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The Crow, a Story

Josh feeding Fernando, a crow

By Marilyn Felt
December 23, 2000

(This story was written a year after Josh’s death)

It's 5AM and all night the trees around our house have been thick with crows-- so thick that if you didn't hear the chorus of a thousand crows cawing and you saw only their black shapes against the night sky, you'd think the trees were full of leaves again, in mid-winter. The cawing was so loud that there was no way to sleep. So here I am writing at my computer. I think that Josh wants me to tell this story.

Thousands of crows around you might seem ominous, but Josh loved crows. They are, actually, very intelligent birds who look after family members with great loyalty. Josh became friends with a tamed gray-hooded crow named Fernando when he stayed in Ireland, and he had an affection for crows ever after.

About a year after Ireland, in Los Angeles one evening, walking his dog Kaya, he saw a young crow lying in the road. Another crow, Josh thought the mother, was hopping around agitatedly, coming back again and again to the young crow. Josh picked up the young crow, discovered it had a broken wing, carried the crow home, and laid it in a box for the night.

The next morning Josh took the crow to a vet, hoping against all odds that the wing could be fixed, knowing that a crow without a functioning wing would not be able to live in the wild. He realized he couldn't care for it— he had no outdoor space then and he frequently went away on tour.

In the waiting room, Josh happened to sit next to a woman who had one of those old fashioned hatboxes on her lap. The woman gazed at the crow. She opened the hatbox and revealed a nest with two baby pigeons. At that moment Josh realized that whatever the fate of the crow's wing, he had found his crow a home.

Sure enough the woman gazed at the crow again and said that she’d always wanted to have a tame crow. She said she would never take one from the wild because keeping a crow in a house would mean clipping its wings, and that she would never do. She gave Josh her phone number just in case the wing could not be repaired.

The wing, in fact, could not be repaired, and after it was amputated and the crow regained his strength, the woman brought the crow to her home. About a month later Josh visited her to see how the crow was doing. It turned out he was living in the lap of luxury in a spacious home designed specially for free-ranging birds. Now how many such homes are there in the world, and how likely are you to find it in the person you sit next to at the vet's? It’s hard to know how the crow views this in comparison to his normal bird life, but his fate seems better than had he lain in pain on the road until a cat or a car finished him off.

Josh often seemed to be able to work things out to the good of all involved— in this case, a woman with a home to offer and a wingless crow with very limited prospects for a life. Josh seemed to have a special touch in bringing things together. There's a thought that keeps coming back to me about this incident: the mother crow must have been frantic when the young crow was taken away. Or maybe not-- if mother crows respond mainly by instinct, once the crow was removed, maybe it was “out of sight, out of mind”. In any case, she couldn't have known anything about the life he was going to enter. Maybe there's a message in that for me.

It's morning now and the crows have all flown away, and I think I'll put this on the web. A story for the season of lights.