Last Sunday about 10 am I went for a walk on our paved driveway which is almost 1/2 a mi. long. I try to do some laps every day and usually the scenery is predictable. But last Sunday as I was returning toward my house, I saw something in the barbed wire fence which borders the part of our acres where we built our home 34 years ago. From a distance it looked like part of a palm tree trunk stuck on a slant between the upper two strands of barbed wire. But as I got closer it more resembled a rabbit! I thought that rabbit must have been doing some high jumping. As I got closer I slowed my pace and approached cautiously. Imagine my surprise when the face of a very large owl emerged from under it’s outstretched wing which had been firmly imprisoned all along the top strand of wire! I talked softly to the beautiful creature. Her body was hanging in midair upside down with talons locked tightly around the top wire on a level with the imprisoned wing. “Oh please, Jesus,” I prayed, “please help me save this wonderful proof of your creative power and skill. If only You were here, You could just speak or touch and the bird would be OK. Help me, Jesus.” I carefully reached my left hand under the body of the bird and lifted it just enough to be sure that as I tugged on the enmeshed feathers it wouldn’t be painful.
It’s head rested about half way up my forearm and my hand, which was completely outstretched, cradled the body. Her eyes closed and she seemed to be completely relaxed in my care. I pulled with all my might on feathers, trying to free the outstretched wing. Some of them had actually penetrated between the strands of the wire. And the barbs were matted and gnarled with feathers. I thought maybe if those talons weren’t limiting mobility I could pull harder without risking further damage. So I carefully pulled on those strong, sharp talons with my free hand, until she relented. But I still couldn’t pull the feathers out by hand. I needed scissors! I placed the bird’s body carefully on it’s back so that it balanced on the second strand of wire! Her other wing drooped lifelessly toward the lower strand of wire. Then I RAN to my house – about a football field away. Grabbed my scissors, got in my car and drove back to where the owl waited for me, a prisoner on my barbed wire fence.
She opened her eyes as she heard me walking toward her again. I stuck the scissors under my chin, talked to her softly and slipped my hand back under her back. With my right hand I snipped and pulled carefully at first. I had no idea how long she had been stuck there, struggling until she couldn’t move at all anymore. I was afraid she might die before I could free her. So when the feathers wouldn’t give, I started just cutting bigger bunches below the wire to get her free. Frequently, with the scissors under my chin, I used my right hand to brush ants off of my legs!
When about two thirds of her wing was free of the wire I came to something white wrapped very tightly about the wire. It looked like a bone! (Daniel Webster says that a “pinion” is the “last bony section of a bird’s wing.” ..I just now looked it up!) If I cut it, would it mean that it for sure would never fly again? OR – if I cut it, and it was suddenly free, would it turn it’s weapons on the one who was trying to save it?
I thought of my neighbors, Ken and Pat. I needed help. So I took hold of those sharp talons and carefully folded them back around the top strand of wire, got in my car and sped to the neighbors who live at the end of our driveway. They said they would drive their own car over so I sped right back to keep the owl company till they arrived. They came with elbow long leather gloves on. Wow! I had not given one thought to my safety until I found that bony ring around the wire.
Ken and Pat watched as I once more cradled the bird in my left hand and with my needle nose scissors had to push very hard just to get the tip under that pinion. Finally with about 3/4 of an in. under it, I squeezed with all my might — and it broke. But as the wing released, another white ring was revealed closer yet to the body of the bird. I hoped I wouldn’t have to cut another pinion – so I gave a try at prying it off and it came loose — the wing was free.
Ken gathered the wings carefully and turned the bird upright. We chatted a bit giving the bird time to adjust. We didn’t think it would ever fly again. Both wings looked terribly damaged. I could only imagine the owl flying, probably in the night time, somehow colliding with my fence, and then struggling valiantly. That large bird must have tumbled repeatedly between the strands of barbed wire to get so terribly enmeshed!
Since it was Sunday the wild life preserve was probably closed, so since the bird might not live through the night, perhaps the merciful thing to do would be to kill it. I suggested shooting it, but Ken preferred a sharp knife to cut off it’s head (his southern drawl drew out the words) at which Pat’s eyes got big as saucers. But then Ken decided to put the owl down in the grass, about 30 ft. away from our row of cedar trees which run along the fence, and see what it would do. The owl sat there momentarily and then tested her wings. Those shaggy, moth-eaten wings, flapped unevenly at first her talons not moving from their spot on the grass, but then she flew low and loopy, looking like a 747 with too much baggage on board (about a 4 ft. wing span!). Surprisingly, she lifted herself up far enough to perch on a limb in one of the cedar trees where she looked at us with those big beautiful eyes from about 8 ft. above the ground.
Two hours later when I took a break from my work inside the house and went to check on the owl, she was nowhere to be seen. So then my prayer was for her full recovery. Later that day it dawned on me that most of us are like that owl. We’re caught in the barbed wire of bad habits, unruly thoughts … And we ALL need saving. And sometimes God gives us the joy of sharing His saving power with others. What a privilege that is!
When our children grew up here on the “Langarosa,” one of our favorite activities on Sabbath was to go for a walk and look for a visual aid (an ant lion, a flower, the shed skin from a snake etc.) and share what they learned about God from their “find” for sundown worship. It’s kind of sad that they all grew up, and left this rich and wonderful “nature nugget” place. But our grandchildren visit from time to time. They will hear the story of the bird of prey who made not one move to strike me. She appeared to WANT to be saved. …So many lessons we can learn from “God’s Other Book.”