Well, technically for me, they’re “Pa’s” crows, because the man whose crows are the subject of this post is my father…but my kids and the other grandkids (and there are a lot of them…I’m one of seven girls, and we each have between one and four kids of our own) got used to calling them Grandpa’s crows.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems to me that crows get a bad name. They’re often associated with death or darkness, they’re maligned for having one of the least pleasant voices of the bird kingdom, and many people consider them pests. But they hold a very special place in my heart, for a variety of reasons, most of them tied to my father, otherwise known to our family as “Pa”.
It’s sort of funny but so quintessentially my father, the way that he “adopted” the murder of crows that live in the woods around our back yard at the Homestead (I think “murder” is kind of an unfair name, but yes, that’s what a group of crows is called. You can read about them here if you like).
Pa was always fascinated with Nature and wildlife. He was a kind of Dr. Doolittle in his own right. Animals of all kinds took to him right away, even when they were hurt or frightened. He even released a skunk mother from a tight spot she’d gotten stuck in once, and he never got sprayed. He could talk to animals in low, soothing tones that really made a difference in how they responded to him.
He’d always had wanted to be a veterinarian, and as a boy in the 1930’s and early ’40’s, he’d even helped out the local vet in his town. He was so good at it that the veterinarian was willing to pay for my father to go to college to pursue that profession himself. But my grandfather (Pa’s father) wasn’t a very nice person, to put it mildly. He refused to allow my father to do anything of the sort, or even to finish high school. No son of his was going to be an” educated idiot”.
My grandfather also wouldn’t let any of his four boys play sports, because he himself had been a minor league baseball player, and he didn’t want them to outshine him.
There are more terrible stories about my father’s childhood that I might share later. Suffice it to say, my father ended up leaving home at 17 and joining the U.S. Marines, earning his HS diploma and eventually his B.S. in Psychology many years later, when he was working as a test control engineer for the government…he was Renaissance kind of man. 🙂
But through it all, my father retained his sense of love, justice, and fairness. He gave me and my sisters a wonderful childhood, and for all of his life until the day he died, animals and all of Nature were special to him, to be treated well and with respect.
The crows were no different to him. He would call to them, mimicking their sounds to “talk” to them, and the same few would come fly and gather in the trees around the yard, year after year. He recognized individual birds by their looks (one of the crows of this particular murder had only one leg; Pa nicknamed him “Hoppy”) and kept track of who came and who didn’t.
He would feed them scraps in the morning and also make sure water was available for them. They were like friends, and he enjoyed studying their habits and reading up on them (learning, as the above link confirms, that research “proves crows are actually very social and caring creatures, and also among the smartest animals on the planet.”)
The kids would get involved as well, having a ball going out with Grandpa in the early morning to “feed the crows”. It was a special time – a kind of bonding time – to be able to go outside with him like that. He would explain lots of things, point out elements of nature or interesting changes in the landscape…all the kinds of things he did with me and my sisters when we were growing up.
It was one of the many wonderful little connections my father made for us, to keep remembering him by and enjoying once he was no longer here with us. He died a little more than three years ago, and I still miss him every day. But every time I see a crow – like the one in the tree at the top of the post, who showed up there and started “caw-ing” at me when I went to visit my father’s grave last month – it makes me think wonderful, happy thoughts of him. ❤