Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nobody Knows How Many Crows

My Dad is a story teller. Even if we're just talking about what we're having for dinner, somehow he makes anything sound like a story you want to hear about. My parents are on a trip to the east coast for two weeks visiting family in Boston and Maine. I'm used to talking to my Dad almost every day so I am really missing them right about now. So is their cat!

You know how there's a certain way that you talk with someone you've known all your life, often repeating the same stories that you experienced together or have heard from one another a million times?  Each time with that lovely, knowing sense of familiarity as you re-live it together yet again.  You have your own way of talking to one another, you often know what the other person is thinking, and even certain words trigger memories almost simultaneously between two people.

Take the word crow, for instance. When my sisters and I were little, Dad used to call the big black crow that frequented our yard "Oscar".  For quite awhile, my Dad led us kids to believe that Oscar was our own resident crow who was so fond of our family that he would return frequently to visit us, even the following year.  Dad said he could always tell Oscar from the other crows just by the way he looked, and I believed him.  It took me a long time to realize that Dad was feeding us a line and called any old crow "Oscar" just to be silly.  What a let down!  I thought we had a connection, that Oscar and me.  That story has stuck with me and to this day I will say, "There's Oscar!" when I see a crow.  I fear I have passed this silliness on to my child.

We have another crow story in our family (how many families can say they have not one, but two family stories about crows? We can!)  As long as I can remember, my Dad, out of the blue, would recite a silly little poem about crows. He would sometimes say it when Oscar was visiting our yard.  Something seemingly random would remind him of it and he would just break out into verse. It's a poem that he's known since he was a boy back on a small island in Maine. As with most things with my Dad, there's a story behind the poem. For awhile now, I've been asking him to write that poem down for me.  And finally, right before they went on their trip, he did. Here is that story and poem, written in my Dad's own words:

Back in North Haven, Maine where I grew up, there were two older men who lived across the road from one another. As is the case many times when two people live close together for a long time, they may do things that grate on the other person's nerves. This was the case here.

Thorn Dyer lived across the road from Harold Young, who was also known as Colonel Young. Don't ask me why - I don't believe he was ever a real colonel of anything. Being that it was Maine, there were lots of crows flying around, so Colonel Young used to entertain himself with shooting them and sometimes they would fall dead across the road into Thorn Dyer's yard. Thorn asked the Colonel several times to stop shooting them but he never did. Well Thorn got tired of it one day and sat down and wrote a poem that quickly got out to all the people in town and made the Colonel look kind of silly. It went like this:

Nobody knows how many crows,
the Colonel he did slaughter,
but there they lay with turned up toes,
Mothers, sons, and daughters.
If there was ever more to this poem I never knew it, but it was pretty effective in getting the Colonel to stop shooting the crows after everyone in town got wind of it.
              Love Dad


That right there makes my heart smile.

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