The first thing I bought from Earl McCormick was a crow-call and it was all black and shiny with white lettering on the side. I was twelve years old and cocky because I thought I knew it all.
Earl was never known to smile and his sons would tell you that today. With his brother, George, they owned and ran McCormick’s Hardware.
I tide a tight cord around the neck of the crow call that read: PS OLT out of Pekin, Illinois on its side. The length of the cord lasted till the age of eighteen and another section of string had to be added with a pair of frayed square knots at either end.
“We crows have never been liked by other birds of prey and drive eagles, osprey and owls away from our territory as they are nest robbers and threaten the flock. The provider feeds us on the rail of his deck with dead mice he has trapped in the house and we sometimes leave one piece of dog kibble on the rail as a token gift for his feeding us. The provider put food on the rail to attract us for his entertainment. If I shake my wing feathers a little, Ma might feed me some more. My call for food sounds more like a creaking wagon wheel than a real crow. Ma tries to whack me with her beak if I come too close to the dog kibble. I flutter to another part of the rail to wait for my turn.”
“The provider is not new to us as he hunted us with his shotgun sixty- years ago and called us to him using a small black device he blew from his mouth. Ma told us not to trust him not to shoot at us as he had in the 1950’s when the provider had used his shiny new crow-call to fool my grandfather into coming close enough for a shot.”
Even today, the crows fill the trees to the north or south of the deck and fly in at full tilt to grab some dog kibble before the next guy gets it. The air is full of their “caws of conquest,” as they fight and maneuver for a place on the rail. The provider uses his mouth to sound like a crow to alert the flock down on the beach that a new pile of kibble was in the dish on the rail. One day, the provider used his 65 year old crow call and it didn’t work. The crows remembered the sound of it from three generations before and wouldn’t answer the provider or fly into his feeding station.
Raab’s Lagoon was a favorite place to hunt for crows, because they hung out between the lagoon and the KING towers. The flock numbered about 250 and they were cocky and hard to hunt. Before I was born, there was a 25 cent bounty on crows because of the damage they did to the farmers at seeding time; when the crows would watch where David Church’s father planted his corn seed and fly down to pick the row as soon as soon as David’s father left the field or, they would pull up the little green shoots of corn as soon as they broke ground. It was like having to deal with a different tribe who didn’t see things exactly the same way. You provided the food and we risked our lives to steal it.
John Sweetman came to visit one day and lost the keys to the courthouse to my pet raven who tore out the door of the cabin and across the yard to dive under the shop with a twelve inch crawl space, not big enough for a man to follow. As John and I prepared to jack-up the front of the shop, he kicked his keys lying in the forest duff under the big fir tree. We remembered how proud Tukataw was, strutting across the yard to lead us to an impossible place for the keys to be, when he had already hid them in the forest floor.
John once had a crow friend on Bainbridge that would take food from his hand but not from one of his cousins because his cousin threw sticks at it..Crows know their friends and their enemies. John named him “Sammy,” for a summer.
The crows and seagulls commonly travel on or above the ferries between Vashon and the mainland. The crows fly straight to a widowed deckhand who feeds them pepperoni from his hand and tells us, that the crows remind him of the spirit of his “dead wife”.