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Notes from the Field
Majesty and wonder in Dell City, Texas. October 4, 2014 by Susie Schneider
We come upon two very large abandoned metal buildings. The yard around the buildings is weed infested. Michael and I fear snakes and tread carefully. Mark gamely walks ahead, telling us he will break the trail through the calf-high weeds. He adds, "no self respecting snake will be found here. It's too hot." Shards of broken glass, discarded pieces of equipment, their uses now unrecognizable, litter the floors of the buildings, litter the porches on the west side. In a long derelict office, a calendar still counts the days. Many of them have passed since 1991, but the calendar is ever hopeful, not faded, still fresh.
We carefully peer into the first building. We marvel at the evidence of the predatory power of the owls. Hundreds of owl pellets containing tiny skulls, bones, fur litter the floors of the buildings and later, the patios outside. Right in front of us looms a deep, circular, brick-lined pit. It is the stuff of scary cop shows, of people who disappear in abandoned buildings. Almost immediately, we see two Great Horned Owls. They are huge and majestic. One flies overhead toward us as the other flies away, silently, smoothly, gliding on enormous wings to escape from us. The motion of its wings is too beautiful to be called "flapping." No, the motion is more like rippling velvet. The owl flies through a doorway, seemingly into another room in the building. We go back outside, brave the weeds and find another vantage point-one that sees into the room into which we saw the owl fly. No sign.
We walk carefully toward the other building and peer into the dim interior. Lofty ceilings, rusted metal beams, turbines, shafts. There--high in a corner--life. The heart-shaped face, slim body, pale feathers, innocent gaze-a treasure-a barn owl. We disturb her. She looks anxiously, shifts from one taloned foot to another. We retreat after a glimpse. We respect her sanctuary and have no desire to alarm her. We speak in quiet voices outside the sagging building. From inside the ramshackle hulk comes a shriek. A warning? An alarm? Another shriek. We smile. We have seen one of God's most powerful and yet somehow vulnerable creatures. We are blessed.