Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Old Owl Goes Home

Over a year ago the pirate and I found a dead Great Horned Owl.If you look at the photos, you'll see that it was really quite beautiful. We found it lying just off the trail on one of our regular walks. We thought it would be good to take the owl's body away from its very public place, and place it in the bushes where it would just decompose the way all things do. We blogged about it, and a friend and commenter, grrlscientist recommended that we go back, pick it up, and put it in our freezer until it could be brought to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, where its body could contribute to the body of knowledge about Great Horned Owls. We thought that was a fine idea, so went back a few days later to retrieve it. It was definitely worse for wear, but we brought it home and put it in the guest-house freezer. We intended to take it to the museum. I even emailed someone at the museum and told her about the owl. She was quite agreeable and inviting. She said it would be fine for us to bring the owl because students could work with its skeleton, and they needed a Great Horned Owl skeleton.

That was a year ago.

When we packed my mother's suitcase and laptop in the trunk of the car on Tuesday, they were placed next to our ancient Coleman Cooler. In the cooler was some ice and a long-dead Great Horned Owl. On the way to the airport I joked with my mother about not taking the cooler on the plane with her. It became one of those ongoing jokes that helps to ease the tension of airports and flying. We took the ferry to Seattle and then headed south to the airport. The pirate, my mom, me, and the great-horned owl on the Bainbridge Island Ferry to Seattle--you really never know what people are bringing on the ferries in the trunk of their cars.

After we got my mom to the airport we drove north to the Burke Museum. We pulled right up and parked directly in front of the Do Not Park signs. We took the cooler out of the trunk and walked up those lovely museum steps and stepped inside. There on the right was a young man sitting at the entrance desk. He did not seem surprised to see two old funky, Port Townsend hippies walk in with an old cooler. He even motioned for us to just put the cooler on the counter. I told him that we had a Great Horned Owl in if for the museum. He was quite delighted. A few students were milling about, and a couple came over and asked if they could see it. Of course, we said. We took the owl out of the cooler. After all this time, it still looked like itself, you could easily see its eye and magnificent talons through the plastic. One of the students asked if we had seen any Spotted Owls. Nope. Just this one Great Horned Owl.

The young man at the desk made a few phone calls, and right away someone appeared and identified himself as the curator. He took the owl into his arms. Everyone seemed pleased to have such a bird to work with. They asked us if we would like to explore the museum. We said, Yes, absolutely, but we're parked illegally. The young man said he was sorry but he couldn't help us with that. Oh well.

We left and headed north and took a different ferry home. The one that goes between Edmonds and Kingston. When my mother's plane landed in southern California and she was safely on the ground, she called us from her cell phone. Her first question was, "So, where's the owl?" We told her the owl was in its new home.

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