A Story by Eagle Cruagh

June 11, 2005

More Friend than Owl

One day, when I was young, my mother and I were out riding our horses northwest of our ranch on Thunder Butte Creek. We came down into a draw where there were a lot of trees and brush. As we rode down the draw we noticed a dead owl lying at the foot of a large cottonwood tree. We got off the horses and looked to see the owl had only been dead a short time. While we were looking over the large owl, we heard a screeching sound coming from the large cottonwood and discovered there was some kind of nest up in the tree. My mother climbed that tree and came back down with a baby Great Gray Hoot Owl.

We took the owl home and then tried to figure out what to do with him. We couldn’t turn him loose because his mother was dead. So, we decided to tie a string to one of his legs and the other end to a peg in the ground. Since it was summer time he needed no shelter. But, what would we feed him? My mother had some fresh beef in the house, so we cut small strips of the beef and I held a strip in front of the owl. He opened his mouth so large that all you could see was his mouth. I dropped the strip of beef in to the gaping mouth, he swallowed, and then he continued to screech. Well, he didn’t stop screeching until he had consumed about one pound of beef.

No one in the family could think of a name that fit this little animal, so from the beginning he was only known as "Owley." The morning after finding Owley, the first thing I heard on waking was Owley screeching. I got out my .22 single shot rifle, got on my horse, and went hunting for Owley’s breakfast. Before long I shot a jackrabbit, which I took home and cut into about six pieces. I would hold each piece in front of Owley, he would open his enormous beak, I would drop in the rabbit, and he would gulp it down and open up for more.

That first day I went hunting and shot two rabbits, a gopher, and a couple of nondescript birds. He ate it all. This became my daily routine. I would have some breakfast, then get the rifle and go hunting for Owley. A few hours after he ate, I would check on Owley, and near him I would always find small piles of bones, a few of the larger feathers and small bits of fur. All the rest had gone to make Owley one of the largest owl specimens in South Dakota.

From the beginning I heard all of the usual negative comments about keeping a wild animal, but I was not dissuaded from keeping Owley. Before long, I took the string off Owley`s leg and he would follow me around the yard. Soon he became a fixture on the front porch. We just took him for granted, and he seemed to take for granted that I would supply enough meat to keep him happy.

Within a year Owley had become an enormous owl. He probably stood two feet in height. He was always fat as a little pig because of the great amount of game he ate. Before the summer was over, when I would start out to hunt, I would always discover Owley flying along, slightly behind and to the right of me. He always flew along with me in this same position. As soon as I would shoot small game, he would instantly swoop down and recover it. I would then tie the game to my saddle and when we had the days supply, we would return to the ranch. Only then would Owley eat. If it was small game like a gopher, he would just tear it in two and swallow it. If it was larger, like a jackrabbit, I would cut it in several pieces and leave it on the ground and he would tear it up and swallow it.

Over time, Owley became more and more independent, hunting on his own. But, strangely, he always brought home the mice, gophers and birds that he caught. He would lay the game on the ground by the house and when he got hungry he would start his peculiar screeching until I came and held one of the animals out for him, then he would tear it up and swallow it.

Altogether, Owley was a most enjoyable pet. If he was not around when I came out of the house, I would call, “Owley, Owley, Owley,” and in a couple of minutes, I would hear him screeching off in the woods, then come flying like a bullet and land on my shoulder. Owley developed huge, long talons, but never once did he ever scratch me or hurt me in any way. I always marveled that he could land on my shoulder with such speed and never seem to touch me with his talons.

Some time later, my parents moved to another place, closer to the school. Of course Owley went with us. He never had to be secured in any way. It seems that he always knew that his security was with the family. When school started, Owley went right along with me. Sometimes he wouldn’t be around when I left for school in the morning, but when I came out at recess, he would be waiting. He was a great hit with the other kids, landing on their heads and shoulders. Of course, things hit the fan when one of the parents discovered a mark on one of their little darlings. The teacher then sent a note home to my parents that Owley would have to be restrained and was no longer welcome at school. I guess that was to be expected, so there were no hard feelings. We just built a cage and kept Owley locked up during school hours.

Over time, it became harder and harder for Owley to tolerate his prison life. Before the winter was over, Owley just disappeared. Increasingly, he would be gone for long periods of time and, eventually, he didn’t come back.

The next summer, one day when I was out in the woods along Thunder Butte Creek, I heard a screech, felt a thud, and there was Owley sitting on my shoulder. This was at least ten miles from where I had last seen him. After a nice visit, Owley flew away. I always felt that he had found a mate and was raising a family of his own. Sure enough, the following summer, when I was in the same area, I spotted two giant owls circling high in the sky. I called out, “Owley, Owley, Owley,” and before long, this giant owl, landed in a nearby tree and seemingly screeched out the whole sordid story of owl love and raising an owl family.

For the rest of my life I have always found myself getting teary-eyed, but happy, whenever I saw or heard anything about owls.

--John Crowley

© 2011 Eagle Cruagh

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Featured Review

I've read this twice, have a lump in my throat .. what a wonderful story, all the way from the beginning to the very last word! It's a true story of love and caring, of give and take between creature and human .. even to the bringing back of the small creatures for his humans to see before Owley ate them down.

For once i admit to being envious of you having a Great Gray Hoot Owl as ' more friend as owl ' - what a memory to have, what a time to look back on when there's little else to thinking about but cold grey nights!

Brilliant write.. love it; hope hundreds read it.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


This is such a beautiful story, and I know it to be true because I had the same experience when I was about 16. I could have been telling your story only substitute sparrow for owl. When I found sparrow(his name), he was so tiny he had no feathers. I kept him in a shoebox and fed him smashed up garden worms, helped him learn to fly, released him in my yard but kept the birdcage hanging from the tree with the door open. Whenever he would see me he would land on my shoulder, just like Owley, then he would disappear for days, and then finally for good, presumably having found a mate. Thank you, for posting this wonderful story and bringing back some fond memories of my youth. :-)

Posted 7 Years Ago


Posted 7 Years Ago

beautiful friendship story is everywhere .. just need to have wide open eyes ... thank you:)

Posted 12 Years Ago

This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

Posted 13 Years Ago

I like this story and your characters are easy to relate to. The details are good enough to picture myself on the horse riding across the ranch.

Posted 13 Years Ago

Thank you for the story. These are the kind of stories I enjoy reading. The Owl is one of the most interesting animals anyway. They are proud and rarely are heard or seen. For a owl to become close to human life. Is rare. The story was outstanding. I do appreciate you sharing the tale.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Fantastic tale, it brought back to mind the years we had Racky the raccoon from a small baby until he decided he wanted a mate and a free life afterall..I really miis those old days on the farm..Life and youth past much to fast..Great story..Kathie

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

this moved me to tears! such a proof of attachment is amazing...and so is the way you talk of it :)...i'm envious...

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was a great story, thoroughly enjoyed it! Very well done!

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What a wonderful story. This interaction obviously was life touching and telling of the character you possess. Truly outstanding.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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14 Reviews
Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on April 8, 2011
Last Updated on April 8, 2011


Eagle Cruagh
Eagle Cruagh


-------It is your mind---- that creates this world--- -----Buddha ----------------------- .. more..


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