Here in Salem, Oregon we've gotten our fifteen minutes of Owl Attack Fame after four feathered-fiend swoopings at the heads of supposedly innocent humans in Bush Park.
The full story, though, hasn't been told. Until now, where we learn why the owls are so pissed-off at people.
Today I received the following tale from someone who wants to remain anonymous. She, he, she/he, or it wants to be known only as Tsu Mei.
Which is an apt name, given how many attorneys are on the payroll of Salem Hospital and the City of Salem -- the two Evil Forces who feature prominently in this tale.
(The identity of the "Queen" is left to your imagination, but if you imagine Mayor Anna Peterson or City Manager Linda Norris, you're imagining like me.)
A True Story About a Blind School,
an Owl and a Cos-Play Surgeon
by Tsu Mei
It has been reported that the incidents of the barred owls’ aggressive behavior was prompted by an earlier chance of happenings. A pseudo-avian expert has posited that the pair previously resided near Salem Hospital, in the trees on the estate of the defunct Blind School.
They lived in relative peace, undisturbed by the comings and goings of slower walking people who took no notice of them. They in fact lived in a kind of Eden, with nearby trees overpopulated with non-native eastern gray squirrels*, whose boisterous merrymaking provided them with continuous sustenance.
(*The non-native eastern gray squirrels had already displaced the native Great Gray squirrels by ganging up on them in large numbers and attacking their nests, but that’s a story for another time.)
Abruptly the owls' paradise was shattered by the arrival of men in brightly colored hard hats, who rushed around bent on a mission. Somehow they were able to crawl into and become one with huge, destructive machines sent by the Queen to gnaw huge chunks of earth, devastate the native trees, and haul them away, leaving them nowhere to go, but to flee.
It seems that taxes were forced on human residents by the Queen and her hospital to pay for this destruction despite protests by many of the Good Humans. So the protesting citizens had to pay taxes anyway to tear down a beloved historic building, along with its beautiful natural grounds and native species, with the City’s not-so-visionary goal of paving a new, unnecessary parking lot for the hospital.
The owl and his wife, greatly pregnant with egg/s, were forced to flee and seek shelter elsewhere. She, too heavy to fly, could not risk crossing the wide river of pavement which was High with traffic. They waited until the wee hours of the morning, when Mr. Owl could help the Mrs. toddle across the seemingly endless wide paved river, when traffic was nearly absent and they could escape injury.
Once in the safety of the park, they made their way far to the other, quieter end of the park, seeing plentiful mice, voles, squirrels both native and non-native, many smaller birds, and an occasionally feral or loose cat to catch and eat. They needed a tree to rest in for the night, and they went from tree to tree, but there was no room for them.
Finally they found a tree close to the paved pedestrian highway, for low rent. The owner, an elderly owl, said they were welcome to stay there as his long life was coming to an end. His days were numbered, his wife had passed away, and his children had scattered to foreign woods. They didn’t visit anymore.
So with assistance, Mr. Barred Owl and the elderly landlord helped the Mrs. up the tree and a nest was gathered around her, to coddle her newly released eggs.
“Where have we come, my love?” she said to her husband. "This tree is right above human traffic on the paved road through the park. And I hear from the nearby residents it is flooded with noisy groups of people as the weather improves. It will be difficult to rest but we have no choice.”
Troubled by their concerns, as well as lack of sleep, put a strain on the displaced owls. “Oh, if we could live like our ancestors and be able to feast to our hearts content on spotted owls”, they lamented. Early every morning and through the night their prime time to hunt for food was disturbed by noisy humans running right below them.
Every time they spotted a furry but juicy-inside rodent, or smaller birds, their tummies rumbled with hunger. But their prey would scatter and hide with the sudden approach of humans running on the smaller black highway. The owls were cranky. Night storms of strong southwest winds and heavy rains made hunting in the open space even more difficult.
Then... one morning, they spotted a runner with a bright stocking cap, the same color as the hard-hat destroyers wore.
Mr. Owl, being wise but desperate, thought to himself “I will singularly attack this lone threat so that he will never return again to tear down these trees.”
The owl did not, of course, know the runner was a locally well-known colorful surgeon with privileges at the local hospital. So the vengeful owl swooped on the unsuspecting doctor’s stocking hat and, as hard as he could, poked his talons through the stocking cap and deep into the man’s skull.
The man grabbed his head, noticing his hat was gone. The stabbing pain made him scared, as he thought he was suffering an embolism.
He ran round in circles screaming and eventually gathered his wits (well, half his wits) and ran to a friend’s home for examination and consultation. (Not to the hospital which was much closer and where he worked, so some may suspect he really may not have had all of his wits).
The Owl proudly proclaimed that his attack had rid the forest of the ugly-hatted men forever. He and Mrs. Owl had a lovely night, feasting upon local voles and smaller birds for a tasty dinner to fortify their growing brood.
But the stricken doctor contacted the media. Dressed in his super-hero Underoos complete with cape, he retold his story. But he stayed away from running on the same path near nightfall and before sunrise.
Within the next few days, other runners were befelled by the same experience, running the black highway in the dark after sunset or pre-dawn, finding themselves the victims of the marauding barred owl, protecting his territory and his growing family. Stocking hats were ripped off and in one case, one with no hat but a bald head was attacked all the same.
Soon it became known all over the city, and indeed the nation and beyond, that bad things befell those who dared tromp the black path post-sunset or pre-dawn. Signs were put up by the City, warning people. But these weren't clearly visible for hapless runners to read and more were attacked.
Finally, Rachel Maddow came to the rescue with a clear iconic sign. She gave it to the City and residents to use to warn humans to be careful when entering the Owl Attack Zone.
The Caped Surgeon garnered lots of publicity and the media celebrated by offering a “Name The Owl” contest that also was gleefully was reported by the media. The online naming contest was announced far and wide but closed earlier than it was supposed to, so everyone didn’t get to vote and participate in the diversion.
The media latched on to the juicer parts of the happening, ignoring warnings by the Audubon Society that the owls were not native to the region and could decimate native species. They didn’t care because they had national media and a famous funny looking doctor and a Name the Owl contest!
The barred owls were finally left blissfully alone, raising their new hatchlings and proceeding to do what they do best, attack smaller birds and ever-seek the nesting grounds of spotted owls to endanger.
The caped and costumed doctor only ran during non-hunting hours and continued to be celebrated as a victim, but it didn’t matter as long as he got publicity. So, he lived happily ever after (until the next media opportunity).
The City of Salem and Salem Hospital got to destroy the Historic House of the Blind and all the green things and trees around it, and taxed the protesting citizens to pave it with black, so that wild animals, native or not, would never bother it again.
So the City and Hospital also lived happily ever after, until they found another place with ancient trees and historic buildings that had mercifully served the needy. The people protested but they got taxed anyway.