Don’t Sit On An Owl
By Harold Fuller
J.A. Bohan and John Lothrop, two of the prominent visiting Knight of Pythias, in town for one of Hawthorne’s earliest conventions, purchased an owl and had a great deal of trouble trying to get it home. They had no cage and as the bird was of an ungentle disposition their efforts to keep it tied up in a large bandana were futile.
Lathrop had a finger nearly bitten off and indignantly turned the pet over to Bohan, who concluded he could carry the bird in his rather large coat tail pocket. This plan worked quite well and for some time, before the train left, Mr. Bohan stood around the platform talking pleasantly with his friends and experienced no trouble from his prisoner. In fact no one even suspected that he had an owl in his pocket.
Had he not forgotten himself, there would have been no trouble, but, in the hurry to secure a coveted seat in the crowded smoking car, he neglected the usual ceremony of separating the coat tails as he sat down. An owl is known to be a hardy creature, but one should not expect even a tough old bird to willingly submit to being used as a seat cushion. The moment Bohan sat down the owl remonstrated loudly and began an energetic protest with beak and claws. Bohan arose abruptly with considerable profanity, and the owl, making a desperate effort, broke its prison walls and escaped into the smoky air of the car. It emitted fearful hoots and the other occupants of the packed smoker, without knowing just what was happening, went into a first class panic. The wretched bird, confused and dismayed by its strange surroundings, flapped around at random, leaving small, smelly tokens of regard on the faces of several of the gallant Knights.
They were unaware of the character of their unexpected and excited visitor and joined loudly in the chorus of screeches and hoots. Carson & Colorado Conductor Gale entering to take up tickets received a flap in the face as he opened the door, and was knocked out on to the platform. He sprang to the brakes and set them, because after hearing the hubbub inside, he thought there must be a major catastrophe. The car seemed to be full of demons of discord, for the owl seemed to be everywhere at once. Grand Chancellor Cobb was smoking a cigar when the owl flew into his face, knocking the cigar holder out of his mouth and stuck a claw between his teeth.
Mr. Cobb instinctively gripped the claw with his teeth in a well intended, but mistaken, effort to retain the cigar holder. This of course, made matters worse and by the time he had bitten off the toe nail and spit it out the owl was making more noise than Brown’s mules when they join in a concert. Andy Newman lost half his mustache. Riley Rice nearly lost an eye and several of the excursionists made a leap for the windows. In the mean time, Conductor Gale, having set the brakes, re-entered the car and heard Bohan shout, “It’s only an owl!”
With great presence of mind he cuffed the exhausted bird out through the open door. Conductor Gale then made Bohan pay the usual fee for the carriage of wild animals and in compliance with the stern demand of the crowd, put the unfortunate gentleman out on a flat car for the ride back to Carson.
The boys refused to allow him to ride with them because they were afraid of what he might have in his other pockets. A skunk or few rattlesnakes might be as bad as the owl.