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The Night Owl

by Marianne Taylor Johnson 3 months ago in feature

The Night Shift Worker

The Night Owl 1/18/2021 for vocal.media

Every evening after dinner, I have to go out and shut the barn up for the night. We don’t want things getting in or getting out. In the morning, I have to go out and open ‘em back up before sunrise. I have to feed and clean up poop on a daily basis. Oh, country living! Goats and chickens and a rascally, lovable mule. Basically, I am tied to the barn. We do have a Barn Owl, as do a lot of other people who have barns. She is usually coming or going at the same times as I do my morning and evening chores, but we work opposite shifts.

One evening I walked into the barn and heard a scuffling and screeching up in the loft. I thought one of the cats had gotten after the Barn Owl and was about to be roughed up. Boy was I wrong. It was a black snake. I took a rake and tried to separate them by pushing with the rake handle and stepping on the snake’s midsection. He did not like that. He let loose the wing, and took a dive at me. The owl was injured and skittered away. I was able to flip the rake right side up and shove the snake hard enough that he reconsidered. He slunk off behind some crates. We’d have to remove him. There were eggs up in the nest. She was probably trying to protect them when the snake came up for dinner.

I yelled for my Dad and brother. They began the search for him and I went over to see if I could help her. She was behind a bunch of old metal bed springs and other junk (who knows how she managed that, you know how things pile up in a barn). I had a hard time trying to get her out and finally, my Dad brought over a blanket for me to catch her in and went to the other end of the pile. He slowly tipped the bed springs out and she maniacally flapped towards me. I was able to catch her in the blanket. All I could think of though was that she was going to rip my eye out if I wasn’t careful! They couldn’t find the snake of course. I didn’t want it coming back to eat her eggs.

There was a block and tackle set up in the barn. We put her nest in a crate and hooked it up to the block and tackle so we could suspend it to keep them safe. We pulled the owl’s wing out and saw that it was not broken, just bloody and sticking out funny. We placed her in the crate and surrounded it with the blanket like a tent. Once she stopped flapping around, we made an opening and used a bunch of clamps that were in the shop to keep it open. We closed up the barn and went in for the night.

In the morning, the barn cats had two mice for me. Good kitties! I took them and tossed them up into the owl tent. She screeched at me, so I don’t know if she was pleased or not. After I did my chores, I went to town and got some frozen mice at the pet store. Yuck. My dad chopped them in half, so she would be able to recognize them as food. We would let them thaw out a bit and I would climb up a ladder to toss them in to her in the morning and evening a few at a time. She got more when the barn cats caught mice or small birds of course, and any of the chicken’s hatchlings that didn’t make it. Freshy-freshy is always better! She stopped screeching at me after a few days and I would catch her peering out of the tent.

I was bringing out her evening meal one day and as soon as I was about to enter the barn, I heard the screech, a wing flap, and saw her coming straight at me. I screamed and dropped the mice while doing my holy-crap-you-scared-the-poop-out-of-me dance, and ducked to the side. She sailed on out and over my head. Geez! I cleaned up my mess and did some chores. I threw the mouse bits in the tent while she was out. Soon she was back with a mouse of her own. I looked up as she flew to the opening of the tent. She was greeted by 3 tiny little Barn Owl faces peeping out! I was so happy in that moment!

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Marianne Taylor Johnson
Marianne Taylor Johnson
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Marianne Taylor Johnson

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