Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

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Nona’s Stories: Leaving the Ranch

Finally the day came for us to leave the ranch and go to Laredo.

Some friends of ours, Hanel and Lillie Peterson, were to come by the ranch for us. Hanel was to be the Engineer at the new Power Plant, and Ray was to be the Power Dispatcher.

So I fed all my pets for the last time, and scratched Alonzo’s head for him. But Who-Who wouldn’t come down from his tree because of the strangers. There was a faint answering when I called him, and he watched all the activity, but stayed in the tree.

It was hard to leave them for I knew I’d never see any of them again.

With our luggage and the Peterson’s too, there was no room for my guitar and mandolin, so I gave them to some friends from an adjoining ranch that had come over to tell us goodbye.

We arrived at Laredo the next morning.

We came to the ranch in the middle of the Winter and left in the middle of the summer, so were not there for the round-up and branding of the cattle, which is done in the Fall.


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Nona’s Stories: Pretty Poll the Parrot

The Peterson’s, Hanel and Lillie, came by the ranch for us. We left about 2: p.m. and drove all night – this was in the mid 1920’s and we were traveling in a Model “T” Ford – (the thing then!).

Arriving at Laredo, Hanel and Ray checked in at the new Power Plant, and Lillie and I went apartment hunting.

We took apartments at a Mrs. Foster’s. She was a woman in her sixties, blind in one eye, and the widow of a Capt. Foster of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Her house wasn’t far from the railroad round house, and some of the Engineers slept there on their time off between trips.

She had a green short tail Parrot, that had been her husband’s camp mascot. There had been many Mexicans in her husband’s troop, and they had taught the Parrot every “cuss” world in the Mexican language-(in Laredo it’s “Mexican” and not “Spanish”) -and, I suspect, a great many “cuss” words they invented.

“Pretty Poll” even “cussed” with a Mexican accent! She “spoke” English, too, and sounded more like a human voice than any Parrot I’ve ever heard.

She was quite old, as Parrots go, and very set in her ways – and, also, very “cranky.” Her days were a set routine. She was up bright and early. Mrs. Foster, who she called “Mama,” opened the front screen door for her, she made her own way down the wood steps of the front porch, down the concrete walk to the front yard gate. The yard fence and arch over the gate was thickly overgrown with Trumpet vines. She climbed up to the center of the arch over the gate, where she, being green, was well hidden. Then she watched for people passing. She liked girls, and thoroughly disliked men. She could give a perfect “wolf-whistle” when she spotted a girl passing, and call out “Hello, pretty girl, how about a date?” But if it was a man passing, she would wait until he was quite near, then say, in a man’s angry voice- “Get the Hell out of here!” (one of her favorite expressions, another favorite was “What the Hell!”).

If a dog passed down the street she would whistle to him, if he came looking for the “person” who whistled to him, she would say in a loud, scolding voice “Get the hell out of here!” Followed with a string of her favorite “cuss” words.

The reactions of people and dogs – and in Laredo there were many dogs –  were comical to watch. I often wondered if she had a sense of humor.

She wouldn’t come down from her archway perch over the gate until the noon time whistle of the round-house blew, no matter what. In mid-summer in Laredo it’s very, very hot. Not at all unusual to be 120 degrees. The concrete walks are blistering hit. But Pretty Poll insisted on “hot-footing” it up that walk on her own. She fought like a wild cat if anyone tried to pick her up and carry her to the house, and she could really bite with that strong, sharp beak.

Her legs were very short, and she was exceedingly “bow-legged.” It took her some time to walk the distance from the gate to the house, especially since she stopped about every other step to shake a foot and say, vehemently, “What the Hell!!”

I felt sorry for her as I know that hot walk really burned her feet, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She climbed up the porch steps by reaching up and grasping the next step up, with her strong beak, and pulling herself up. By the time she got to the front door she was in a vile mood and “cussing” in “Mexican,” calling for “Mama” to open the “&)^)^)!!!” door. She was put in her cage for a “siesta” until 3:p.m. Her cage was covered with thick black material, with a draw-string at the bottom, and if she could see the tiniest little speck of light she let it be known – loudly.

