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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeding the crows

by Jamie Lutton

I had been thinking about this for years. It is incredibly easy, yet so forbidden, and so politically incorrect.

Feeding the crows. When I walk to work in the early morning, threading through a maze of apartment buildings and houses, or down Broadway, there are always a few about, digging in the garbage or eying the passersby hopefully. Since there are fast food places with garbage spilling out, a few young crows are always in and out of the trash, tugging at wrappers. Sometimes, if it is early enough, they fly races down Broadway, or that is what it looks like, fast low and in groups, zipping above the street.

My elderly cat died a few weeks ago, and I have been mildly blue ever since - from that and overwork. Never have time to post on this blog. I had been thinking about feeding the crows for months and months.

What triggered this was a crow playing with me. I was walking to work early on a Sunday morning. when a chewed fried chicken leg dropped at my feet. It looked like a crow dug it dug from Ezel's trash.

I looked straight up, and at the very top of a telephone pole there was a crow looking down at me. I did not think he meant to drop it, as it still had meat on it. I said to him "that was funny" as if he could understand me. We both looked at each other, then he flew away. Crows do not like to be stared at; they know that is a menacing act by humans; and could be followed by an attack of some kind.

That morning, I went into the pet food store, and said that they could make a fortune selling "CROW FOOD" for people who liked the crows, with fancy packaging and such. The clerk said that one of his customers bought cheese flavored dog biscuits to feed them, in bulk, at $2,98 a pound. I looked at the biscuits, and left, without buying any.

Came back a week later. I had been staring at the crows as I went to work. The hopeful ones had always swung by me, if I bought a latte, as there might be crumbs involved. I could tell, then, that others had been breaking off bits of pastry to feed them, as a hopeful crow would check me out at close range when I had a latte in my hand.

Dog biscuits, then. And where I was not observed too closely. There is some ordnance against feeding crows, I knew, and I did not want some Pecksniffian type to come up and yell at me. I went and bought a big bag, telling the clerks what they were for, and announcing that I was now truly crazy. I tried one on my home cat Piglet, she licked one, but was not impressed.

I walked by a group of crows, going through the trash, this morning. I threw out a dog biscuit, experimentally. I got there attention immediately; one dived and grabbed it. I did not know if they would like the taste, despite the reassurances of the people at the pet store. I kept walking toward work. I now had company.

Twenty crows followed me. I threw out another biscuit, and another. The ones that landed too close to me did not pick up the biscuits until I was well away, but they got all of them. I had to walk about eight blocks to work, but until I crossed a busy street, eighty percent of the crows kept me company. I walked pretty slowly, and tossed out probably forty dog biscuits, as there was so many of them. They were above me, circling in the sky, flying ahead, lagging behind, like a pretty black cloud.

I had read about how smart they were, like an alien species among us. The only thing that kept them from building cities was a lack of an opposable thumb. They subsist on our garbage, thriving in our cities. Such beautiful birds. If they had beautiful voices, I think they would have more respect. But, I am sure is due to their intelligence, they do not need pretty songs, they get by with their hoarse caws and gestures.

When I finally got to work, I only had five or six crows with me, even though I was tossing out just as many biscuits. I perhaps had lured them beyond their territory. When I went inside, they peeled away and left me. When I reemerged to mail a letter, one crow was outside waiting for me.

I tossed him a biscuit, and he swooped down and grabbed it. We eyed it other with mutual satisfaction, and I went back to work to write you.

I looked over at my counter, and the two remaining dog biscuit I had been carrying were being wolfed down by my orange shop cat Schmoo, who will eat anything.

I will probably feed the crows again once in a while, if only because they are so beautiful, and alien, and smart, such fun to watch. I know that that they are supposed to be pests, but I cannot fault them for their habits, when it is humans who have disrupted their natural environment. They subsist on our garbage; giving them an extra treat now and then is not that outrageous an act.

I went out today and got coffee on the way to work. I saw what I believe was the same murder of crows eating out of the trash. They look young somehow. They act like teenagers, eating together, and hanging out together. I was on the other side of the street, but I tossed one dog treat to get their attention. I instantly had a group of crows following me. I walked along Broadway, tossing out a dog biscuit now and then, and I watched the crows diving for them. I was suddenly reminded of beggars diving for coins in old movies set in Calcutta, or 19th century London, except that such beggars were never so beautiful as these birds. All alike, black feathered, but not all alike, sheened perfection.

I felt like I was in a Hitchcock film, but one where a miracle happened instead of a horror; the birds coming; to give me a benediction. I got a proper benediction by one of them; he or she crapped on my head. I threw out the last of the treats, and crossed Olive Street, where I left them behind me, squawking over the last couple of biscuits. I had to put my head under the sink, in the end, to get the crow crap out of my hair.

I am not discouraged, however. I am having too much fun.

1 comment:

  1. Once a crow and I had a counting game. He cawed. I cawed. He cawed twice. I cawed twice. He cawed three times. I cawed three times. We kept going in this way until he got to seven, when I finally quit trying to follow him. I wonder how far he would have gone?

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