My four young children were growing up (far too quickly as far as I was concerned), but then comes a moment: a moment that makes you stop and think. Perhaps they are appreciating living in the countryside after all? The link between us humans and those other living beings is not so tenuous after all?
But, before going on to this little tale of mine, let me tell you another Herefordshire tale:
A very good friend of mine lived in 'the middle of nowhere' in the deep, dark depths of the Herefordshire countryside, in a little old cottage, far, far away from any other buildings (occupied or not) – and far, far away from any city/village/street lights – beggar the thought! One deep, dark, quiet, winter's evening he was sitting all alone, in front of his dwindling log fire, when he couldn't help but notice something out of the ordinary, out of his front window.
Who or what was staring through the window?
Someone was standing right outside his little isolated country cottage and just staring into his window! 'Who was that?' The more he looked, the more he became concerned. Eventually he plucked up the courage to go outside and confront this uninvited intruder. And so he did....and so one of the most beautiful birds in the world – a Barn Owl of course – swept away into the night (to do its deadly business elsewhere).
It is very, very rare to see an owl in the wild, never mind meet one, never mind hold one! But our David did!!
River Wye and Hereford Cathedral in the background
He (our David, not the owl!) jumped onto the back of my beautiful, powerful, expensive motorcycle to take him up to the main road where he would catch his school bus into Hereford (Mike, Sarah and Robbie had all graduated up to college and their travel arrangements kept me separately busy for the next hour or so afterwards). Anyway, as we (David and I) quietly (yes, that massive motorcycle engine was as quiet as a whisper at low speed) crept down then up and away from the serene little valley we lived in.
We saw a barn owl!
As we climbed slowly up through the trees so we, inadvertently, woke an owl from its slumber. Another barn owl (I know it was a barn owl, because we met face-to-face! But I also know it was not the same one as mentioned previously, because they are very territorial creatures). Startled, in its (just like the young teenager David was at the time) early morning wake up, it flew straight into my helmet, then recovered very quickly and flew, unscathed, away. And David had a 'grandstand' view of every single (couple of) seconds of this wonderful event.
David cared for the baby owls for a short while
A few days later (totally unconnected?) our young, countrified, caring David woke up early one morning, went outside and – too his initial, panicking concern – found four tiny little fledging Barn Owls squealing and squawking in despair on our forecourt below. So did what did he do (without consulting his dear old dad of course)? He cared for them of course, but only for a day a two. He realised that they couldn't care for themselves of course, but he (being/becoming a true countryside lad himself) put them back to as near as he could within 'touching distance' of what – he realised – would be where their caring mother would be able to retrieve them.