Gut Rumbles

February 26, 2006

the owl

I was going through some old pictures last night and I found it: The picture I took of a big owl sitting in an oak tree in the front yard of my old mini-farm. I like the photo because the owl has its head turned sideways, looking at ME as I took its picture. Its eyes shine a bright, reflective red and I don't know why, because I wasn't using a flash. I remember taking the picture at about 5:00 one evening when I saw that rascal posing in the tree.

The owl appeared shortly after I had a bunch of trees cut down on my land. When I bought the mini-farm, the previous owners appeared to have crammed the house onto those five acres of property with the deliberate intention of removing as few trees as possible. That made the place look very rustic and well-shaded, but I didn't like those twenty or so 60' tall pine trees snuggling up next to my home, especially not with hurricane season approaching.

I made a deal with a timber guy. He would clear my land in exchange for the pine trees, which he would haul off and sell. I got him to agree to cut down a lot of scrub woods, too, even though he didn't want that wood. I thought it was a pretty nifty deal--- I got my land cleared for free.

Now I realize that the timber guy screwed me blind, because he made a fricking FORTUNE selling those trees and I was stuck with cleaning up the mess he left behind. He should have payed ME for the privilege of getting all that wood, but I didn't know any better at the time. (You can look here to see the end result. That alpaca is standing in what once was thick woods.)

After the guy cleared my land, strange things started happening around Acidman Acres. Believe it or not, I had THREE CATS as members of my household at the time. One mysteriously disappeared after going outside one evening. It was a black cat, and I suspected that something was seriously amiss when the cat never came back and I discovered a few chunks of black hair and hide blowing around my yard.

The second cat ended up flopping in the road, mortally wounded with a broken back. I had to put that one down. After that incident, the third cat never went outside without keeping a wary eye peeled toward the sky. She became VEEEERY jumpy for a while, and that cat usually wasn't afraid of anything.

That's when I first saw the owl. I'm not positive, but it damn sure looked a lot like this one. It was about two feet tall and built like a cinder block. It made the usual "who-who-who" calls, but occasionally released a horrible shriek that sounded like a woman being raped. Hear THAT noise right outside your window at 4:00 in the morning, and you'll sit bolt upright in bed and reach for a fucking gun. That sound could raise goosebumps on a corpse.

The owl stayed around for a couple of weeks, then disappeared, never to be seen again. Of course, I didn't see any squirrels, field mice, snakes or other such creatures for a while, either. Two other neighbors lost small cats during this time.

I figured that when I had the woods cut down around my house, I opened up some ideal hunting grounds for that owl. It ate very well for a while, then moved on to somewhere else when prey became scarce. It killed cats, not for supper, but because they were competition in the hunt for food. The owl was protecting its territory, waging a turf-war. It won, too.

That owl was a magnificent creature and a perfect example of Mother Nature at her most ruthless. It was a merciless winged killer, silent in flight and deadly in attack. Impressive.

I missed seeing the critter after he went away. But I probably would have felt differently if I were on his dinner menu.

That owl was a bad-ass.


I have newfound respect for you Rob. Because rant and rail against cats though you might, you showed enough heart to do what was right: end suffering. Bravo.

Posted by: joni on February 26, 2006 02:04 PM

I knew it -- only someone who's ever loved a cat knows how to hate cats right.

Posted by: McGehee on February 26, 2006 03:01 PM

... well, an owl sure scared the shit out of me this morning....

Posted by: Eric on February 26, 2006 03:32 PM

Just for context, I live in an old residential neighborhood well within the Houston city limits (a bit north of the Loop, if that means anything to you).
This area hasn't been country in decades.

I clicked over to that Great Horned Owl reference site you mentioned. There's some clips of owl sounds there.

I clicked on the one labeled "Nocturnal Shriek". Bad mistake, although my speakers were set at a normal conversational level for the last pod-cast I listened to.

The grumpy, takes-no-shit-from-nobody cat sitting on my lap just about jumped out of his skin. He spent several seconds scanning the ceiling for the threat.

He wasn't just startled, as he has been before when sudden strange sounds come from the speakers.

He was frightened.

Note that the description on that clip is "Owlet calling for food." In other words, a baby owl.

The "Harnk" noise did not much comfort him, either.

