This is not a typical How To or Productivity Hack, but follow these steps and I assure you will also be attacked by an owl.
To begin, I ate too much pizza. It was a taco-inspired pizza. I felt the need, even though it was getting dark outside, to go for a jog. There’s a small pond by my house with a 1km diameter. I got 3/4 around when a barred owl attacked.
It started two years ago on the same trail. Again jogging at night, an owl swooped me, inches from my head. There’s nothing like the silent silhouette of a predator over you. The way out of the trail was through a covered bridge, and when I approached it, the owl was there in the rafters. I stood for a while and we looked at each other. It let me pass underneath, then it flew to a tree to keep watching me.
Fast forward, I’m running off taco-inspired pizza, and I see Mars in the dusky sky. Then I felt a little dizzy. As I stared at the stationary planet, the apartment buildings, trees and ground started moving underneath. It wasn’t Mars. Not a stationary object at all; it was the International Space Station. I re-calibrated my mind and witnessed its arc over me toward the mountains.
A young man with AirPods in was walking opposite my direction and I stopped him to say “Hey, look at the ISS”. I was happy that my interruption was joyful for him, as he’d never seen it before. Also, I pointed out Saturn and Jupiter, which would soon be visually colliding into a single “Star of Bethlehem.”
I then kept jogging through the area the kid with the AirPods had just passed minutes ago. Suddenly, I felt what I can only describe as a heavy serving fork being thrown at the back of my head. Evil kids hiding in the bushes throwing forks at strangers? Nope. The swooping bird above me. Unmistakable.
I don’t have great instincts. Not for nature, at least. Running should have been first on my mind, but instinctually I Instagram. I pulled out my phone and followed the swoop. I pressed record, and “Whack!”, hit again! My beanie nearly came off. A video of the dirt has me screaming like a scared monkey.
Why me? Not the AirPods kid who passed by? Was it a University of Oregon Ducks fan and hated my Oregon State University Beavers beanie?? Come on, I went to Rice University anyway; I was a Rice OWL.
It flew silently again to another tree by the pond. The pond reflected the stars, the still blueish night sky. I pressed record again, this time talking to the owl. I said, “My girlfriend never liked owls, anyway.” Which was true; during her pregnancy, she was creeped out. I happen to like owls, and had pictures, or calendars or whatever lying in the house which she told me to remove. Her instincts told her, “I’ve got a little baby coming, I don’t like things with enormous eyes and talons.”
Twenty minutes before the attack, when I just started on the trail, I heard hooting. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Owls sound a lot like people trying to sound like owls." It was a simple “Whoo, Whoo” of kids playing. This thought glanced my mind for ten seconds.
Now I’m two owl kicks into my head and filming it in the tree. When I say “Never liked owls”, it turns its head and swoops again. This is all in the video that made it onto the local news. It gets me a third time, and then I get smart and run. I’m wearing an Apple Watch, so my heart rate over the last few minutes shows exactly what is going on with me.
“Whack!", “AAAHH”, Oh shit! Now I’m booking it full-speed, my heart rate tops out at 170 bpm. That fourth hit really hurt, and I’m running fast while cautiously looking behind me. When I turn my head, I put my arm up to protect my eyes. I think my arms were flailing over me as I run: the classic defense move.
After my personal record in sprinting, I got to the Target store, breathless but owl-safe. My phone rang. It was the Troutdale Art Center, telling me I won a beautiful ocean scene made of stained glass in their annual drawing. I told this lady all about what happened, and how excited I am as well about what I won.
When I got home, I put a paper towel on my head to check for blood. There was a small spot, so talons broke skin. I called an urgent care to ask about what I should do. They said, since it’s a wild-animal bite, you better go to the ER.
My story at the ER got attention right away. Way cooler than the guy who walked in following me who just told them, straight up, “I ran out of my anxiety medication.” I pay my ER copay, $250. This guy probably does not.
I get a room and the nurses, doctor, billing specialist, come in and I repeat the story. They love it and start calling me “Owl-man,” saying “Oh, are you going to turn into an owl?” I decided to wipe the hooting smile off their faces by asking the doctor, “What if this owl had just been eating a bat?"
Rabies is all over. I once saved my girlfriend and daughter from a daytime drunk-flying bat. It was going toward them on the playground. I said “Duck! Bat!" It flew over their head and into a bush. I took a picture of the sickly thing, but I should have had better instincts and just walked away. I heard a story of someone dying in Washington State when a bat just brushed a man’s arm. He was on the side of the road, and a drunk bat ran into him. No cuts, no broken skin, so he didn’t get shots. He died weeks later of that awful virus.
So, now the doctor and nurse are taking this case more seriously. Very seriously in fact. They called the State Epidemiologist, who was likely at home. The epidemiologist didn’t know what to do, so he called a State Communicable Diseases Authority. I messaged Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife over Facebook. It was escalating. At this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the question reached all the way up to Dr. Fauci. The question was “Could owl talons be rabies vectors?” The ER gave me a Tdap vaccine and sent me home, saying they’ll hear from the authorities soon. Owl-man sent home to roost.
Luckily, everyone came back saying they’ve never heard of such a thing. Though theoretically possible; you can find lots of YouTube videos of owls catching bats. Owl attacks are common, all over the country, and there’s no evidence of people catching rabies from it. I was relieved with medical advice not to seek the rabies shots.
Fish and Wildlife told me it was likely a male; defending territory, getting ready for the mating season. I respect that. I respect owls more than ever. I thought maybe it was just saying, “Piss off, it’s night, your jogging is scaring away my furry little meals."
I sent my video to the local news the next day. It was exhilarating to watch it on TV that night. After a ten minute interview, all they kept was “Felt like a large serving fork being thrown at my head”. My video was third in a section on animal attacks, following a man killed by a bear, and a surfer in critical condition from a shark bite. I felt completely unjustified to be up there with them, especially when the anchor said, only about mine, “What a horrifying ordeal."
I still jog the same spot, unafraid, but watchful and with respect for owling hour.
Weird instincts: I film my own demise for Instagram, and for some reason I think calling the attacker “You Fool!” will help anything.
P.S. Owls are great, and one of the best distributors of owl-pellets for children’s education is Owl Brand Discovery Kits. I know one of the owners of this business. Based in Oregon City, he is a great guy who has routes all over the country to find the best pellets. Great for STEM education!