I’ve always been a collector. I can’t even remember when, precisely, this habit got started. As a very young lad, I owned several hundred—it could have been as many as a thousand—stamps from many countries of the world that I would diligently paste into albums, using those little hinges that could be purchased in variety stores.
Over the years, you name it and I’ve obsessively acquired it. I went through a period when I was interested in porcelain objects that had the worlds “Occupied Japan” stamped on their undersides. I then got into refrigerator magnets and spent hours shopping for them on eBay. I currently have a couple of dozen beautiful Middle Eastern rugs on the floor of my apartment. I remember how much pleasure it gave me when I acquired each one. Honestly, if I had an unlimited supply of greenbacks, I’d probably become something akin to a hoarder. The feeling I get when I simply hold one these highly prized objects in my hands is hard to describe.
Having said all this, you probably will not be surprised to hear that I have been buying owl figurines—made of every sort of material that can be used to manufacture such a creature—for a great many years. In fact, my collection is so extensive that I don’t even have all of them in my possession. Many are stored away in boxes in closets inside houses that belong to a great many relatives.
My interest in owls began as a result of an interesting encounter I had, now a couple of decades or so back, with a real live bird of this sort. This “meeting” (of the souls?) happened while I was visiting my maternal grandparents who happened to reside, at that time in their lives, out in the country, a dozen or so miles to the west of a little Texas city called San Angelo.
Just after breakfast, on the second day of a four-day visit, I announced that I wanted to take a walk, so I bundled up—it was a cold, wintry day as I recall—and then left the house. I wandered for an hour or so. My walkabout took me down forsaken country roads that meandered here and there and then petered out, becoming little more than footpaths in the process. I breathed the crisp country air in and exhaled clouds of steam. I looked up, studied the sky, and wondered if it might sleet or even snow.
During such a moment of speculation, a voice in my head said, “Turn around now and have a look at what’s behind you.” When I did so, I saw an enormous bird—I didn’t yet know that it was an owl—perched on the limb of a dead tree, not more than ten feet away. The creature had its back to me, and it stayed like that for several seconds as my eyes fixated on it. Suddenly, its head swiveled around and I saw two large and seemingly inquisitive owl eyes peering at me. The two of us held perfectly still like that, staring at one another, for what seemed like a long time. The bird abruptly blinked, maybe three times, let out a preternatural hoot, and then flew away.
About ten days later, while wandering around in a junk shop, I bought my first owl. Before deciding to make the purchase, I held the thing in my hands a good long time, checking it out for imperfections. I found none and the price was right. The rest, as they say, is history.