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August 26, 2008


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i believe almost all indian tribes were very frightened of owls. they found owls hard to deal with because very few individuals had "owl power," or the ability to communicate with and influence owls -- which of course were associated with death. if the white settlers and army had simply brought along some owls a lot of bloodshed could have been averted. also, a good living could have been made by those who provided the owls: "have i got an owl for you!"

i've noticed recently -- in santa barbara and also in tucson -- that a few high end hotels are employing owls to keep away pigeons and other undesirables. and for those who can't afford a real owl, excellent reproductions are available at hardware stores for fright purposes or whatever. i have one myself!
mitch s.

Thanks for commenting, Mitch. You are right that many Native American tribes associated owls with death; however, not all tribes saw them as omens of evil. The Tlingit, for example, thought owls exceptionally brave and would mimic their calls during battle, both to feel brave themselves and to scare the hell out of their enemies. Here's a link that gives an overview of some different tribal beliefs of Native American peoples:

And you're right that owls are great for scaring away pigeons. Boaters use them to frighten off gulls, too. It's not every bird that has that kind of gravitas, even when made of plastic! They are most cool.

whenever i meet a native american person i always ask about owls. iyour'e right that they were harbingers of evil, not death as i wrongly said. members of the various military societies made a fetish of not being afraid of death so that aspect of owls would of course not be frightening -- but those people were very superstitious. so owls hooked into that.

a number people i've spoken with have expressed great admiration for crows: "they have hard lives," one told me. crwos are indeed very interesting. but here's a question: why does one never see a young pigeon?

Crows are definitely cool, too. There's a neat article in the New York Times this week about crows' ability to remember faces:

That's a good question about pigeons. I don't know the answer. Boarding school, maybe? My brother-in-law raises racing pigeons and might know, but he's kind of a jerk and I don't feel like asking him.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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