Friday I stepped outside my home around noon to walk to the mailbox. I’d been working the morning through and hadn’t been out since I took my daughter to school, but it was still dark then. I rounded the corner of the front and there in the concrete driveway just outside the garage door lay two greyish bluish birds. They were in the jay family of some sort, but not bright enough to be a blue jay. I suppose they may have been kingfishers, but i don’t think so.
One was male. The other was female. You could tell by the brightness of the coloring.
Their little claws were curled up underneath their bodies and their eyes were open although they saw nothing. No markings on the body; no trauma, no shots from a boy with a BB gun, no arrows, nothing. The birds looked healthy enough, except for the fact that they were dead.
I looked up and noticed a blur of feathers on my daughters window directly overhead. Suddenly I knew.
On a gorgeous spring day two lovebirds doing what male and female of all species do, they were flying high and soaring, enjoying each other with playful whims and delightful fancy. I’ve seen birds do this, so have you–they dart in and out flying fast through trees and above the water as they call to each other with their many syllabic chirps, “Hey lover,” and “My you’re fast” and “Come fly away with me,” and other playful invitations to romance. Swept up in the revelry of pheromones and the prospect of dalliance, they were not paying attention. I shudder to think of the sudden last moments of consciousness as love turned to death, falling together to earth with full hearts and broken necks.
That is where I found them. I named them Romeo and Juliet and put them in a shallow grave. Love is a man splendid thing, but the world is dangerous.
This morning I was taking my oldest daughter to school (a task I shall not do much longer for she nears the coveted driver’s license) and we saw several crows on the road and I slowed down to let them fly away. I don’t know why I slowed down. I should have just sped up to run them over. When I was a boy growing up on the farm family policy was to shoot on sight any crow we came across because they pecked watermelons in the field and destroyed entire corn crops. I have killed many of the black winged vermin. They were mortal enemies.
As we drove by the crows this morning my daughter said, “Stupid birds!”
I corrected her. They are not stupid. They are devious smart. I told her of a study I heard once about crows and their habits here in the Pacific Northwest. One of the indicators of their intelligence is the way they eat. An ornithologist noted that seagulls and crows will take shell fish and drop them on the sidewalk to crack them. But some shellfish do not crack open on sidewalk, and dropping them higher doesn’t always work either. But the crow, smarter than the seagull, has learned to actually drop the shellfish on a roadway and wait for a car to run over it.
My daughter said, “Oh yea. Once I was out with a friend and we noticed that two crows were walking on the road and they actually stopped and looked both ways before crossing the street.
Smart. Very Smart.
I heard one bird expert talking about the way crows watch humans. If you think about it, you know it is right. Crows will land and sit on power cords, trees, and streetlights and just watch people. The expert said that this is a learned, hereditary trait that comes from thousands of years of watching humans battle each other. Crows are scavenger birds and one of their delights is to pick the dead after a battle. The bird expert said when that bird is watching you from the power line it is not doing so out of curiosity. It is waiting to see if you suddenly die or if someone suddenly attacks and kills you; leaving behind a snack.
Evil—evil those crows.
This got me to thinking. Poe was onto something in The Raven. Forget Planet of the Apes, the real problem we need to worry about is Planet of the Crows. In 10,000 years they might be running the place. Imagine human beings being forced to live beneath a black, crow filled sky—the squawking, the evil glares, and their devious smart mechanisms for making humans serve their needs—peeling their shellfish, building their poles and nests, and growing watermelons for them to peck. We should start saving up bullets for the resistance now.