An Owl in the Hand is Better Than Too Big a Fish on Land
A True A Story As Ever Been Spoken
This tale I am about to tell may be hard to believe, but I swear it's 100% true, oh ok at least 87%. give or take.
Now I remember, I was standing by my desk at Truman Trucking, trying to figure how I was going to get all the loads I had booked the previous day possibly all picked up. When the phone rang and my mother was on the other end.
"Harry, you there?"
"Yea Mom I am here, like where else am I going to be on a Wednesday moring, what's up?"
"I just got the call we all knew was coming. Pop's died in his sleep last night, funeral will be Sunday at the farm. Your coming right, of course your going, so pick me up early and don't be late."
She hung up, leaving me with dozens of rambling thoughts and emotions. Pop's is, was, my dad's father. He had been the last of his family, and I had spent many a summer with him growing up over the years. He lived on a small twenty acre farm, just outside Wills Point.
I can hear him now," Harry don't slam the screen door," as I would, while running in and out of the old house all day long. Being just a kid, I ignored him.
The funeral was attented by a small crowd of people. Mostly the few old timers he had coffee with every morning down at the Whistle Stop Cafe in the towns square. They met to discuss prices of hay or feed. I always thought it was really just to get a way from their wives and their honey-do list, but that's never been confirmed or denied. Mom's friends from church of course showed up.
Then I swear to you, I saw an old girlfriend of Pop's, but if it was her, she left before the end of the sevice. Probably the saintly comments the preacher made about Pop's made her uncomfortable. I could not blaime her, for I too was waiting for lightening to strike the old steeple bell at any minute now.
A few of his friends came up to me to ask if I was interested in selling the old place. "NO," I replied. "I think I'll keep her, maybe even fix her up and move in.
The old house was in need of roof to foundation repairs, everything leaked water when it rained and cold air in the winter ran from the front to the back of the house. The only building on the property that was fit to live in was the two story barn. My favorite place on the whole farm. It was filled with great smells, like stacked hay, and old half-filled cans of motor oil and grease. The mechanics shop was there with all the hand tools any man would need to fix anything. Of course a few stalls for horses or cows, neither of which Pop's had to occupy them now. New and old stray cats had come and gone over the years, but the barn had always been their domain too.
So the barn became my home that spring, as I went about fixing what I could do by myself or with the help of a few handy friends on the weekends. All I had to provide was beer, fishing gear for my well stocked pond, beer and snacks, and beer.
I began a new routine. I would get up a couple of hours earlier than before, to do chores, like feeding the chicken I had recently gotten. I also got into the habit of feeding Pop's fish in his large tank/pond. I followed his lead, ringing the bell. I would throw the feed pelts, and sit back to watch the action in the water, a real feeding frenzy would show up.
Normally once a routine is set up they are usually easy to follow. Though every time I laid my head down to sleep in the old barn I could not help but to think, "Something is missing here."
The farm also had a small orchard that needed tending too. It was while walking through the blooming fruit tree forest in early spring, inhaling the heavenly bud's fragrances, that I found what had been missing. Lying on its back was a small chubby baby bird, It looked up squawking like crazy. I glanced above us but saw no sign of a nest or where it could have come from.
Pulling a hankerchief from my pocket, I gently picked the tiny animal up. "Well little one who do you belong to?" I said to the quieted down chick.
Thus begin a new responsibility. This chick would need lots more one on one attention then all my chickens together. I would go out at nights to hunt crickets, worms and other small bugs that I thought the chick would eat. I also made him a small nest and placed it about the work bench. Biggy Eyes as I started to call him, grew fast and was in short time feeding on mice that I would trap in the barn. It was not too long in this care giver relationship, that I realized the bird with the big eyes was a barn owl chick.
That was what the barn had been missing. Barn owls had always been nesting for generations in this old barn. It was their soothing hooting I had missed.
Biggy Eyes or BB as I was now calling him grew bigger every week and it was no surprise to me that he was trying to fly. Then one night as I was opening the barn door he just flew right past me out into the night. My teenager had finally grown up, and now was ready to take care of himself.
The next morning I was to find a couple of small mice, left by my bed, and BB now inhabited an old previously used nest in the corner of the barn, near its roof's rafters.
He would go out at night to hunt for us and sleep during the days when I was at work. If though, I was home, he would find himself a place to perch close by or even land gently on my shoulder, one of his favorite places to be.
One Sunday morning, I was doing my morning duties, and as had been BB's practice, he would sit on my shoulder while I fed the fish, he seemed fascinated with my feeding and the frenzy it created. I noticed it also got BB equally as excited too.
Pop's had one old, old, catfish whose size was enormous. Moby, would actually take food right out of Pop's hand very gently. I tried to earn his trust for months with no luck. This particular morning BB was sitting on a branch of a tree near by watching closely. I had fed the masses and was trying to get down to the water's edge. Suddenly I saw the dark mass slowly come up into my view. He waved his tail ever so gently slowly moving inch by inch closer. I put my fingers with the food, into the water, just beyond his reach. Moments went by and finally the four plus foot beast came forward with a strong flick of his tail. A quarter of his body was on the shore. Before I could react, I heard a flapping and felt a tip of one of BB's wings against my cheek. The next few moments were like in slow motion. Moby's head and part of his body is still exposed, but now BB has his talons firmly attached to its body. The fish did not twit or flop around, but just slowly suck back deeper and deeper in the green colored water from which he came. BB now had to make a choice, and very quickly. Sure he has just landed the biggest prey he had every seen but???
I stood up with terror in my own heart. "Why won't he let go?" I thought to myself. "Owls can't swim", and I did not think they would be able to hold their breaths either. BB had only his head above water. It must have been at this point BB realized too, this prey was not worth dying over. I did not see exactly when BB let loose of the big fish, but what I did notice was my bird's wings finally appear above the water line. I was about to run and get my small row boat out to rescue BB when all of a sudden the bird begins to swim. I swear to G, may he strike me dead if I'm lying. The bird did a kind of breast stroke without putting his feathered head underwater. The wings were more like oars, pulling him across the water. Once he got close enough to have his feet in shallow water, BB flapped his wings and flew back to the barn to sleep.
Now this may seem like another of my famous Texas Tall Tales but it's the Holy truth, as best as I remember it.
This tale is by Steve Kravetz
About the author
I am a 70 plus year old, award winning oral story teller from Rockwall Texas. My first novel took me 34 years to write, published in 2017.Since then I have published two books in 2020. Check out for more info. Authorstevekravetz.com