The Great Crow Caper

| June 2001

Springtime always puts me in mind of the Great Black Crow Caper that took place on Muddy Creek.

There was never a shortage of those dusty, black-coated cousins to Edgar Allen Poe's ravenĀ around our small farms. They seemed to have an inborn ability to know when the team was taking the road into town or going to the field, and would follow, half-flying, half-hopping, as they sought to stem their never-satisfied hunger for grain (or most anything that would fill their craws.)

In the spring, they followed the plow, seeking earthworms and grubs, and were often treated to fresh horse-apples as a bonus. When the corn was being planted, the signal must have gone out far and wide, for hundreds of the pesky creatures would descend along the planted track, digging up any kernels that were not completely buried. Then, later on when the grain was sprouting, the tiny plants were a tempting treat to these foragers, who would literally pull them from the ground to get at the bloated and sprouted grain.

When harvest time came, there were the uninvited guests again, forming cheering sections that would send up their varied but constant chatter, to let the farmer know that they were ready and willing to assist in the harvest. And assist they did - by partaking. The hand-shucking of the ears left some gleanings in the field, but these persnickety birds were not content to take the droppings. They were brazen enough to ride the wagons and fill their beaks with shelled grain that had been knocked off the cobs by hitting the bang boards. In short, the crows were a real nuisance.

Their favorite roosting place was the tall, stately walnut trees that grew in a long row along the back forty that gave our farm its name of Walnut Ridge. At sundown they would assemble in these trees in uncountable numbers. Their vocal chatter could be heard for miles. My Uncle Walter once rode a horse back into the lane and attempted to shoot them with the old muzzle loader that he had double-charged with number eight shot, but even by carefully sneaking along the fence rows, he was only able to get close enough to get a gunny sack full. The crow with its well-developed sense of sight could spot him far away and take flight with loud warnings to its fellow ruffians. There seemed to be no less noise, and certainly no discernable lessening in number when Uncle Walter had finished. That was when he came up with his bright idea: dynamite them.

Dad had several cases of dynamite leftover from blowing stumps out of the new ground, and Uncle Walter figured if he could tie a few sticks to the limbs of the trees and run a long fuse to where he aimed to hide, he could wait until the crows got settled and then touch off the explosives. He figured he could probably get rid of all those pesky crows, once and for all.