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Most mornings, I wake with murder on my mind. Murder of crows, that is.
From earliest March to the fading of fall, scarcely a sleep is left unravaged by the black marauders. A rooster has the decency to wait for sunrise to let loose; not so these crows. A sky-high spruce right outside my bedroom window has been an impenetrable fortress for successive generations of these glossy hellions.
Oh, how I have plotted their bloody demise.
My mind has bubbled with plot after grim plot. Some of these nefarious ideas have taken wing over the years: twice, we’ve spotted out-of-season roadkill crow and whisked it into the freezer to be strung up months later as a warning. And once, a dying, beetle-infested spruce had to be taken down – but how convenient that a baby crow dropped from the highest branches as the tree toppled. Poisoned bait seemed a clever solution until I realized that our dogs could snatch fallen leftovers.
Truth is, I am just as fascinated as I am furious.
Several years ago, a documentary on this intelligent bird drew me further into contemplation of its wiles. I tasted the tiniest serving of guilt. Hardly enough to stop my wicked daydreams, though.
Trapping was a no-no, thanks to absurd bylaws.
Was there any precedent for cooking and eating a crow, literally?
Failing to find the ideal method to dispatch them, I started writing crow poems to burn up my exasperation. Soon, I introduced a unit of creative writing to my English 12 classes: Cro’ Po’. It’s surprising how many kids can write brilliant descriptive lines about a despised creature they can’t help admiring.
That worked for a time. Then it was back to scheming.
The first part of June typically arrives too quietly. Silence from the spruce in late May lulls me into believing that maybe, just maybe, they are picking on someone else this year. A foolish wish: I know they nest in stealth. All the better to launch their surprise avian apocalypse.
Raucous grenades burst from their beaks and assault my eardrums before 4:30 a.m. The newly hatched one (I refuse to call it a baby to avoid sparking my conscience) is always their worst weapon: its cries are a cross between a lamb sobbing and uneven pavement being scraped by a rusty snowplow. The dreadful lament waxes and wanes as the adults jam food into its gullet.
A down pillow is an insufficient shield. So is a sleeping pill.
During daylight, the backyard is an attack zone. Pretty birds with sweet songs disappear – even the mouthy finch to whom I penned a public appeal. (“Dear Mr. Finch: We need to clear the air, sir. Your velvety yellow breast may be the sexiest thing going in the spruce, but dammit, man – it was 4:40 a.m. Again! Can you align your singing a little closer to my alarm, please? Your host homeowner.”)
Black shots volley from the mountain ash to the spruce. Battalions of feathers swoop high and low. Mocking warnings erupt when either dogs or humans exit the back door. Ugliness reigns.
One year, we bought a sexy slingshot. It fell short of the job. At the edge of our sanity, we’ve thrown lumber ends and landscaping rocks – mere jokes for this professional goon squad.
Our closest neighbour once hoisted himself and his air-propelled hose, at great peril, onto the roof. Dynamic noise! Failed mission. I’m sure the crows were cackling in their tower roost. You might be tempted to believe that this bunch resemble feathered Keystone Kops, but I assure you that they are all black ops, strategic and risk-averse.
A BB gun might be the artillery required, but taking out a neighbour’s window is too big a risk. Until now – more than a decade in – the birds have been winning.
I am not competitive by nature, but now I’m straining to solve the problem and outwit these outlaws.
Crows are tacticians. And terrorists. How else to account for the fried-egg splats so mathematically precise in the strike zone of the driver’s side windshield? The maple tree branches snapped off with military precision to fortify their nursery?
How do you outsmart a species that is technically intellectually weaker, but constitutionally stronger? Fast forward to early spring. With the help of Arctic temperatures much of the winter and a tropical getaway, I’d managed to forget about this species, let alone the resident madcap gang. A relentless and unheralded -20 C must have frozen my memory.
Until the chinook. And a harsh awakening.
On the first beautiful day that doesn’t beg full combat gear, I hear them: at 12 o’clock, both in time and sky orientation. My heart sinks. No, it digs a foxhole.
These darn birds weren’t frozen out. I don’t know where they’ve been hunkered down. Underground? Cuba? But they are now outside having the last laugh – or cackle.
I can’t bring myself to resurrect the crow poetry unit again. It’s too disheartening, knowing that the joy thieves will yet again dominate the neighbourhood from their stronghold in the last standing spruce.
I haven’t invested in artillery or authority.
I may surrender: white flag – or sheets on the line – to signal that I give up.
Condo living seems alluring. If I can’t kill crows with kindness, or kill them at all, I will admit defeat.
Score one for Mother Nature.
Maribeth Adams lives in Kamloops, B.C.