Athena in Red Fork

The most amazing thing happened tonight. When I got off work this evening, I met up with an MIT student named Anne who is doing her master’s thesis about community development on Route 66, or something like that. We cruised 66 to the Rock Cafe in Stroud.

I didn’t think I’d be a whole lot of help on the whole community development thing, since she was dealing with a lot of city planners and stuff, and all of my Route 66 projects have been grassroots-type things — painting historic signs at Vernelle’s Motel and the Vega Motel, writing letters and attending public meetings to save the Boots Motel and the El Vado Motel, etc., etc., etc. — but I figured maybe I’d be useful for background information about the road or whatever.

When we got to Depew, we got out to look at some of the murals in town, and I ran into my friend Linda, who owns Spangler’s Grocery. As we started telling Anne how we spent our summer, I realized that our project, which had the mayor and the local business owners and a bunch of Route 66 activists all working side-by-side, was a primo example of a small-scale community development project hinging on cooperation among stakeholders.

Anne and I had a good time on 66, and when we got back into Tulsa, we stopped by the house so she could see Red Fork and I could let my dogs out. As we left to head back downtown so I could drop her off at her hotel, I pulled up to the stop sign a couple of blocks from the house, and a big ol’ bird flew low and fast across the street in front of my car. At first glance, Anne thought it was an eagle, and I thought it was a hawk. As it came to a stop on a wire just next to the street light, we realized it was an enormous owl.

Anne got very excited and went scrambling for her camera to try to get a picture of it, which she is planning to e-mail me later.

I’m not sure what kind it was, but my best guess is that it was a barred owl. It definitely wasn’t a barn owl, it didn’t have ear tufts like a great horned owl, it was much too big (and way too far east) for a burrowing owl, and it had too much brown on it for a snowy owl.

Whatever it was, it was beautiful, and I was really glad Anne got to see it. I owe her one for giving me a reason to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment to see that magnificent bird. I don’t know whether it was male or female, but the former English teacher in me just can’t resist naming it Athena.

I’m going to pay closer attention to small objects I find on the ground, now that I know we have owls in the neighborhood. It would be cool to find an owl pellet or two.

My sister-in-law cracked me up this summer when she and my little brother got started talking about her fascination with owl pellets. (I think they used to dissect them in gifted class or something.) Oliver was just sitting next to his bride at the dinner table, gazing at her with an expression of utter worship, as she gleefully told us all about how she’d discovered an owl pellet, dissected it, and discovered tiny bones in it.

I had to laugh.

She didn’t know it at the time, but Ashley earned my eternal respect with that little riff. You have to love a girl who is so interested in science and nature that it never occurs to her that owl pellets could be gross or icky or anything but utterly fascinating. In that moment, she confirmed for me that my little brother had, indeed, married a nerd of the highest order … and I mean that as a sincere and affectionate compliment.

If I find an owl pellet, I might just save it and take it with me the next time I head home for a visit so Ashley can dissect it with me. 🙂

ubernerd and proud of it

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