Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guest Post..."Little Donnie" Raises an Owl...

 Hey y'all!  Hugs, kisses, yada yada yada...

Let me set this up.  I have been blogging for a couple of years now.  And, I know for certain that the thing I like most about it is the relationships you make with others.  Whether they have their own blog, or just comment on the same ones you do, you begin to feel a closeness, and an affection for your new found virtual friends.

Some blogs are more apt to develop a community of readers than others.  Several of the blogs that I read daily have evolved into just such communities.  One of them is Mitchieville. Not to slight any other of my blog friends, but I mention The Mayor's Place, because this is where I ran into our "Guest Poster."  dmorris is a heckuva funny guy.  Over time I've really come to enjoy his comments in the light-hearted banter that often takes place over there.  dmorris was a small-town boy, raised in Northern Manitoba.

Let me just make a side note here quickly.  One other thing I have enjoyed about blogging is that it has opened my eyes to the wonderful people of Canada.  I have visited Canada, but just Montreal & Quebec City...not really any of the "flyover country" where down to earth, solid, God-fearin', gun-totin' Canuks live.  I never knew a Canadian growing up, and to be honest I've only met one or two personally.  Canada is way off from these parts.  I know a bunch of coonasses, but they're several generations separated from the old homeland. 

I have just enjoyed the heck out of the Canadians!  They are some of the most conservative, straightforward, and frank bloggers out there on the net.  They are ringing the alarm bell for us here in the US, and they have our back.

Okay, let me get back to this.  Yesterday, dmorris mentioned something just off-handedly about having raised a baby owl.  I was intrigued, and encouraged him to write a post, e-mail it to The Mayor, and have him publish it for all of us to read.

But, the Mayor commented back quickly, "Andy – Unfortunately, Mitchieville cannot publish any more of DMorris’ letters to the editor any more. Don seems to think sending The Mayor “Penthouse letters” is a real hardy harr harr, and we have strict standards around Mitchieville as you can see.

If DMorris suggests he raised a baby owl, take out the words “baby owl” and replace them with “paying a hooker in whiskey.”

So, when dmorris wrote the story out in a comment (subverting The current Mayor), I took it upon myself to ask his permission to post it. It brought back good memories for me (even though I never raised an owl). And, I'm sure it will for you.

Thank you, "Donnie!"

As the editor in chief here at Andy's Place, it's my responsibility to title junk.  So, let's call this:

Manitoba Memories... (okay, it's kinda make up your own title)

Heh  Andy, apart from the Mayor’s vitriolic rhetoric against a candidate he fears in the next election, I did raise a baby Great Horned owl to adulthood when I was about thirteen.

Me and a buddy were out North of the community pasture hunting rabbits and partridges with our .22’s. I heard this hissing and clacking sound, looked down,and there was this little owl laying on his back,wings spread, claws up, hissing and snapping his beak rapidly to scare off the enemy, me. He was about the size of a grouse, wingspread about eight inches on each side.

We looked all around and couldn’t find a nest anywhere. GH owls were not really native to that part of Manitoba, usual grounds were a couple hundred miles north.  So, I wrapped him in my jacket, and decided to take him home to my place, as my buddy, a Metis kid, had brought home a couple of baby foxes the year before, and his parents were in no mood to raise more wild animals. So, it was either I raise him or he’d be coyote bait pretty quickly.

I commandeered my Dad’s garage/workshop, and put him in there, loose, we didn’t have a cage. Dad came home and opened the garage and the bird squawked loud and hopped up onto a rafter in front of him, damned near gave him heart failure. I heard a loud bellow,”DONNIE”!, and knew what had happened. I explained the situation to him and as he was a hunter/trapper, understood the predicament, we didn’t want to see a rare and beautiful bird die in the wilds.

Believe it or not, he had once found a moose hamstrung by wolves, and brought it home and fed it in our barn for a few weeks until it was healed, so he knew the feeling I had with the owl. Funny thing, when the horses smelled the moose, they bolted out the door and it took hours to find them and round them up. They would never go in that barn again, so we converted it into a fish shed and built another one out of logs a couple of hundred feet away.

This happened in 1952, when I was just little, but I can still see that moose in the stall, terrified even more than I was. It was so scary looking, with big wild eyes, I decided it must be a wolf, as in the fairy tales, and it took my Dad and Uncle a long time to convince me that such a scary creature wasn’t a wolf, but a moose. What the hell,I was a stubborn kid.

But, back to the owl. My buddy, Stanley, decided we should name it “Lost”, which I didn’t particularly like,but deferred to his judgment as he was two years older and therefore wiser.

We fed it strips of pickerel fillets which it reluctantly ate, and it wasn’t doing too well at first. So, my wise Mother suggested we go and catch mice for it as that was it’s natural diet. So, me and my border collie, Skipper, would go out to the nuisance grounds, which is what we called the town dump, and hunt for mice.
Skipper loved it as he was the original “natural born killer”, and I’d bring home a few mice in a paper bag.

Sometimes Skipper ate quite a few, so I had a big fight with him over their little bodies.  It was a really neat experience feeding Lost the first time. As soon as I took the mouse out of the bag and dangled it by the tail in front of him, he immediately sat perfectly still, tilted his head back, and opened his mouth wide. Then all I had to do was drop the mouse down the hatch and glorp it was gone!

