At least I’ve never been skunked

  • Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Julie Smith found her klutzy animal spirit in this owl. Photo by Julie Smith



I’m clumsy. Awkward. A klutz. Always have been.

I fall downstairs, I fall upstairs. I trip over my own feet. I trip over the dog. I trip over shadows. Last week I covered my face during a sudden sneeze and poked myself in the eye. I walk into open doors and stumble over welcome mats. More than one person has seen me fall out of a car because I couldn’t get my feet untangled in time.

I stumble, bumble and trip on a daily basis. It’s part of my DNA, apparently. (But why can’t I dance a lick, when my mother won multiple dance contests in her day?)

I mention all this so you will understand my empathy when I came across a creature clumsier than me. It happened like this…

The closest town to us has a Belk’s and a feed store in the same shopping center, which I find hilarious but no-one else does. Anyway, I needed to buy some new underwear and Belk’s has always been known for fine lingerie, the same way JC Penney is known for having terrific curtains.

Now, y’all know I HATE to shop, which should tell you the sorry state of my underwear drawer. But I gritted my teeth, clutched my husband’s credit card and dashed through the store. Thirty minutes later I’d snapped up some cute lingerie, a purse that somehow leaped into my arms and a summer-weight cotton bathrobe printed with tiny red rosebuds.

The cheery bathrobe put me in such a good mood, I decided to go stock up on chicken feed at the Tractor Supply store across the parking lot. (Our roosters, Ben and Jerry, eat a LOT, maybe because they stand approximately three feet tall. Or do they stand approximately three feet tall because they eat a lot?)

After paying for the feed, I was strolling out when I walked by a woman who had what looked like a large plastic owl perched on her leather-gloved hand. First I thought, Okay, it’s plastic owl appreciation day. Then I thought, Seriously? And turned back around.

Sure enough, it was a real, live owl perched calmly on a woman’s gloved hand. She represented Lowcountry Raptors, a nonprofit sanctuary that rescues injured raptors and educates the public about the beautiful birds of prey.

The owl, Carolina, kept opening and closing his curved beak, showing his pink throat and making whispery “glack glack” noises. Then he turned his head 180 degrees and I almost died. It was downright freaky. So of course I pulled out my phone and started snapping photos.

Someone else asked how the owl came to be rescued. The woman said the owl had pounced on a skunk, and being a young, uncoordinated owl, missed his target. The skunk slipped through his talons. Then, justifiably upset, it whirled and sprayed skunk juice right in the owl’s face. As the owl fell writhing to the ground, the skunk added insult to injury: It ran over and bit the bird’s toe off. I’d need rehab too, after all that.

The owl was blind for a week. He’s fine now, but will never hunt again. Luckily he has a forever home with the sanctuary, and a fellow klutz in me. I am that owl. Clumsy, tripping over my own talons—er, feet. Flopping around without a clue, that’s me. If I were a raptor, I’d be dead by now.

Graceful I’m not, but at least I’ve never been skunked. Yet.

Julie R. Smith, who also falls down while jogging, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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