My friend Nancy forwarded this to me, and it's so charming I just had to share :
Jim Crow by Wendel Allen
I want to preface this little story by explaining I am not a "bird
watcher." I frequently joke that I only recognize two species . . .red
birds and blue birds.
Actually, this is not too far from the truth. I have a great love for
all creatures of nature, but I have never had any particular interest in
birds, that is until Jim Crow came along. My yard is full of crows. I
never really minded them, but they could be very noisy. One day I saw
one bird with what I thought was a worm in his beak. It looked as if
something was sticking out of each side. Upon closer observation I
realized that this bird's beak was seriously deformed. I realized that
he had a bad problem. He could never pull a worm out of the ground or to
have any sort of fight with another bird. So, I tossed him a few
His response was immediate. Within a very few days he took up residence
on a tree limb nearest my house, and close enough to a window that he
could see in.
He soon started calling me when he wanted his crackers. The voice was
different than the one he used when "talking" to the other birds. It
wasn't long before he associated me and the crackers with the light in
my bedroom. As soon as I turned my light on in he bedroom, Jim knew I
was up and ready to serve breakfast.
Jim possessed both innate and cognitive intelligence. It was easy for me
to determine whether he was doing things instinctively or was using his
I got a book and read a little about crows. Among the most interesting
thing was . . .they are strictly monogamous. They take their family life
very seriously. The male eats the food, then regurgitates in the beak of
his wife, who in turn regurgitates in the beaks of their children. After
I had known Jim for a few weeks, he showed up one morning sitting on his
favorite tree limb and alongside was another crow sitting as close to
him as she could. She was very quiet and meek. A few feathers on the top
of her head were ruffled. All of a sudden Jim looked at her and then
hurriedly took his beak and smoothed down her feathered head! There was
never any doubt in my mind but what he brought her to see me and for me
to see her. He picked up his crackers, but she made no effort to join
When he finished carefully stacking 3 crackers the two of them flew away
At first Jim could only pick up one cracker at a time with his crippled
beak. But practice made perfect and he was soon able to carefully stack
3 crackers and pick them up. He as a rule never ate the crackers here .
He always flew away with them.
His taste in food was very comprehensive. He ate everything that I did.
He really like spaghetti. I thought perhaps he thought he was eating
worms, but he also seemed to enjoy the sauce. Someone told me that birds
especially like the commercial food that is for kittens. I bought Jim a
box and he thoroughly enjoyed the kitty vittles.
One day I emptied out the little plastic pouch that the kitty vittles
came in and threw it in the container where I put the recyclable trash.
The next day Jim went through the trash until he found the empty pouch.
He tore it open and carefully checked to see if I had overlooked any of
them! Once I gave him a full slice of bread. He took it and flew away.
Relying on my own past experience of flying, it occurred to me that in
relation to Jim's size and weight that "big" slice of bread out front in
his beak would seriously affect his airspeed. It would have been
equivalent to me having a twin bed mattress tied to the front of the
little plane that I flew. Jim thought so too, for the next day when I
gave him a full slice of bread he carefully broke it up into quarters,
then stacked them and flew away.
On days when we had had rain and there were nice little puddles in the
road, Jim would take his 3 crackers to one of them, carefully spread
them out in the water and then turn them over to give them a good
dunking. He seemed to enjoy the dunked crackers, but he would only dunk
One day I laid out his 3 crackers and I think he carelessly only picked
up 2 of them and flew to the far side of my yard. He stood with the 2
crackers in his beak very still just staring into space. I knew that he
was studying the situation over. If he didn't go back for the one
cracker soon, another crow would get it, and if he left the 2 there and
went back, there was a good chance that a crow would get them. After
meditating for a few seconds, he walked over to some leaves and very
carefully covered the 2 crackers, and then flew back for the one he had
I have a little toy that has tiny little plastic birds with wheels under
them. I suppose the toy is supposed to represent a ski slope. A little
battery contraption lifts the birds up and then they slide down little
slopes . . . making bird sounds all of the way. Well I took it out in
front of the house and turned it on. Jim was simply terrified by it.
He immediately flew away and never came back for 3 days. I guess the
company that manufactured the toy unwittingly and accidentally created a
sound that meant something awful in bird language. I thought it might
have said, "Wendel is going to get the shotgun." I never turned it on
There was a period when Jim seemed very stressed and was always in a
terrible hurry. I guessed that babies were being born in his household,
and he was no-doubt assisting in the births. I have asked several people
if they have ever seen a baby crow, and no one has. I think the reason
is . . . they grow up so quickly. All of a sudden Jim showed up with 3
young birds, and they were almost as big as he was. They lined up where
I had laid the crackers, tilted their heads back, opened their mouths
and made wild noises. Jim finally placed a bit of food in each ones
mouth! I was never able to identify them again. Down deep in his heart I
think Jim wished he had been a chicken. In many respects he seemed to
prefer walking to flying. One day a squirrel chased Jim completely
across my yard. Jim could actually run as fast as the squirrel. Finally,
Jim abruptly stopped and then he chased the squirrel! Jim never
attempted to fly, so I believe he thought he should level the playing
He reached a point where he would sit on his limb and call me 4 or 5
times for his crackers. Each time he would take the 3, fly away, and
then return in a few minutes. I fully believe he was taking them to his
family and friends.
One day Jim was lying face-down with his wings completely spread out. He
didn't move for a long time, and I assumed he was sick. I was very
worried but after observing him for an hour or so, he revived and flew
away. I never knew what that was all about.
A few weeks ago I decided to see if I could get Jim to come in my house.
I thought it would be a gradual process and might take several weeks.
Well I put one cracker on the stoop, one on the door sill, and one just
in the house.
Jim didn't hesitate he picked up the 2 crackers outside then stood on
the sill and reached for the 3rd one. I think if I had continued, he
would probably have eaten at the dining room table! While Jim liked a
little variety in life, he was pretty much a creature of habit. There
were 2 things set in concrete. 1. He always came early in the morning.
Never late in the day, and 2. He always took 3 crackers. One night it
was almost completely dark and Jim called me. He had never come late
before. I laid out the 3 crackers. He immediately took ONE , and left. I
knew Jim was up to something.
I happened to look up and high in the darkness sat one crow. Of course
he came down and took the 2 crackers Jim had left. There is no doubt in
my mind that he was hungry and asked Jim for help. Jim being a good
I had Jim for about 3 years, and they were indeed very rewarding years.
I was able to communicate with a bird. This was an experience that will
never come to me again, and will come to few others, since crows all
look alike and cannot normally be identified. Well all good things must
come to an end. There was no warning. Just . . .one day Jim didn't come
and has never come since. I will never know what happened to him.
As I am writing this in the year 2001 there has been much in the press
about crows carrying the blue nile virus. Jim could have been one of
them. I will never know.
What I DO know is . . .if there is a bird heaven, I am sure the gates
were opened for Jim. I started to write that he flew right in, but that
isn't true. He flew up near the gates, landed and then WALKED IN . He
held his head high in dignity!
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"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." - Aeschylus
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