By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Okay. It has finally happened. The texting virus has spread to animals in our outdoor world. I knew that no good could come of all this. I just knew it.
This very evening, I heard our neighborhood barred owl clearly showing symptoms. This is the truth. Instead of his regular hoot that had been the trademark of his kind since before Noah and the big flood, he used a mere abbreviation; textspeak if you will. Instead of the eight notes of "Who Cooks for You, Who Cooks for YOUall," the infected bird sounded forth an anemic "OOOahh." At first I thought the call was some man-made sound that my bad hearing just mucked up. So I perked up. His second identical call obviously was owl talk and I assumed he just got strangled for a minute. Then came a clear third and fourth and on for 20 calls, all in the same text language! Of course no owl answered because he was likely the only local owl that had contracted the texting virus.
Now I have heard owls in the turkey woods and elsewhere do the single "OOOahh" now and then just for laughs or just being silly. But the tone of my local owl spoke of progressing seriousness; a genuine desire to be answered.
I wonder if anatomical changes will befall owls and other animals as surely are in store for us humans, who all text as we stand or walk. True to evolutionary principles, the human chin bone will grow securely to the upper breast bone and our eyes will migrate to above our eyebrows so we can see forward. During that metamorphosis, an intermediate stage will see us lie on our backs and replace walking by extending our legs, digging in our heels and pulling ourselves along so we can see forward while we text.
For now, texting and walking into stuff and persons is so common that we who aren't texting at the moment feel that people are staring at us. So we cup our empty palms, stare into them and poke them now and then with alternating thumbs. What has happened to ASDF - ;LKJ? My typing teacher went to her grave content that her kind had bettered me and much of the free world with a permanent communication method. What would she think these days when we poke at tiny keyboards like chimpanzees with overgrown thumbs, all other eight fingers useless and destined to fall off?
What is more, we are in such a hurry that we have developed a code language that besmirches our beloved historical languages. One day I got a text, LOL, and thought I was the recipient of lots of love and stayed excited for a week until I read that I may have been wished lots of luck or, worse, that they were laughing at me out loud! OMG, I thought!
Further confusion set in with me when I thought TTYL meant Talk To You Later. Not so. It has to mean Text To You Later, because no text virus infected human talks to anyone anymore! Associates of my owl will soon get that message and they will all probably sit around on their limbs and just grunt at each other!