At 3:p.m. she wake from her nap as if by clock, calling for “Mama”. Then out to the front gate again to tease the passer-bys. At dusk she came back to the front door and called for “Mama” to open the door for her. Usually it was cooler then and she was in a better mood.

If anyone asked “Polly want a cracker?” her answer was “Hell, No!”

She greeted each of the trainmen with “Whatcha know, Joe?” To tease her and because they got a kick out of her “cussing” they would say “Well, if it isn’t old ugly Poll!” That would make her so mad she literally jumped – I should say – hopped- up and down, “cussing” in “Mexican.”

Mrs. Foster didn’t mind – she said it gave Pretty Poll an interest in life and kept her from being bored. Pretty Poll got even by walking sidewise up their chair leg, up their arm to their shoulder – then reaching over and biting their ear. She nearly took a piece out of the ears of the new men that weren’t wise to her trick.

To people she liked she climbed up to their shoulder, reached over and “kissed” them on their cheek.

She was quite a character, and really ruled the roost at the Foster house. When Mrs. Foster had her coffee in the morning, Pretty Poll had coffe too, in her own little bowl.

There was a city plaza within walking distance of where we lived. Every evening from 7:p.m. to 11: Mexican bands and orchestras played there, and it was really good music. The sidewalk around the Plaza was lined with benches and there was always a big crowd. But they were quiet and well behaved. Never once did I see anyone drinking or otherwise causing a disturbance.

The Mexican girls always had a chaperon with them, a relative or friend with whom they sat. The young men would come and introduce themselves and ask permission to walk with the girl. If granted, they strolled on the sidewalk around the Plaza, returning to the chaperon.

Most every evening Ray and I walked to the Plaza and enjoyed the music.


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Nona’s Stories: Night Prowlers

At last Spring came. The flowers were blooming, rattlesnakes crawling, and varmints prowling!

Early one morning the rancher from the adjoining ranch rode up on horseback to warn us of a marauding panther that had killed a fully grown burro at his ranch that night.

These panthers cross the border from Old Mexico into Texas, and are the Southern type, much larger than those native to the Western States. They can easily kill a horse or a cow.

For some reason they get “itchy feet” and start traveling in the early Spring, sometimes traveling in pairs.

The rancher told us he was organizing the Wolf Hunting Club to try to track down and kill the panther.

He suggested we carry a rifle when riding the big pasture, in case we ran into it we could try to kill it.

All the saddles on the Milam ranch were equipped with rifle cases, so we cleaned the rifles and got them ready to use and took them along. However, we never saw the panther. And never found any livestock it had killed. Those we did lose were killed by coyote packs, as we could see from their tracks. At that time there were a great many coyotes.

Later we heard about a sighting of the big panther at a ranch on the other side of the river.

A Mexican ranch hand was returning from town with a wagon load of supplies, and driving along the river road under the big trees. The panther was in one of these trees, and snarled as the wagon passed under the tree.

The horses bolted – they fear panthers more than anything except rattlesnakes – the rancher said the horses with no wagon – arrived at the ranch house in a full gallup – had spilled supplies all along the road, from the wagon – and the Mexican was several shades lighter of complexion than normal.

The other ranch hands went to look for the panther, but didn’t find it, not knowing just where it had been. The Mexican wagon driver refused to go with them, definitely.

Other ranchers reported hearing it scream at night. It seemed to be traveling away from where it had first killed the burro. And, so further from the Milam ranch.

We sometimes had night prowlers. The Guineas would wake us with their warning chatter, or Buff and Duff barking. On a ranch no one ever goes out at night to look for prowling “varmints”.

There is too much danger of being bitten by a rattlesnake – a lantern’s light is limited, and a large rattlesnake can strike amazingly far. Then, too, there is the chance of rabid wild animals. At one stage they are very vicious and will attack. And an animal can see in the dark and a human can’t.

To frighten away a night prowler we kept Ray’s grandfather’s old double barrel shotgun which we called “The Blunderbus” beside the kitchen door at night. It was loaded and placed there the last thing before we went to bed.

