Owl’s Well That Ends Well
Who’s the smartest after all?
Jim threw another log on the campfire, adding more fuel to the pillar of flame before them. The one that already looked high enough that it could singe the stars above. He grabbed another Budweiser from the cooler and flopped into his chair. It was another perfect evening, just him and his friends sitting around the fire, drinking and laughing. “Good on ya, Jimmy boy,” Ted exclaimed, “You’ll get on the bad side of Smokey the Bear yet!” Jim and the others howled at the thought of Smokey stopping by to swat Jim on his backside.
“You know what,” Gary stammered. They all looked towards Gary, anticipating a random thought that would ignite the latest drunken debacle of a debate amongst them. “You ever seen that bear on TV?” Gary continued, “He can talk. And stand up. And wear… pants. He’s gotta be the shmartest aminal in the world.”
“Not even close, Gary,” Andrew argued, “That tiger… Tony… Flakes. He’s freaking amazing.” Jim shook his head. “You are wrong. WRONG!” he bellowed. He pounded back another beer before resuming. “Smartest animal isn’t some dumb cartoon thing. Frank down the street, there. He’s got a dog that can count to fifty thousand, install drywall and bark in Swedish. ‘Bjark, bjark’!”
Ted wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes before jumping in. “Seriously, though. I know where the smartest animal in the world is,” Ted proclaimed, “You know old man Smitty’s barn? God smite me where I stand if I be lyin’, but there’s an owl in there that’s creepy intelligent. Knows everything.” “Bollocks,” Jim chuckled, “You’re drunk.” “Well, yes,” Ted grinned, “but I’m telling you the truth. Smartest damn thing I’ve ever seen.”
Andrew stood up. “Old Smitty’s place is over that ways a bit,” he said as he pointed to his right, “maybe like ten minutes, tops.” Ted jumped up from his chair. “Yah, yah,” Ted said excitedly, “It is. Come on, lads, I’ll prove it.”
They all stood, grabbed some more beers for the walk, and headed towards the barn. Andrew’s ten minutes turned into almost an hour thanks to the stumbling and playful banter between them. One by one they climbed over the wooden fence that marked out Smitty’s land. There, across the field, was the barn. It was run-down, its vibrant red paint having faded over the years. Yet it was still standing, taunting the forces of nature that attacked it regularly by its defiance to fall.
They creeped across the field to the barn. “Okay, I’ll go in first,” Ted whispered, “Stay here.” Ted opened the barn door slowly and walked in. After a few moments, Ted poked his head out the door and said, “Okay, you can come in now.”
The lads made their way inside. “Up there,” Ted pointed towards the loft. They looked up to see a large barn owl, his unkempt feathers tinged with gray, betraying his age. The owl was surprisingly calm in the presence of the rapscallions below.
“That’s the smartest creature in the world, hey?” Jim said mockingly. “Yah, he is,” Ted snapped back, somewhat irritated, “Listen.”
Ted stepped forward to address the bird. “Owl,” he began, “name the band that is led by Roger Daltrey.”
“Who,” the owl bellowed.
“Correct!” Ted exclaimed, “Now, the Canadian band with Burton Cummings, the Guess…”
“Who,” the owl called out. “Right again!” Ted laughed.
And so the quizzing continued for a while. “What rhymes with shoe?” “Who.” “BBC sci-fi program, Doctor…” “Who.” “In the classic Abbott and Costello routine, the person at first base is?” “Who.” “Seuss’ Grinch fooled Cindy Lou…” “Who.”
“Oh, come on,” Andrew interrupted, “I see what you’re doing.” Ted looked at him quizzically. “What do you mean?” “You’re feeding the owl questions where ‘who’ is the answer,” Jim piped in. “Yah, that’s what it would answer anyways,” Gary added, “this bird is just that – a bird. It ain’t smart.” Andrew staggered over to Ted, shaking his head. “Honestly, Ted,” Andrew said as he put his hand on Ted’s shoulder, “what kind of idiots do you think we are?”
“Well, what are the options?” the barn owl asked.