the National Guard!” I decided to contact just the company and the game and wildlife commissions of whichever states the owl could have come from, just in case they wanted me to send it back to them, and leave it at that. A dead owl just wasn’t a federal-level crisis.

Besides, I’d already had a couple of small glasses out of that carton and I was feeling okay. I did pour out the rest of it, though. I mention it just in case you were wondering.

The whole scenario had left me a little sad. I decided I would feel better if I saw some living owls. The local zoo had a huge enclosure it used for rehabilitating injured raptors and owls, and also a show they ran a couple of times per day with trained hunting hawks and such. I guess there are plenty of people that zoos make sad, and I’m kind of on the fence. People and animals have to learn how to make room for each other. We can’t just steamroller them, but we also can’t pretend we’re not a part of nature.

It wasn’t a workday for me, so a few hours later I was at the zoo. Red-tailed hawks snoozed on perches in the shade. A placard explained which one was there for a gunshot wound to the wing and which had been confiscated as an illegal pet. The one that was awake ignored me. Further along were a couple of different sorts of owls, one of which was clearly asleep. The other watched me as I walked over to it, doing that thing they do with their heads, moving its head around in a circle to better judge distance. I resisted the monkey-urge to mimic the gesture. I watched as it shuffled along the branch and, when it had enough room to do so, it spread its wings, holding them out to the sides. Full-grown owls can be huge things, and so beautiful. The soggy thing I had pulled out of my glass this morning barely filled the palm of my hand.

I hung around until the show where they brought them out. I had a seat toward the back of the tiny amphitheater, apart from where a group of children on a field trip were seated. A handler brought out the birds and explained how they had been raised from chicks and foundlings, what they ate, and how they hunted using exceptional vision or hearing. The owl she brought out was the one I had seen earlier that had already shown me her plumage. She was fed a couple of meaty morsels and then sent aloft to soar over our heads.

I don’t know what I expected to feel, but I was disappointed to not feel much of anything, other than maybe a smile at seeing her fly.

But that was where I was when the searing sunburst hit, and basically why I spent those next two weeks at the zoo, doing what I could to help out there. Those first six hours, until the sun set, was kind of like a war zone. Afterward is was just helping do what little could be done and cataloging the damage.

Without that owl in my orange juice, left to rot on paper towels on my kitchen counter, I’d never have been there.


April 18, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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