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Rockbridge News, 1892: Owls and Others

                                    R. T. Smith

On Monday our esteemed Board of Supervisors
held Scalp Day, their annual session to audit
all accounts of the meddlesome animals
brought low for bounty and the general welfare
of county residents, the purpose of this practice
being to balance cost and benefit, also to prove
that ample creature encroachment justifies
allotments for such killing. As always, claims
have been laid for wildcats, skunks, foxes
of both colors and hawks (over two hundred),
but of especial interest is the slaughter of owls.
Trout Settlemeyer averred that all nocturnal
hunters are noxious, while Dr. Sterling Wirt
took the part of some, saying that though all
large buboes—the hoot and horned foremost
among them—were pests, their lesser cousins
barn and scritch count as our allies, primarily
in the matter of mice, and there are laws
across the Commonwealth protecting them.
“It is best,” he said, “to recognize colleagues,
whether in the trees or on this duly elected
and installed board of survivors and never
gun them down for doing their fair work.”
His speech brought applause and scattered
laughter, but when he added that chilling
whinnies of owls under a full-blown moon
are meant to remind us of death’s nearness,
he lost his disciples, and discussion turned
to a curious item on the list: one goose owl
brought down on Smokey Row by Molly
Berry, a local midwife. The whole Board
expressed astonishment, accompanied
by hissing and scorn, discord from both
parties, but at sunset they voted promptly
and adjourned, having approved their own
actions and glad to escape further inquiry,
leaving this correspondent ill at ease
with a puzzle to baffle ace ornithologists
and perhaps of some interest to local geese
as well as humans prone to goose behavior.
We are determined to pursue this variety
of beast at any cost to satisfy the curiosity
of readers, hereby enlisted in our quest.
Bring any goose owls to our news desk,
but with dispatch, in advance of fetor
(also unicorns, hoop snakes and centaurs).

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