Life is a speeding bullet. We’re always in a perpetual state of “gotta be here” and “gotta be there”. I wish I could say I was immune to this self-inflicted reality, but as a matter of fact I am no different than anyone else. More often than not I find myself racing from point A to point B just to keep up. But over the years I have become attuned to a little trick, a pop quiz if you will, Mother Nature has devised to test our priorities and see if any of us are actually paying attention and willing to deviate from schedules we imagine are written in stone.
Whether I’m late for an appointment, miss a meeting, drive a couple of miles or more out of my way, spend a few bucks, or completely change a career and lifestyle, I’m proud to do what I believe is right for wildlife.
And today was just another test…
I was cruising northbound on California Highway 99 and the needle was drifting between 70 and 80 miles per hour. It was 9:30am and I was on track to arrive in Fresno for a meeting that had been on the books for a little more than a month. I hadn’t given much thought about the surroundings as I was in the midst of mentally preparing how I was going to introduce our organization to a local foundation. Times are indeed tight, so making new connections and fundraising are a few of the things we hate to do but are critical in keeping the nonprofit wheels turning.
So, if someone had asked me where I was I wouldn’t have been able to give a precise answer. I was lost in thought. But, it only took a second for all of that to change. A small tuft of feathers, eyes closed and horns erect sat motionless on the asphalt, centimeters from the white line of the left hand traffic lane. I zipped by in disbelief. Not that a great horned owl had been killed by oncoming traffic during the night or early morning, but that it managed to come to rest in such an awkward position. The odds of this landing must be astronomical and akin to dropping a quarter and having it land on its edge. I just couldn’t believe it. My instinct told me to take the next exit and double back. The chances of a live owl sitting on the freeway were slim to none. And by now I had 23 minutes to make my appointment. I passed the next exit.
But what if the owl was indeed alive? Besides a constant onslaught of 80 mph vehicles, the impending triple digit forecast we expected for today’s temperature high would be compounded by the heat radiating off the pavement and would mean certain death for the raptor. I had to turn around. I HAD TO FIND OUT!
The second time I passed the owl the scene was no less disturbing. As I exited my car I was immediately blasted by the reverberation of a relentless precession of cars and trucks. It was astounding. I donned my leather work gloves and proceeded towards the owl. I feared my actions would send the raptor into the oncoming traffic just feet away, so I waited for a small break that would allow me to take action. A semi-truck exploded by with an unbelievable force of wind that shook the ground. Now’s my chance! I swooped from the dirt shoulder, contended with a few a kicks and cradled the great horned owl against my chest. IT’S ALIVE!
Although he was clearly dazed, I did not see any immediate, outward signs of trauma. Within minutes my wife relayed the coordinates to my new destination, a veterinarian office in Fresno that works in conjunction with a Central Valley wildlife rehab facility.
It was here we parted ways as I wished for the best. It was by no means the first time I had shaken up plans for the day with a visit to a wildlife hospital and I guarantee it will not be the last. So here’s to those who’ve taken the time to rescue an animal and THANKS to those who work every day in the many wildlife hospitals across the world. Plus, I want everyone to keep an eye open for the next time Mother Nature gives you a pop quiz. It doesn’t take much to make a difference, it just takes some initiative.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
And by the way, I was able to make the meeting…I did have a good excuse for being late of course. (Check comments below for the latest updates)