I passed a small cluster of blonde fluff beside the highway one warm spring day. The sad little pile lay immediately at the end of a friend’s lane. Sure their prone-to-wander pup – right colour, right size – had been hit by a passing vehicle, I made a sharp U-turn. How awful for them to find their pet injured or dead at the end of their driveway, I thought. I need to tell them.
But what I saw when I got out astonished me. No dog lay there, but a large great horned owl, dead, but without obvious injury. I picked it up for a closer look, careful of the curved inch-long claws. Hardly a feather seemed out of place and the mottled body – surprisingly light – still held warmth. Its loveliness took my breath away.
Sadness tinged the sunny morning. Finding one of Canada’s top raptors in such a state seemed so wrong. “What happened to you?” I asked, peering into its half-closed eyes. “How did you get here? You should be sleeping after chasing mice all night.”
I didn’t ponder long. Unlocking my trunk, I laid the owl inside, careful not to bend its feathers. Then I reached for my cell phone. “Al, I found a dead owl. It’s too nice to rot in the ground or be pecked apart by crows. How do I go about getting it stuffed?”
It helps to have friends who know things. What began as a hobby for Al Bohn of Country Taxidermy has become a career. He chuckled and gave me a long list of legalities necessary to mount a protected species. “Go here, do this, get this permit…”
I took careful note, wondering, too late, what I’d gotten myself in for. But having started, I followed every instruction, paid every fee. Later that evening, I delivered the owl to Al to wait in his freezer for its turn to be stuffed.
“What are you going to name it?” grandson Benjamin asked later. He knows I name everything.
“Ford.” I said. “General Ford.” The child laughed so hard he nearly fell off his stool. I chuckled that he’d caught the humour so quickly. No one else had. (Ford is the acrostic some people use to tease their friends with Fords. “Found On Roadside Dead.”)
Ford perches on a stump at home now. Regal and breathtaking, its glass eyes eerily follow every motion. Anyone looking through our window might assume it lives. But though perfect in appearance, this creature God made to soar has no breath under its glorious feathers.
The Bible’s last book, Revelation, records God’s chilling warnings to seven churches of that time period – warnings equally applicable to many Christian churches today. The church at Sardis received this: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Just like my Ford. But unlike a stuffed owl, God can revive a dead church. It starts with one repentant soul at a time.
Breathe on us, breath of God.