It had a “kick” like the proverbial Missouri Mule and could really bruise a shoulder, so it was just held in the hand when fired. We just opened the door and fired each barrel in succession skyward – it sounded like doomsday – enough to frighten away any prowler. If that didn’t scare it away – it was scare proof.

We usually could tell pretty well what the prowler was from the behavior of the dogs and livestock.

If the dogs had their “hackles” up on their backs, we knew it was a fairly large animal, and that they could see it. We had only to call them to the door – we could tell where the animal was as the dogs would face toward it, never turn their backs. If the animal was large, and prowling around the livestock – they would be restless – the horses snorting and milling about. Most of our night prowlers were Bobcats, skunks, etc, sometimes coyotes. The dogs were kept strictly in the yard. They would allow nothing – and nobody – in the yard unless we told them it was alright. On the other hand, if we told them to watch something – like the fawn or kid or Kazan and Scotty, they would protect it with their life.

Since the rattlesnakes were crawling and we didn’t know if there were more under the house, I only let Kazan and Scotty out in the yard for short periods and told the dogs to watch them. They would follow the puppies around the yard, never letting them out of their sight, but keeping close to them all the time.

And that took some doing for the puppies were full of life and wanted to run and play. Sometimes I let Lambkins out of his little pen – which was in the yard – and he and the puppies would romp and play. It didn’t know Kazan was a coyote – and I doubt if Kazan knew it himself.

But the horses knew. Once I let the puppies follow me out to where Gray Boy was tied. Gray Boy snorted and backed away, pulling on the rope he was tied with, so I picked Kazan up and put him back in the yard. He didn’t pay any attention to Scotty.

We never let the puppies out where the stack were for fear that they might get stepped on.

And we could just imagine the result if ever we took Kazan to the barn where Hanse the Cat could see him!


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Nona’s Stories: Spring Chores and Friends

Some times on Sundays friends would come out to the ranch – a few from San Antonio – Dixie Collins, a friend of mine – lived in San Antonio – We would pack a lunch of fried chicken, saddle the horses and ride across the big pasture to the Nieces River which bordered the ranch.

We kept a flat-bottom boat tied up there. We would spend the day fishing, boating and swimming. The Nieces was six or seven miles from the Six-Mile Ranch.

Once when we were out on the river in the boat, a herd of deer, with several fawns, came down to the water on the other side of the river to drink. They didn’t seem to be afraid of use, or to pay any attention to the boat.

The best time to watch the watering animals is late in the evening, but we couldn’t stay that late, because we had to get back to the ranch house to do the chores, feed the stock, milk the cows, etc.

On the way home, in the open meadows, we usually raced – but Ray always won, his horse, Eagle, was a spirited, headstrong horse and much faster than any of the others. Usually our friends were not much used to riding horseback. They would write us how sore they were for days.

Ray and I had much riding to do. We had to keep a close check on the stock for any signs of Anthrax – sometimes called charbon or blackleg. Every rancher dreads this disease. However, we didn’t have any outbreaks of it while we were there.

There was four thousand acres in the big pasture. In the Spring there were hundreds of lambs and kids. Bobcats and coyotes raided the herds almost nightly. Sometimes several nannies or ewes would be killed, leaving their kids and lambs orphans. These orphans were called “sanchos” – a name given them by Mexican sheep and goat herders.

So we would have to provide them with “foster” mothers – other nannies or ewes that had kids or lambs about the same age. We had to put the mothers in pens and the kids and lambs in another pen. At feeding time we would have to hold the mothers and allow her own kid or lamb to suckle on one side and an orphan on the other side. Some of the mothers would accept the “sanchos” after it lost the scent of its own mother and acquired the scent of the new foster-mother by association with her and her own “child.”

Lambkins was born very early in the spring when there were no other nannies with kids, so we had to bottle-feed him.

Once when we were riding the big pasture and several miles from the ranch house, we were caught in a rain and electrical storm. When we left the ranch house that morning the sky was clear and no sign of rain, so we didn’t bring along our ponchos – they are especially designed to protect the horseback riders from rain and bad weather.

