As a boy of twelve or so, I was headed out of the house one morning to catch the school bus when a car load of workers going to work stopped and one of the men got out with a bundle that was his coat and a large Great Horned Owl with a broken wing. The owl had just flown into a power line and was scooped up by them only now they had to be at work and did not know what to do till they saw me. I wrapped him in my coat and headed back to the house recognizing I had the perfect excuse to skip school.
At first I put him in a tight chicken cage and after my father returned that evening we set his wing with popsicle sticks and electrical tape. The owl was huge and fought his cage so that he might re-break that wing so I built him a larger hutch just big enough for him to think he was free.
Every three or four days I would bring him a fresh killed cottontail rabbit to feed on and he had plenty of water. Slowly he began to heal till the bone had knitted and the feathers were almost back.
Then I began to notice that he stopped eating and began to lose weight. He was not ready to return to the wild and he had given up. My father took me aside and said “This old owl will die someday sooner or later but he must die a free creature. If you hang on to him for his own safety he will die a caged animal but if you let him free he will have a chance.”
I moved his hutch out into the orchard and opened the door wide. A day later he was still on his perch. He didn’t know he was free so donning heavy gloves I moved him to the roof of the hutch and two rainy days later he hadn’t moved. Fearing that he might die not knowing he was free, I moved him to a nearby apple tree and then he disappeared. I kept food on the roof of the hutch and every week or so he would be there for support. Then he was gone. Gone from my life and back to his own.
A year later I was headed to catch the bus one morning and that same car load of workers suddenly stopped right beside me. A window came down and an arm stretched out I thought to shake my hand but instead it pointed past me and into the orchard. There in full plumage, bigger than life was one of God’s most magnificent creatures. Very much alive and free sitting on that old hutch. He came back just to say thanks in his own way.
For those who say we must be confined or we might die, I say I must be free or I will die. If I catch the flu, I’ll fight that battle with no regrets. A wise old owl once taught me, liberty is life.
— Hollis Poe, Candidate HD 85, Hamilton
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!