Posted by: refugee on February 26, 2006 04:55 PM

Oops, forgot to say:

Read the "Hunting and Feeding" section. These bad birds eat porcupines and skunks, as well as other owls "except Snowy Owl", and domesticated cats and dogs.

Posted by: refugee on February 26, 2006 05:02 PM

As I recall this is around the same time that I stepped outside my house and heard a large explosion about a 1/4 of a mile down the road. You had been trying to burn up the rest of the stumps that were left and nearly blew yourself up in the process. You Fucking Firebug.

Posted by: Willy on February 26, 2006 05:43 PM

Those are called Screech Owls around here. I have them every summer, sitting on my deck, looking in at me and scaring the shit outta me when they screech. They do sound like a woman getting raped. But they are pretty suckers.

Posted by: livey on February 26, 2006 06:01 PM

Bad-asses indeed,
Owl say....

(*ducks for cover*)

Posted by: Horrabin on February 26, 2006 06:53 PM

Oh, I'll have to go play Scare the Shit Out of My 26 Pound Piglet (er, CAT).

Posted by: Joni on February 26, 2006 07:11 PM

There are three sound bites on the link that Rob provided and which Refufee above referenced. Of the three, Sunny (my 26 pound pig in a cat suit) didn't even roll over or wake up, and I had the speakers up high, to anything except the first one, the Pair Calling. The Nocturnal Shriek and the Harnk didn't even phase him. And when I played the Pair Calling a second time, he ignored it.

Stupid cat.

Posted by: Joni on February 26, 2006 07:16 PM

i can tell you from experience, horned owls have two favorite foods...CATS and SKUNKS...

Posted by: stratguy1961 on February 26, 2006 08:39 PM

A big old owl glided right in front of my car just this evening

Posted by: hoosierboy on February 26, 2006 11:17 PM

Since you love cats you will enjot this short joke.
Little Johnny is sitting in biology class, when his teacher states the fact that only humans stutter, and no other animal in the world does. Johnny raises his hand and says. "You're wrong, Miss Finch!" "Really, would you mind telling us why that is Johnny?"replies the teacher. "Well, Miss Finch, the other day I was playing with my cat on the porch. The neighbors' Rottweiler came around the corner, and my cat went: 'fffff! fffff! fffff!', and before he could say 'Fuck!', the dog ate him!"

Posted by: scrapiron on February 27, 2006 12:24 AM

ALL owls are badass, but Great Horny ones eat nearly antyhing, just like the above comments demonstrate, cats and skunks are favorites. Here is a link to a picture of an owl from my back yard a couple years ago that I think Acidman posted on Gutrumbles as well:

Posted by: Florida Bill on February 27, 2006 11:04 AM

The Great Horned Owl shreik will definitely make your hair stand on end. A long while ago I visited my ex-sister-in-law and her husband in a northern California lumber town. One evening I saw some dark shapes fly over and they let loose a shriek that rivaled pissed off banshees straight from the gates of hell.
It made your hair want to retreat into your scalp. After
I got off the ground I asked them what the hell was that! The answer was wild peacocks. A sound you will never forget.

Posted by: Bill on February 27, 2006 10:57 PM

We've had owls around here for years and years. But they have always had to share prey with Red Tailed Hawks and especially the Merlins. Now that is a sight to see. A Merlin is a huge hawklike predator and is very ruthless in its capture of prey. I watched a White-Wing Dove (which is traditionally a larger South Texas dove that has migrated North to Central Texas in recent years) taken clean out of mid-air by a Merlin swooping low at great speed. There was nothing left but feathers flying after that take down and it was quite a thing to witness. The Great Horned Owl has nothing on a Merlin when it comes to predatory hunting.

Posted by: GordonH on February 28, 2006 03:09 AM

"I knew it -- only someone who's ever loved a cat knows how to hate cats right.
Posted by McGehee at February 26, 2006 03:01 PM "

Sorta like a boat, Happiest day=the day you buy it, next happiest day=the day you sell it!!!

Owls are neat as hell, and they don't perch on the side of my house and attempt to peck a hole through it either. I've found the red wing pecker has an afliction to lead, well the twolegged pecker does too!

Posted by: TC on February 28, 2006 03:53 AM

Oh and why can't I see any of your pics?

Posted by: TC on February 28, 2006 03:55 AM
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