Tag Archives: mascot

When I was a little kid, my family had a pet owl

When I was a little kid we used to have this pet owl. I’m pretty sure it’s super illegal to keep owls as pets, but that never crossed my mind when I was younger, he was just kind of there in the background of my childhood, Oggie the owl. I’m not even sure that’s how you spell Oggie. I’ve never had to write it down before. My dad brought him in the house after having found him lying wounded by the side of the road. My little brother at the time was barely old enough to talk, and he kind of toddled into the living room where my dad was wrapping up the bird’s injured leg in white gauze and mumbled something unintelligible in his two-year-old baby voice. Something he said must have sounded like Oggie, because everyone laughed and it just kind of stuck.

Owl in a cage

Every memory that I have regarding Oggie is really fuzzy, probably because we were all so young, and so whenever my brothers and sisters and I talk about our family mascot, there’s really very little in the way of verifying any of the sounds and images we all have kicking around in our memories. And another part of the uncertainty has to do with the fact that we can never talk about any of this stuff when my parents are around. They absolutely forbid even a passing reference to the bird. I’m pretty sure somewhere along the line, someone got word of the owl, that someone gave my dad a pretty serious warning, about how they’re protected animals, how you can’t just go caging them up inside.

It was a pretty big cage. At first Oggie didn’t need a cage, because he was injured, his leg was really messed up. And so my dad just put him in this cardboard box lined with newspaper and Styrofoam packing peanuts. It was fine, he wouldn’t move much. But once he started regaining even a little bit of his mobility, it became clear that we needed some boundaries. I remember one time my little sister, she wasn’t even walking yet, she crawled over to Oggie’s box with that cute I-want-to-play-with-my-pet-bird look on her face, and Oggie surprised all of us by hopping out of the box, fast, he was like face to face with my sister, and he let out this insanely loud screech. Worse, I mean, his feet were still heavily bandaged , so there wasn’t any real danger, but he started pawing at my sister’s face. Imagine if those talons were exposed, that would have definitely been a trip to the emergency room, at least.

My dad confined Oggie to a corner of the living room. He bought some chicken wire at Home Depot and affixed it floor-to-ceiling right next to where we had the TV. He cut out a portion of the wire and that kind of served as a rinky-dink door, so we could clean out his cage, tend to his wounds, and give him some food.

I remember that being a problem, figuring out what he’d eat. My parents did a little research and discovered that owls in the wild were predators, that they eat things like live mice. But my mom, who already wasn’t really too crazy about the whole owl-in-the-house thing, I remember her putting her foot down at one point, telling my dad, “There is no way we are keeping a box of live mice in the house to feed that goddamn owl!”

So there was a lot of trial and error. It would have been nice if he’d taken to any of the various bird foods that my parents bought at the pet store. But after a full two days of being surrounded by several bowls of different types of seeds and pellets, Oggie still hadn’t even considered eating anything we offered, and he started freaking out, hopping from spot to spot, gnawing at various parts of the chicken wire, and eventually, that shriek. It got to a point where all he did was stand there and let loose with that piercing cry.

My mom was worried that the neighbors were going to call the cops, so in a desperate attempt to shut Oggie up, she cut up some raw chicken from the fridge into these bite-sized strips and laid them out on a plate and pushed it through the slot in that fence. It worked, and it was weird, the whole owl-chicken thing. I remember asking my mom, “Mom do you think Oggie gets sad that he has to eat other birds?” and she told me something like, “No, that’s how they do it in the wild,” which seemed like a good enough answer at the time, even if I couldn’t make sense of why they’d waited so long to give him chicken, trying out all of those bird seeds that, still kind of just lying there scattered around all of those bowls toward the back of his cage, steadily attracting lines of tiny ants.

From my little kid perspective, I remember it like he was always there in the corner, not responding to our calls, swiveling his head from side to side, occasionally staring at one of us intently and almost menacingly for hours upon end. But really he could have only been there for a few months, tops. Eventually the house started smelling terrible, my mom wouldn’t let us have anybody over the house, telling us not to talk about Oggie with anybody at school, not like anybody believed us.

But we all got the sense that it was coming to end, the way my mom started cursing under her breath whenever she’d cut up Oggie’s chicken, or the late-night fights my parents had behind their closed bedroom door. One day we came home from school and Oggie was gone, along with any trace that we’d ever had a pet owl.

