I was almost done writing a piece about eels. I heard a knock at the door. An artist friend had showed up. Now I have to write about an owl.
The friend, Pamelia and I got talking about animals, as often happens around here. The friend had seen a snowy owl. It flew off from a tree at her house when she drove in at midnight one recent night. Pamelia and I said wow; neither of us has ever seen a snowy owl in the wild, even though they live here in Maine.
Then our friend told us about her brother and another snowy owl. The brother lived elsewhere in New England. He raised homing pigeons. He had a shotgun. He sometimes fired it to warn off predators eying his birds. One day a couple of decades ago, to protect a pair of homing pigeons who were mating, he raised the gun and fired to scare off a raptor. The raptor didn't fly away; it fell. The brother looked. He had shot a snowy owl.
He had not meant to kill this lovely bird. He also knew that shooting snowy owls is illegal. Unsure what to do with an animal that was both evidence against him and a rare, beautiful creature, he put the bird in his full-sized freezer. He left it in there. He tried to forget about it.
Weeks passed. The brother finally decided to return to the freezer. He lifted open the big hinged door.
There sat the owl. Alive. The buckshot had not killed him; it had only wounded and stunned him. The bird was now doing fine. To stay alive the snowy owl had eaten virtually everything in the freezer—frozen meat, mostly, a familiar and delectable staple. Very kind of this human to stock just what I like.
The brother was amazed and relieved. He let the owl fly out of the freezer. With some effort, he was able to get it out of the house. In the wild, snowy owls have a life expectancy of only 10 to 15 years, so the bird has no doubt died by now. Seems to me its story ought to stay alive.