Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The Owl Tree and me
I know this probably sounds silly to a lot of people. However, when my hangar mate, who flew F-100s and 105s during the Vietnam ugliness (he's definitely not a big softie), arrived, he said, "I can't believe it! Did you see they cut down the owl's tree? What's going to happen to him? I'm absolutely sick!" At that point, I knew I wasn't alone in my reaction.
From the day that I moved onto this airport in early '92, the "Owl Tree" has been a subject of great interest to just about every pilot I know. It was a well-developed eucalyptus with lots of big branches and leafy caverns that I quickly learned housed a great horned owl. Sometimes two. It grew right next to one of the main FBO buildings not more than 20 feet from the parking lot I passed on the way to my hangar every day. I got great pleasure out of pulling into that parking lot without saying a word to my student. Then I'd get out of the car and walk across the grass and start looking up into the tree searching for my friend.
My students had no idea what was going on. But, they'd follow me. And they'd look up into the tree, as I was doing, without having a clue why. Then, they'd spot those two big eyes staring down at us, as if my feathered friend was saying, "Oh okay, go ahead and look. You're not likely to see another like me anytime soon." And, of course, he was right.
Once in a while, it would leap into space, and those huge wings (as in more than six feet across) would suck energy out of the air and transform it into flight. He'd effortlessly soar across the parking lot, do a wing-over on the other side and glide back to his resting place without moving a wing. Show over, he'd ignore us and stare into space or simply nod off for a quick nap.
I can't begin to explain the feeling of watching him show off for us. He was incredibly majestic, and just the fact that he was willing to share his version of flight with us totally made our week.
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