“We donated Oggie to a zoo,” was all that my mom offered as an explanation as to his disappearance, changing the topic abruptly with, “But good news, now you can have all of your friends over later this week!” Which wasn’t good news at all, because even though my parents told me not to mention Oggie around my friends, it was practically all I could talk about. Every time we had arts-and-crafts, I’d draw pictures of him, I’d mimic his screech out in the playground, I was owl obsessed.

And I could just see it in my head, all of my friends coming over, the first thing they’d say is, “See, I told you he didn’t have a pet owl,” which they all did. And my mom kind of laughed it off, like, “Pet owl? Ha!” all while giving me that look, like, you told them about the owl? What did I tell you about talking to your friends about the owl? You just wait until everybody leaves.

Tom the Tiger

Sometimes I think I want to invent my own breakfast cereal, like it doesn’t matter what it’s called, or even what it tastes like. The only thing that I have planned out is that the mascot is going to be this giant humanoid tiger, and he’s going to go, “Theyyyyyy’re terrific!” just exactly the same way that Tony the Tiger does his slogan.

Tony the Tiger

And then I’m going to sit there by the phone and wait for Kellogg to give me a call. “Hello, we’re calling about Tom the Tiger,” because that’s what I’m going to name my Tiger mascot, Tom, and he’s going to have the same broad shoulders, the same red neckerchief, Tom’s obviously labeled “Tom” instead of “Tony,” the same shit-eating grin and index finger pointed high in the sky, “We’re issuing a cease-and-desist.”

And I’ll be like, fuck that man, I’m no lawyer, you can’t kill Tom the Tiger just because you don’t like what he has to say. He’s not saying “They’re great!” he’s saying, terrific, “And besides,” I’ll tell them, “This is actually Tony the Tiger’s older brother, Tom,” and they’ll be like, “All right, you want to do this the hard way? Let’s do this the hard way.” And I’ll be like, “Fine, if you guys want to do it the hard way, let’s go.”

That might unnerve them a little, because here’s the thing, you get some company pissed off about a cartoon tiger, fine, they send you a letter, it’s some lawyer, sure, terrific, let me ask you, what are you going to do, you’re going to come over my cereal factory and physically stop me from making Tom the Tiger boxes? No, you’re going to have to start a whole legal proceeding, and I’ll make sure that takes time.

And I never understood the legalities, say some judge tells you to knock it off. Say you don’t want to, what, do the cops eventually get involved? Do they storm the cereal factory, start ripping up boxes? Or would they just like block out the part of the box with the mascot? I’m just saying, I think this whole system is a huge power trip, scare tactics, intimidation, big cereal.

And besides, Tom the Tiger really is Tony the Tiger’s older brother. Who do you think taught Tony how to stand upright like a human being, how to make a red embroidered neckerchief with “Tony” on the bottom? Because it is embroidered, even though by the illustration it only looks like it’s maybe screen-printed. And he talks. Tigers don’t talk. They certainly don’t teach themselves how to talk.

Who taught Tony? Tom. But who taught Tom? Ah, that’s the question. Tom’s actually pretty hush-hush about the whole “Who taught you how to walk and talk like a human” business, and don’t even bother asking him as to how he got his start in the whole cereal business.

And so, your honor, I’d like to continue to point out that, where exactly in the Constitution does it grant Kellogg the right to deny me the use of my imagination to expand upon the Tony the Tiger biography? What has Kellogg done new with character in, what, twenty, thirty years? He’s been around forever. I think the guy that does his voice died like ten years ago. That’s why I’m careful not to too strongly link Tom with any sort of specific voice or inflection or intonation.

Your honor, another thing, how long – no I object! – how long exactly must these cartoon cereal character characters remain slaves of their prepackaged dry-goods? Why just Frosted Flakes? Maybe Tony wants to move on. Maybe Tom’s here to rescue him. Kids love Tony, and Tony loves kids. But maybe Tony doesn’t want to peddle around sugar-coated cereals anymore. What about diabetes? Did you know that tigers can get diabetes also?

Show me the statistics of tiger diabetes, Kellogg. Well, you’re the cartoon tiger experts, aren’t you? No, you’re not. I am. Here are the statistics. You see what they say? That one hundred percent of cartoon tigers suffer from type one adult onset diabetes. And that’s just tigers. You should see the kinds of fucked up shit Chester Cheeto has to deal with.

I will not be held in contempt. Tom has a right to exist! Frosted Flakes is trying to take away our freedom! Your honor, I – get your hands off of me! Theyyyy’re terrific! Terrific! Theyyyyy’re grrrrreat!