If I remember right, he ate two or three each feeding, so I had to work like hell to find him mice. Fortunately in that part of the world there were lots of them. I gradually gained his trust and pretty soon he’d sit on my arm. He became so tame, I could walk around the neighbourhood with him on my arm. I was quite the celebrity with the owl perched either on my forearm or on my shoulder.

The dog, Skipper, was jealous as hell, as I was HIS human, and although I kept him away from the owl as best I could, one day when it was about three quarters grown and able to fly short distances, it jumped off my shoulder and landed on the ground very gracefully, right in front of Skipper.

I figured that was the end of the owl as the dog bore in for the kill, we were BOTH in for a hell of a surprise!
The owl laid on it’s back, just like it had the day I found it, and when the dog came at hm, used his wings to propel himself at Skipper, in a sort of backhand motion talons to the front. He just sprang at the dog like lightning,and grabbed him by the neck with his talons, and beat the hell out of him with his wings. Skipper jumped back, amazed at the ferocity of the attack, and didn’t bother to try another lunge, I think he knew this was no seagull,which he used to kill regularly.

I raised him throughout the summer, and when Fall came, I had to start junior high, so didn’t have as much time to spend with him, and hunting for mice became more of a chore. By about October, he was full grown, and when he sat on my arm or shoulder, he was damned heavy.  He was so tame by then, I used to rub my nose against his beak while he sat there staring at me with those big owl eyes.

Finally, I let him loose and he flew up into the big tree by our house. He flew off hunting one night, and I thought I’d never see him again, but a few days later, he was back in the tree. Try as I might, he wouldn’t come down and sit on my arm any more. After a couple of days, he flew away, and I saw him only once more, in the bush North of town, and he seemed fully returned to the wild.

Other people around the area said they also saw him a few times ,but by Winter, I guess he flew back North to Great Horned owl’s natural territory.

When I think back on it, I have to give my parents a lot of credit for their patience, as we kids were always bringing some wild creature home. Two of my friends brought foxes home and raised them, and another guy brought home two bear cubs and raised them until they got too big. They sent them to the Assinaboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg.

I raised a Franklin gull, and a redwing blackbird as well as the owl, although Skipper finally caught the blackbird and killed it.

We were lucky to have been raised in an area so close to wildlife and nature. When I look back on my youth in my home town, which has now almost disappeared, I realize what a great place and lifestyle it was for us kids, safe from the modern predators common in city life today.

We had no TV, no video games, just loads of energy and imagination, and I wouldn’t trade the days spent playing “cowboys and Indians” with all my friends, most of whom WERE Indians, for all the tea in China.


  1. Man, old guys have some GREAT stories!

  2. What a wonderful piece! It brought back fond memories, and conjured up stories that my husband has told me.

    "When I look back on my youth in my home town, which has now almost disappeared, I realize what a great place and lifestyle it was for us kids, safe from the modern predators common in city life today." -- This is way too true, and way too sad. The price of "progress."

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I firmly believe growing up "in the country" is the best sort of childhood, regardless of the time period. Great tale!

  4. Definitely "growing up in the country is the best sort of childhood." What a great story. It reminded me of all the wild critters I "saved."

  5. Jim...yessir, you old guys do have great stories.

    Moogie, something about that tale just grabbed me. Good memories of my own childhood I guess.

    Buck & Patrick, I figured you fellows would be able to relate.

    I gotta get more guest posts...way better than my junk.

  6. Andy, now we know why Mr.Morris is such a hoot.

  7. Nancy, Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk! I think you have just spurred a new nickname for Don...we shall refine that and make it stick!

  8. Awesome story that would have been rotten if it didn't have that happy but bittersweet ending. Nice.

    I guess I was a bad kid. I did a lot more BB-gunning of birdies than I ever did being nice to them. :(

  9. Hi Andy and everyone here. I was like any kid on the Prairies in those days, we'd hunt birds and rabbits all day long,but if we had a chance to save one, we'd bring it home and raise it.

    I had a BB gun at first, but graduated to a .22 when I was about ten, my Dad gave me and my brothers strict rules on gun safety and nobody ever got shot. I shot the hell out of the rabbit and grouse population, and one of our favourites when out hunting was squirrel cooked over an open fire.

    It was a source of pride to us that we never took a lunch when we'd wander for miles from home, just a shaker of salt and some matches.

    Sometimes things didn't work out and we got pretty hungry. One time me and my buddy Nelson, the brother of the guy I found the owl with, walked West/N'West of town about ten miles,then headed South about the same distance,then East a couple of miles,ending up about four miles South of town by late afternoon.

    We hadn't seen a thing all day and were mighty hungry,so we decided to shoot and eat the very next creature we saw.

    What should we see about ten minutes late but a little Hoot Owl about six inches long sleeping on a branch. I figured,what the hell, it can't taste all that bad, and shot him through the head with my .22.

    We dressed him out and roasted him on a stick over the fire, and he wasn't bad tasting at all, but we only got about four ounces of meat off the little fellow.

    That owl was the only game we saw all that day,starting off at about 7 AM, and ending back in town about 7PM. We must have walked twenty miles all told, and would usually have seen lots of game, but that was just a bad luck day,I guess.

    In the Grand Scheme of Things, I hope the owl I raised balanced out the one I ate.
    Guess I'll find out one of these days.

    Andy, don't get me started on my hunting stories from when I was a kid, I never know when to shut up!

    Don Morris


Don't cuss nobody out, okay?