Columnist remembers crafty crows from her childhood and how they outsmarted her parents

The Regal Courier's February issue containing Liz Schenk's observations and fascination with King City's crows reminded me of my warm experiences with such birds. Why? Because unlike normal people who choose cats or dogs, my childhood pets were a pair of crows.


Here's how this came about… Most birds nest about this time of year, and a crow nursery — like that of a squirrel's – is a conglomerate mass of dried leaves crammed high into a tree crotch.

My father knew exactly when crow babies were almost -- but not quite -- ready to fly and be out on their own, so one spring he climbed up to a nest and snitched a couple of fledglings.

"Jim" and "Blackie" apparently preferred the raw-hamburger diet we (their adoptive family) chose over whatever creepy stuff their bird-parents gave them. They'd raucously caw for more even when their gullets were crammed. What's more, they thrived.

Back then, Mom unfailingly followed the women's traditional, iron-clad law: "Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, and so on… " (In fact, most girls learned to embroider by depicting such chores on tea towels.)

Not only did Mom always do laundry on Monday, she'd also (rain or shine) hang it outside to dry, using clothespins to keep items on a clothesline strung between two trees. As soon as she'd leave for another load, the wily crows landed their muddy feet on her snowy-white linens to pilfer the clothespins, leaving Mom with fallen laundry to retrieve and re-wash.

So, the next Monday morning, Dad penned the pair. While doing prison time, those smart birds deduced why they were caged: Mom's wash! They retaliated with screeches of displeasure — and paid us back by spending such subsequent events perched on nearby roofs, squawking a din of protest. And never again were we able to catch them on a wash day.

Clothespins weren't the only toy of those crafty birds; they favored small, shiny stuff such as silverware pieces left on a picnic table. (I lost a treasured ring when I took it off to show a friend.)

Except for such tricks, they were delightful pets.

One day, I sat on the ground alongside our gravel driveway and began dropping pebbles into a tin can. (Why? I don't remember why; I was a kid.)

That's when those two, always-curious crows -- still learning to fly – hopped and half-flew to check out what I was doing, cawing as usual. I dropped a pebble into each squawking, yawning beak.

(Why? I don't remember why; I was a kid.)

Jim and Blackie thought it was a game. So I dropped in more, and 15 stones in each mouth later, they resembled mini-pelicans. Jim and Blackie then stalked off, stopped at a pile of leaves, curled their tongues to roll out those stones -- neatly covered them with individual leaves -- then returned to repeat the game again. Again. And again.

Our crows learned to fly, land, then sashay along the street -- seductively swinging their hips (hind-ends) like today's high-fashion models do in TV ads. Their actions made me wonder if — like TV models — the swaggering was deliberately seductive, provocative... (Maybe that's the reason these insolent-acting birds are so numerous!)

My two pet crows were fancy dressers, consistently wearing glossy, black patent-leather attire — as if in silhouette -- no matter what time of day (including their volunteering as a "cleanup crew" to clear roadways of yuck-stuff which passing cars flattened and left behind).

Back when I was a kid, we never needed a security system because Jim and Blackie raised a ruckus whenever a non-family person appeared. If the intruder was animal, their clamor increased and so did swoops with their pain-jabbed beaks in (let's just call their "sensitive" areas).

Now, after reading the above pros and cons of these bird-entertainers, I guarantee you and your neighbors will quickly determine whether crows are pets. Or pests.

© 2017 Isabel Torrey. Torrey, a long-time columnist, lives in King City.

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