Rural Indiana's Surprise Sightings: Snowy Owl and Liberals

Article excerpt

Byline: Burt Constable

I like to believe in omens.

So when a snowy owl from the Arctic Circle sets up camp at an interstate exit in rural Indiana, I take it as a prophecy.

The sighting comes during my family's annual pilgrimage to the Fountain Park Chautauqua outside the Hoosier hamlet of Remington. My family has had a cottage there for the last century. The rural resort (www.fountain-park.org) is our Kennebunkport - if Kennebunkport were surrounded by cornfields instead of ocean, served up sweet corn instead of lobster, replaced golf and bone- fishing with euchre and the bocce-like game of "bowling on the green," and traded its mansions for a circle of modest, wooden cabins with no phones, air-conditioning, TVs or computers.

There is a predictability to Fountain Park that is comforting. The same people come back year after year to do the same things year after year.

Dick Belcher still teaches the value of hard work by enticing kids who want homemade ice cream to spend a few turns at the crank. My mom still finds time to make a half-dozen of her famous peach cream pies. The Fritz and Constable families still meld into one during our annual, late-night/early morning euchre tournament. And all kids, free to roam the grounds without parental guidance, still come back from the candy stand with dirty feet, sacks of penny candies, and smiles that can light up porches illuminated dimly by hand-me-down lamps.

So the arrival a few miles down the road of a snowy owl right out of a Harry Potter book is shocking. There are isolated cases of juvenile owls appearing in the lower 48 states during the winter, notes John "Barny" Dunning Jr., as associate professor of wildlife ecology at nearby Purdue University. But no one has seen an older snow-white owl in rural Indiana in the summer until now.

Emboldened by the bird, I brazenly hang a Barack Obama sign from our cottage balcony, next to our U.S. flag. Judging from some reactions, no one has seen a liberal Democrat in rural Indiana either.

"If I had my shotgun with me, that sign would have a few pockmarks," quips a longtime Republican friend, who smiles as he says it. …