We always took along food and a canteen of water, for we were usually too far away to return to the house for lunch. Being Spring, thunderstorms can develop quickly, and this one did.

There was a lot of hail in this one which frightened the horses. It was hard to hold them to a walk. But we knew if we allowed them to run they might slip in the mud and water and fall and there was real danger of them breaking a leg – or falling on us. A horse has to be destroyed when it breaks a leg. And, too, we had to keep control of them to avoid any big trees that might be struck by lightning.

That was a long, cold walk home. We were wet as the proverbial wet hen.

But before we could go home we had to go by the goat and sheep pens to take care of kids and lambs. When they are very young they chill easily and die.

That done we went on to the ranch house and changed our wet clothes before doing the chores.

After that experience, we rolled and tied our ponchos on the back of our saddles so we would not again be caught without them in a rain, but as it happened we didn’t need them again.

The calves are born in the Spring and the little white-faced Hereford calves are beautiful. They are gentle and docile and seem to love to be petted. I was always getting off my horse to pet one and sometimes their mothers took a dim view of this. And after a few foot races back to my horse, I learned to keep him near with the mounting side toward me. After the calves are a few weeks old the cows are not so protective.

We had to examine all the newborn calves to make sure they were not infected with screw-worms which can kill them. This is a great problem on all ranches, especially during that time when there wasn’t the Federal program to combat the screw-worm as there is now.


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Nona’s Stories: Kazan the Coyote

About a year after Ray and I were married we spent six months or so on the “Six Mile Milam Ranch” so named because it was six miles from Uvalde. We were waiting for a Power Plant at Laredo to be built, where Ray was to be a Power Dispatcher.

Pop Milam and all the owners of the nearby ranches belonged to the Wolf Hunt Club. Once or twice a month they went on wolf hunts with trained wolf hounds. Coyotes had to be controlled as they could and would kill all the sheep, goats, calves, and deer – sometimes as many as twenty sheep or goats in one night.

On one of these wolf hunts they had killed a coyote, then discovered she had one lone pup, too young to survive alone. None of the men had the heart to kill it, because it came to them – being too young to be afraid.

They didn’t know what to do with it until Pop Milam remembered that I was a push-over for any stray animal! So they all agreed to bring it back to me, which they did, carrying it cuddled warmly inside the jacket of one of the hunters on horseback.

At the ranch, they all came trooping into the house, looking somewhat sheepish and trying to put on sad expressions on their faces. They kept looking at each other and finally Pop Milam said – with a great show of cheerfulness – “We brought you something!” Then the man pulled the coyote puppy out of his jacket and they all started telling me what a cute little fellow he was, and what a fine pet he would be for me, etc. (He was all ears and long legns) – I had my doubts about a pet coyote, remembering the experience my grandparents Saunders had with a neighbor’s pet coyote – I’ll tell you about that later.

One of the ranchers pointed out that this coyote pup was special as it had white feet – notice its feet in the picture. Sometimes coyotes mix with ranch dogs. So this coyote must really be part dog. One of the ranchers said if I would keep the coyote he would give me one of his purebred Scotch Border Collie puppies, it being about the same age as the coyote pup, to raise it with.

So, of course, I agreed to keep the coyote pup. And, true to his word, the next day the rancher rode up on horseback with the Border Collie puppy. Just before he left he told me the puppy wasn’t weaned yet!!

Well, I found myself bottle-feeding the coyote pup and the Border puppy. But they did fine, grew fast, and romped and played like all puppies do. Only Kazan liked to sleep most of the day, and stayed awake all night – that being the habit of coyotes. Scotty wanted to play by day and sleep all night. Kazan liked to stay in the house in the daytime and would seek out a dark place to hide and sleep. I soon learned never to touch him without waking him first as he would snap like lightning – the wild in him for self preservation, I guess, otherwise he was as tame and gentle as the puppy.

At night packs of coyotes would come close to the ranch house and howl, and Kazan would always prick up his ears and listen intently, but never answered them back. Scotty ignored them. They never came into the yard as we had two yard dogs, so they kept their distance.

