Majestic snow-covered oaks pointed to the sky in the midst of the Canadian Rockies. A group of college students decided this would be the perfect place for a winter vacation. They were a diverse group, some came here for skiing or just enjoying the snow, but others like Cheryl came for an entirely different reason.
Sporting a blue quilted jacket, she lifted the furry hood to shield herself from the brutal Canadian wind. Cold or no, she was on a mission, and didn’t come here to play. Her major was ornithology, and she was in search of the spotted owl. In Canada, it had been declared an endangered species. It was sad, but she would like to get a glimpse of the bird before it was gone forever. Hopefully, it could be saved.
Her friends were walking with her, but she was very fleet of foot and hard to keep up with.
“Hey, slow down, girl, you runnin’ a race?” Karen cried to her. We can’t get too far from the cabin, that sky looks like it’s gonna snow mother’s milk any minute. It’s also getting dark, we’d better turn back. Besides, my stomach is talking to me.”
“You wuss, I’m not going anywhere until I find what I want. You afraid of a little snow? Get over it, Ms. White. If you want, go back to the cabin and get your tootsies all warm and toasty. I know it’s getting dark. I may have to stay for a while to see the owl. It will be worth it, no matter what.”
“Worth it..for a darn bird?!” “You’re totally nuts!”
Karen turned and walked up the hill. Cheryl looked at her friend and flipped her long red hair. How pathetic. She pulled the furry wool hood over her head. It really was getting cold. But so what? She had come this far, she wasn’t turning back.
Cheryl would regret those prophetic thoughts. And they would play over and over in her head until she wanted to slap herself. Cheryl began light-heartedly walking through the dark woods, ignoring the fallen log in front of her. She screamed in pain. She had hurt her leg, not badly, so she stayed there for a while. The snow was now coming down, and Canada was starting to show its wrath. Cheryl, ever the optimist, just enjoyed the beauty, and was oblivious to the howling wind.
As she walked further, she realized how foolish she had been, she was now in the midst of a full blown blizzard. She could barely feel her feet, even through all her layers of clothing. No matter how much she tried to hug herself for warmth, it was futile. The wind was blowing so hard; her visibility was down to nothing. The snow whipping across her face felt like a bee sting. The wind began whistling an ominous tune. She needed to find shelter, and fast. She had wandered so far from the cabin, she had no idea where she was. She turned around, of course her footprints were gone, what did she think in this mess. If she couldn’t go back to the cabin, than she’d have to find shelter somewhere else. Fortunately, the snow was letting up a little, but trudging through snow drifts wasn’t easy. She was getting very tired now, if she just had a place to sit down. How was she going to get out of this mess? It had been hours now. Surely her friends would try to find her. But how? No way could they get the truck down here, wherever here was.
The snow let up entirely now, but the freezing cold made her body numb. She knew she had to find shelter. Up ahead, she spotted a log. It was covered with snow, but was at least a place to rest. It was totally dark now, and she had never been so frightened. She sat on the log and hugged herself as hard as she could. Just then, she heard a rustling sound. They had found her! She stood up and looked around. Nothing. Just some nearby animals. Animals? What kind of animals? She was going to die, she knew it! In the distance sounded a bird. “Who?” “Who?” It was an owl, just a dumb owl. Wait a minute. That’s what she was here for! She walked around but could see nothing, just the noise. It was taunting her, making the noise over and over again, but he remained hidden within the thick forest. He was screeching now and it was giving her a headache. She wished it would just shut up! And as she was thinking this, the spotted owl was on the branch right in front of her. At last, what she had come here for. She reached for her camera, but must have lost it in the snow. Damn!! Than it came a little closer, an odd thing for a bird to do. It was really beautiful. But was it worth possibly losing her toes and fingers over?
Just then, she heard her name. Was she hallucinating? No, it was Karen’s voice! They had called the Canadian Mounties to come search the woods. Karen said,
“You crazy nut, it’s a wonder we found you at all! We were about to turn back and search another area, when we heard that annoying owl. We knew that’s what you were here for, so gave it a shot. Your owl friend saved your life.”
After everything Cheryl had just been through, walking through a blizzard, starving, lost and scared, she still found what she was looking for. The bird had saved her life,
But who would save his?
Mary E. Lacey