By Danny Crownover
While driving through this area recently, The Vagabond was struck by the fact that so few crows were to be seen anywhere. In the good old days, great flocks of crows were found in every cultivated field.
Several old-timers agreed that the apparent disappearance of the crows (or rather, the lessening of their number), is due to the fact that so much land has been cleared, thus depriving the birds of cover necessary for nesting and breeding.
The old-timers all agreed that so-called experts who have been saying that crows do not post sentinels when they are feeding or congregated for any other purpose are mistaken. When they lived on a farm as boys, the old-timers saw too many sentinels out to be mistaken. The Vagabond agrees, for he too has seen guards stationed at strategic positions when the crows were raiding a cornfield and he has heard them sound the alarm time and again.
Crow guards are very alert and caw at the approach of man, dog, hawk, or anything that might or do them harm.
One of the more interesting sights on a farm is to watch a gang of crows take off after a hawk in full cry. That is when they make the most noise for, they are in deadly earnest in every such chase. It is not known whether they kill the hawk or merely scare ii half to death by their chorus of caws. Because of their general structure and intelligence, the crows of Alabama are rated as being among the highest type of birds.
Crows are known as the oscine type, a large suborder of passerine birds such as larks, shrikes, finches and orioles characterized by a vocal apparatus highly specialized for singing. Crows are coal black and have glossy backs that shine in the sun. Many people have had them as household pets, and some crows are known to have been taught to talk.
Back in the day, it was thought that it was necessary to split a crow’s tongue before it could talk but that idea was discarded long ago. However, pet crows are the worst thieves that can be brought into a home. They will pick up almost any small object, especially bright and shiny ones, and hide them in all sorts of out-of-the-way places. Crows have been known even to steal diamond rings and small jewelry of various kinds. Crows make a lot of fuss when the family gathers for a meal or a quiet spell and are sly and mischievous no end.
You see very few scarecrows these days, but way back in the day, almost every garden and cornfield had one, which was usually a suit of clothes placed on a wooden frame fastened in the ground. Always there was a hat on the reputable object in order to give the appearance of a man. Sometimes a stick was nailed crosswise to imitate a gun. Some scarecrows had white shirts. All of them were effective in fooling crows and other predatory birds.
While crows are on the ground, they get around with a peculiar hop. Up to this day, some people are said to walk with a “crow hop.”
Early African-Americans developed a crow hop dance which in modern times was called a buzzard lope. An old and starving mule or horse used to be referred to as crowbait, meaning carrion crow. It was said in the old days that a distance to a place through the air was “as the crow flies.”
The Vagabond knows one thing – if Alabama loses its football game this year to Auburn, he will be eating crow at Pruitt’s!