When Kazan got a little older he wanted to stay outside at night, so I tied him in the yard, near the screened sleeping porch where we slept. The yard dogs – Buff and Duff – (they were that color) had accepted him when he first came to the ranch – with a somewhat puzzled look – they were trained to keep coyotes away – but here were these humans bringing one into their yard, and telling them it was alright!

Kazan played with Scotty, but when he tried to play with Buff or Duff, they would ignore him and if he persisted, they would get up with great boredom and sedately walk away.

As the Spring nights grew warmer, Scotty wanted to stay outside at night with Kazan, so one night I let him remain out in the yard. They were only a few feet from the sleeping porch where we slept. But in the middle of the night Kazan woke me with his  immature “yapping” (coyotes don’t bark) and Scotty whining.

I thought perhaps Scotty was cold and wanted to come inside, so I got up in my nightgown and barefooted, and went out in the yard and brought Scotty in – and discovered a horrible thing had happened – he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. His head was swollen so large when he tried to walk he just fell over forward. And he was in great pain.

I woke Ray and he lit a lantern and went out and brought Kazan in and looked for the rattlesnake, but didn’t find it.

We didn’t know what to do. The only transportation we had was horseback, and it was 2:30 a.m. and the saddle horses were out to pasture. We were six miles from town. The only thing we had in the house to kill the pain was half a dozen aspirin tablets.

Scotty was crying so pitifully we just had to do something. We felt sure he would die. So we crushed two aspirin tablets in some sugar and milk and got that down his throat. That was an awfully big dose for a puppy, and in about 15 minutes he stopped crying and went limp. I guess the aspirin put him to sleep, or he just passed out. We knew rattlesnake bites were lanced, and decided to try it, as he was asleep or “out” and wouldn’t feel it. So Ray sharpened a razor blade and lanced an X on each of the fang punctures of the snake bite. Then we remembered that the vine growing all over the trellis on the front porch was a Maderia vine – grown and used by Mexicans as poultices to draw out infections, boils, etc. So we got some of the leaves and pounded them into a pulp and made poultices for the snake bite, changing them as they became soiled. About 4:a.m. we gave him two more aspirin as he had started to waken.

After daylight we left him and went and made coffee. I went back to him and put my hand on him to see if he was still breathing – and he feebly wagged his little white tipped tail!

In an hour or two he was trying to get up and walk! It really was “Oh! What a Beautiful Morning!”

For a few days we had to feed him with a spoon – his head was so swollen he could just barely open his mouth enough to insert the tip of a spoon. And for a week or so we kept his head bandaged – he looked for all the world like he had double mumps! And I had to keep Kazan away from him for fear he would hurt him playing. Kazan’s mouth was so big he could get most of Scotty’s head in it.

He fully recovered. But to this day I get chills when I remember how I walked out in that dark yard barefooted – and how lucky I was the snake didn’t bite me, too.

Later on a letter came saying the Power Plant was finished, so we packed up and went to Laredo to live. Later I’ll tell you about some experiences there. One was a strange one, and I wouldn’t dare tell it lest no one believe it, but, as it happened, the Milams and their neighbors on the next ranch knew about it, and were somewhat involved.

After we left the ranch, Pop and Myrt Milam moved back to take care of it. While we were living there, they were living in town. They kept us informed about Kazan and Scotty. Scotty grew up to be a fine stock dog. Herding the sheep and goats. And knew all the saddle horses and milk cows by name. They were kept in the “trap” which is a fenced enclosure around the ranch house and corrals of several acres. It would take days to find one of the saddle horses or milk cows if they were in the big pasture of thousands of acres!

Pop Milam said he could tell Scotty the horse or cow he wanted him to go bring in, and off he would go and bring it back, put it in the pen, then lie down in the gate so it couldn’t get out, until he came out and closed the gate.

Scotland Border Collies are black and white. In Scotland they have been trained for hundreds of years to herd sheep. They are very docile and friendly dogs, and very intelligent. Scotty’s parents were imported from Scotland.

But, sad to say, Kazan let his natural instincts overrule his better judgement one day and killed a chicken.

