The Way of the Crow



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By the time the second winter arrived (December 1990), Spirit had grown too large for his cardboard box home. He still enjoyed the box as a retreat, but I had arranged his living space differently.

I partitioned a space in my cabin as his private quarters. It was approximately four by six feet in area. The floor of this space was covered partly with masonite, over which I spread a thick layer of sawdust. This is where I placed his water pan, and the sawdust effectively absorbed much of the water which Spirit frequently splashed from it. The remainder of this floor space was covered thickly with straw, and in a corner was an overturned cardboard box to which he could retire when necessary. This was a favourite retreat if visitors entered the cabin. On those occasions, he swiftly hopped to the box, or flew there. Once inside, he would hide away and wait for the visitors to leave, or peck vigorously at the walls of the box, or perhaps peek out the door.

Of course, his reaction to visitors often depended on his mood at that moment, and the person visiting. For example, he was more apt to relax with members of my family whom he had seen before, than with total strangers. This is understandable, although the colour of their clothing also determined the nature of his reaction. For instance, Spirit would often react strongly if people approached wearing brightly coloured clothing, even if those people were otherwise familiar to him. In fact, he would even react strongly to me if I approached him under similar circumstances.

But, what used to "fluff" his feathers, or annoy him the most, was when I came home at night and suddenly flicked on the lights in my cabin. The feathers on the back of his neck stood on end, while he gave me a severe verbal blasting in the worst possible crow language! This was a series of low-pitched cussing sounds which were the equivalent of every four letter word in the English language. He simply found it difficult to tolerate a sudden switch from darkness to light. In the event that you think I was cruel to expose him to this practice, let me say that I quickly learned my lesson, and began to introduce light in a gradual fashion whenever I returned to my cabin during darkness. This practice proved to be much more satisfactory, and eventually he was able to refrain from verbal abuse.


"Crow as Art Critic" might have been the headline, had the local media caught wind of Spirit's penchant for fine art. In case you think I'm exaggerating the situation, let me explain that he was totally occupied by my approach to oil painting. I was both amazed, and breathless - breathless by the fact that I was unable to laugh beyond a certain point of comic exhaustion! I recognized

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