We had a big storm during the night, trees blown down, fences pushed over, and worst of all, Flo’s perch had been blown into the netting tearing a large hole as it came to rest on the wall. We began to clear up as soon as the weather allowed and it was not until around lunchtime that we noticed our Flo was not where she should be. An immediate search was mounted for the missing avian. Bearing in mind her breed is the largest in the world and quite capable of carrying a medium-sized dog, we really had to find this European eagle owl.
Many hours and even more miles was spent in pursuing each sighting, but as each day passed we grew more concerned about her plight. By now she could do with some food. About the time of her disappearance I was in our local veterinary practice on an unrelated matter, and while waiting for my turn to see the vet, my eyes roamed over the lost and found board, a service provided by the practice for their customers. I felt a sudden chill and urge to leave as soon as I could find a reasonable excuse.
It seemed a whole bunch of local cats were registered on the board as missing. I felt somehow that Flo might be involved, after all, they were just about the right size for a hungry eagle owl. I felt every eye in the waiting room was on me-did they know that Flo was on one of her jaunts? Did they think that she might have something to do with these missing moggies? If I’d stopped to think, I would have realised that as big as she is, there is no way that she could have had anything to do with the situation. There were simply too many cats missing and over too great at distance. But at the time I went with my initial panic and left before I’d seen the vet.
Now to avoid any embarrassment to anyone, I’ve taken the liberty of omitting any reference to those involved in the rest of this tale, suffice to say it happened as follows…
We had almost given up on ever finding Flo when the phone rang just after tea one evening. The voice on the other end of the line enquired had we lost a large owl? Without waiting for the person to finish what she had to say I answered yes, yes we had. The enquirer answered the next question before it was asked. “If you like to come to Abbeytown we may have it locked in a stable.” I collected all my paraphernalia and stored it safely in the back of my car before I realised I knew the village but didn’t have the address. I could do one of two things; as the village wasn’t big I could take a chance and ask around, or maybe it would be better if I rang 1471. I chose the latter, got the number, but before I could ring back, the phone jangled in its cradle. “Hello” said the voice on the other end. “Was it you I have just spoken to about an owl?”
“It was indeed” I said.
“Well I forgot to give you the address.” Thank goodness, I thought as I scrambled for a pen to write it down.
When the stable door was opened and I was able to see past the people gathered round for a look at what was now a gigantic owl, sitting quite unconcerned in the far corner of the stable was Flo. I really don’t know who was the happiest, the bird or me. When I was at last allowed to squeeze into the stable, she was pleased to fly into my gloved hand in search of food. As soon as she was safely placed in the rear of my car right where she could enjoy what could have been a first food in days, the story of how the gigantic owl came to be in the stable unfolded.
It turned out that the two ladies, whose turn it happened to be to arrange the flowers in the local church, having completed their appointed task, were on their way home. It happened to be early winter and dark at the time. They paused at the end of the path to close the gate to the churchyard. As they did a large figure alighted without sound on the wall beside them. We’ve all seen enough Hammer films to guess what transpired over the following few minutes… I’m not sure what anyone else would have done, but having just walked down a dimly lit churchyard, had I been presented with a similar situation I would have done the same as these two ladies, and taken to my heels.
As the two ladies legged it down the road, every footstep was shadowed by this large, winged creature. To the ladies this was a perfect example of the Devil take the hindmost, and off they went as fast as their legs would permit. Even if we know we’re not being sensible, once we decide to run there is no stopping, and the ladies did just that. I don’t know if any of the tale had been changed over the number of times it was told, or if it had little parts added for effect, but the tale went on as follows. Not daring to look back the ladies made for home. No matter how they tried there was no way that they could leave the pursuer behind. It was not until they reached home, and the back door of the kitchen was closed behind them, that their breathing began to return to something resembling normal and sanity began to replace adrenaline.
It was not until the kitchen light was switched on, and the light beamed into the backyard through the open curtains, that they realised it was not Old Nick or anyone like him that escorted them home. It was our Flo and as she associates humans with food, she thought surely these two people would have food for a hungry owl. Anyway, after calling help from the neighbours Flo was at last persuaded into the aforementioned stable with the help of the pork sausage.