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COLUMN: Counting crows

I recently received a news release discussing tactics to protect pecans from marauding crows. It contained some good information and served to remind me of how difficult it can be to keep a crow away from something he has his mind set on stealing.

For instance, taped sounds of numerous crows nammering their heads off about whatever crows nammer about may bring them within shotgun range. The recorded vocal stylings of a hoot owl also ruffles their coal-black feathers and will send them on seek and destroy missions, perhaps into the path of a well-aimed 12-gauge.

The news item also noted various items that fail, such as shooting blanks. Might scare him once, but a crow understands that anything that didn’t kill him makes him stronger. Crows can stand a bit of noise; it’s the buckshot that accompanies the blast that gets their attention. But even the most elaborate plans and the most advanced technology also may fail.

I have a few theories about crows.

1.They know the difference between a human and a scarecrow. (Humans rarely tie tin cans to their ears.)

2. Most (See number 4.) humans are more dangerous than dogs.

3.They can differentiate between a human with a stick and one with a shotgun.

4. They know which humans have good aim and which do not. Trust me on that one.

5. And, finally, crows can do complex mathematical operations. I’ll explain.

When I was a boy, one of my summertime duties was to keep crows out of the watermelons. A few hours in a watermelon patch is all a malicious crow needs to ruin a whole summer’s worth of hoeing, fertilizing and watching for melons to fill out and ripen. If there was one thing I disliked more than hoeing bermudagrass out of watermelons it was watching a brazen crow get the best fruits of my labors. I hated crows.

I’d plot and plan and lie in wait for them in a small grove of trees next to our watermelon patch. Occasionally, one would fly over (He was the advance scout.) to check out the melons and to make certain the coast was clear. As soon as he got into range, I’d jump out from under the brush and blast away with my single-shot .410-gauge shotgun. I always missed.

The scout returned and alerted the rest of the flock that the melons were being guarded but only by me so about thirty would swoop in and peck holes in our biggest watermelons while I shot, reloaded, shot, reloaded, shot, reloaded as they consumed all the melons they could hold.

I decided to rely on my superior intellect. My grandpa was an excellent wing shot, so I convinced him to accompany me into the crow blind. No crows flew over. So I swapped shirts and hats with him and went for a swim. No crows came while he was in the blind.

Undaunted, I worked out an elaborate system requiring split-second timing, camouflage, disguises and higher mathematics. I recruited my brothers, all three of them, my sister, the neighbor kids, four in all, and my grandpa, who seemed irreverently amused by the process.

The system worked like this: I went into the crow blind first, then two of my brothers came in and I went out. Then I went back in with my grandpa and my sister. Two brothers left and came back in with three of the neighbor kids. I went back out wearing my grandpa’s coat and distinctive fedora. I went back in with the other neighbor kid and my other brother.

So, ten of us, I think, were in the patch of woods, and we watched as a crow sentry, high in the top of a pine tree across the melon field, observed our activity.

We sat for about 15 minutes and began leaving, one-by one, until only my grandpa and his 12-gauge shotgun remained in the blind.

He stayed for an hour and no crows came near the field. He finally gave up and left and within 5 minutes crows were pecking holes in my melons.

He finally found a solution however. He borrowed my transistor radio, tuned it to the local Rock-and-Roll station, turned the volume to full blast and kept not only the crows but rabbits and other varmints away all summer. I just had to replace the battery every day or two.

“Anything that awful has to upset even a crow’s digestion,” grandpa said.

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