Pop Milam knew that once he had tasted the chicken, he would kill them again. So he took him about fifty miles away and turned him loose in the hills. Coyotes are not like dogs – they don’t have this homing instinct.  Yet, he said when he heard coyotes howling at night, he was sure he heard Kazan’s voice. If so, he never came back to the ranch house.

In my next letter I’ll tell you about more happenings before we left the ranch.


P.S. Later on the Milams sold this ranch and moved back to town. The man that bought the ranch insisted that Scotty stay with the ranch. Pop Milam knew that a town apartment would not be a happy place for a stock dog to live after being used to life on the ranch where he was raised and was home to him. So the rancher kept him and I never heard anymore of him.

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Nona’s Stories: Omar the Turtle

One day we found an unusually large terrapin crawling along outside the corral fence. We decided to keep it, and named it Omar.

We took it inside the toolshed to paint its name on its shell.

We had it on the workbench when Hanse heard us talking and came out of the barn to investigate.

He jumped up on the workbench, almost landing on top of the terrapin.

When he saw it he yowled – no doubt thinking anything that looked like that was dangerous and not to be trusted.

In his scramble to get off the workbench, he knocked the can of paint off and it hit the floor about the same time that he did. I guess he thought it was the terrapin after him. He raced back into the barn, in his haste skidding and sliding, and yowling and yodeling.

It seemed to be his belief that if he yowled loud enough he would scare off any would-be cat-eating varmints.

Fortunately there was enough paint left in the can to paint “Omar” on the shell of the terrapin.

We had started a garden and had Pop Milam bring us some tomato, lettuce, and cabbage plants out from town. The garden was fenced with chicken wire to keep the rabbits out, so we thought that would be a perfect place to keep Omar.

We were afraid to keep him in the yard, knowing he could bite the curious noses off Kazan and Scotty.

They weren’t afraid of anything and were curious about everything. The next morning we went out to check on Omar and to our dismay and consternation, discovered almost all the lettuce and cabbage plants were gone! Omar had eaten them during the night! We knew he was the culprit for he still had bits of the leaves in the corners of his mouth.

Terrapins hibernate in Winter, digging themselves underground. I guess he had just come out of his long winter sleep and was hungry. Luckily he hadn’t eaten the tomato plants – maybe his taste didn’t run to tomatoes.

Knowing we couldn’t keep him in the garden or yard, we took him to the big pasture and turned him loose.

The last we saw of him he was crawling happily away in the tall grass.

Years later when we were living in Victoria, we found people there kept several terrapins in their yards to control “pill” bugs. Victoria being near the Gulf, is a very wet and rainy place and pill bugs thrive there.

People painted their cattle brands on the shells of the terrapins if they had a brand, and if not used their initials. This was considered proof of ownership, and theft of a marked terrapin was the same as theft of any other property.


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Nona’s Stories Who-Who the Owl


“Who-Who” and me.

Take a magnifying glass and look at this picture closely—Who-Who distrusted and disliked Buff and Duff—in the picture he is looking at them—notice the open beak and spread talons. I don’t know why he disliked them, for they only showed a mild curiosity about him, as they were used to chickens, turkeys, guineas, etc.

The first time I saw Who-Who I had gone out in the yard to check my newly planted cacti bed. The ranch house was in a big grove of Live Oak trees—they are evergreen oaks.

I heard a strange sound in the tree above me. Looking up I saw a pair of big yellow eyes watching me. It was a fully grown Great Horned Owl, which appeared to be a young one, judging from the coloring and freshness of the feathers.

I knew it had made the low sound I’d heard because of its slightly open beak and quivering throat. It mad no other sound, just turned it’s head as I moved about and watched me. It was still there when I went back inside the house and I didn’t expect to see it again.


“Who-Who” was a large and beautiful Great Horned Owl.

But next day when I was in the yard again, it was in anothertree, but made no sound—just watched me. I was busy in the house for a few days and when I did go back outside to look after the flower beds, it was in one of the trees, when it saw me it made a low, soft “who-who” sound, so I named it “Who-Who.” When I said “Who-Who” back to it—as nearly like it’s own voice as I could manage, it made no other sound, just watch me. I went to the other side of the yard and there was a “whoosh” of its wings as it flew to another tree on that side of the yard. As I moved around the yard working in the flower beds, it followed, flying from tree to tree.

