That is how a new story character introduced himself to me on Friday morning. Out of nowhere, he just popped into my head with a loud “Howdy!” It has been an interesting, and exciting, weekend.
Red and I already have more story characters lined up for his upcoming “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories than we can probably squeeze into three or four collections. Nevertheless, in popped another one on Friday. He and Red hit it right off. I do declare, Little Red Bear collects new story characters and companions faster than a hound dog walking thru a flea patch.
It’s a struggle to keep up with them all, to be honest. And suddenly on Friday—here came another one into my head, totally uninvited. “Howdy!” But that was pretty much it. For Friday anyway. He just popped in, introduced himself and went to spend time with Little Red Bear. I didn’t learn any more from him that day. Just the “Howdy!” Hearing it over and over again.
Early Saturday morning was spent catching up on odds and ends for the week, and by late morning it was so beautiful outside I decided to go walkabout for a while, to get some fresh air and exercise.
Two blocks from home while checking out dropped walnuts on the ground from an old Black Walnut tree up on the hill, the quiet was broken once again with a loud “Howdy!” in my head. I suppose he had talked Red’s arm off the night before, and now it was to be my turn.
The further I walked the more he talked. On and on, revealing his story to me. He continued talking thru Saturday night, was in my head when I woke up Sunday morning, and continued on thru the day. I have been listening to this little guy all weekend! Turned out, he is a Burrowing Owl.
We usually don’t give this much away about upcoming story characters, but this fellow is special, caught us totally by surprise and immediately stole our hearts. So much so, that Red and I are even reworking some things to move his introduction up into the first collection of stories, already nearing completion. I am so excited about him it’s hard not to just tell you all about him right now. But that would spoil all the fun.
Regardless, I can let you know that he is a Burrowing Owl from way out west in the Oklahoma Panhandle with quite a story to tell. Burrowing Owls inhabit grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas and other open, dry areas with low vegetation. From their name, they live in a hole in the ground, not up in a tree like other owls. Although capable and willing to dig their own burrows, more frequently they inhabit existing holes abandoned by prairie dogs, skunks, armadillos, tortoises and the like.
Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day, although wisely avoiding the midday heat. But like most owls, they do most of their hunting between the hours of dusk to dawn, taking advantage of their superior night vision and hearing. So they do not sleep a lot, which may go a long way towards explaining his extended chattiness all weekend.
Living in open grasslands as opposed to forests, Burrowing Owls have long legs and short tails which allow them to sprint very quickly across the ground in pursuit of prey. They are small in size, about 11” long, a little larger than an American Robin when fully grown. When agitated, they bob their head up and down, revealing a white chin patch. But I cannot imagine this sweet little guy ever being agitated or angry.
Burrowing Owls have no ear tufts, unlike many other owls. They feature prominent white eyebrow markings, and in color they are brownish, with lighter colored bars on the front and spots on the back. They have noticeable bright yellow eyes. No other owls are commonly seen on the ground or so frequently during daylight hours. As with many birds and creatures, Burrowing Owls are threatened or endangered in some areas due to loss of habitat as more open nesting areas are plowed under for development and agriculture.
This half-pint owl has captured our hearts and will be featured in the first “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short story collection available soon. Red and I just couldn’t wait to tell you at least a little about him, and are sure you will recognize him when he enters the stories.
As always, thanks for reading and have a great day! – Jim (and Red!)