Great Horned Owls prey on chickens at night, and can easily carry off a large, grown chicken in it’s powerful talons. But the ranch chickens were always locked in the screened chicken house at night to protect them from coyotes, skunks, bobcats, etc. Horned Owls can weigh 15 lbs.

I thought Who-Who might be hungry, so next day I took some fresh meat and put it on top of a fence post near his favorite tree, and went back inside the house to watch. In a few minutes he flew down to the post top and picked up a piece of meat in his talons and carried it back to the tree to eat it. Shortly he made another trip to the post for the other piece of meat.

I fed him this way for several days, and one day when I put his food on the post, I called “who-who” and there was a low answering “who-who” from his tree. After that he would sometimes answer me when I called him, but not always.

There were lots of mocking birds around the ranch house and I guess one of them got curious about all the “who-whoing” going on and would sometimes add his own version but he couldn’t match the soft “who-who” of the owl.

After he got used to coming to the post for food, I didn’t go back into the house but walked a short distance away and stood still. At first he hesitated to come for his food, but hunger soon won and he came to the post and picked it up. One day he didn’t fly back to his tree, but remained on the post to eat.

I shortened the distance each day by a step or two when I walked away after placing his food on the post. He didn’t seem to notice. Soon I was standing within arms length, then one day I didn’t put the food on the post, but held it in my hand. He flew down to the post, but didn’t seem to know what to do. He didn’t seem to know how to reach for it with his beak, but would lift first one foot then the other. So I laid the meat near his feet on the post. He instantly put one foot on it and held it down while he tore bits off with his beak. That seemed to be the only way he could eat. So next day I found a round branch that would fit his feet, laid one end on the top of the post and held the other end in my hand. I placed the meat on the stick about six inches from my hand. He flew down to the post and walked sideways out onto the stick, picked up the meat in one talon and sort of hopped back to the post top and ate it.

One morning he was waiting on the post for his food. I put his food down and while he was eating, I reached out my hand and touched him for the first time. He acted startled and started to spread his wings as if he was going to fly, but when I withdrew my hand, he folded his wings and finished eating.

Each day after that I would put his food on the post and as he ate I’d reach out and touch him. At first he would shrink away, but soon paid no attention and didn’t seem to mind.

I wondered if he would let me pick him up, but didn’t know how to hold him. I knew those sharp talons could pierce my arm to the bone, if he only perched on my arm. Great Horned Owls are large and heavy birds.

He seemed to be quite time but I didn’t know what he would do if I tried to pick him up. But one day I took my courage in hand and picked him up by his wings. He started flapping his wings wildly, so I quickly set him down on the ground—he promptly flew back to his tree.

Next day I tried it again—there was less flapping of wings and this time he flew back to the top of the post where he sat looking at me—turning his head in an almost complete circle.

I kept picking him up by the wings each day, and lifting him down to the ground. He seemed to like it, and one day he surprised me by spreading his wings so I could grasp them. Soon he would allow me to carry him around the yard by his wings, as you can see in the pictures.

He would never allow anyone else to touch him. And any time the dogs came near him he was instantly ready to do battle, opening his beak wide and spreading his talons ready to attack.

After we went to Laredo, the Milams said he stayed around for a while, but would have nothing to do with anyone, and after a while he disappeared. They said they hear his soft “who-who” several times before he left.


Close-up photo of “Who-Who”, my pet Great Horned Owl. He had a magnificent wing-spread of 48 inches, and weighed 12 or 15 lbs. We had no accurate way to weigh him, except the big ranch scales with weights, which he took a dim view of, and wouldn’t be still. Owls are normally night birds, when their eyes are opened wide, but in bright sunlight they “squint” – as Who-Who is doing in the picture above. He spent most of the days in the shadiest part of his favorite tree, and often sat with his eyes closed – dosing, I guess.