Inspiration

By Charles Towne 

We have all heard of the mourning dove.  Most of us recognize a dove when we see it and the cooing of this lovely bird is recognized by all as being somewhat poignant, even sad.  But, have you ever heard of a mourning crow?

As a boy growing up in the Illinois of the 1940’s, hunting, fishing, and trapping were unremarkable activities.  I was shooting squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants when I was six or seven years old to contribute to the family’s larder.

During that time of eminent domain, we practiced our own form of ethnic cleansing, for darned near every kind of animal or bird was considered vermin.

It was nothing to drive down a country road and see where a farmer had hung 20, 30 or more owls and hawks on his fence as trophies attesting to his prowess. During that time hawks of all kinds were called, “chicken hawks” and when a hawk was sighted a regular cry went up, ‘There’s a chickenhawk, run, get the gun!’

Of course what the farmers were doing was setting themselves up for a very real infestation of vermin such as rats and mice which proliferated to plague proportions without their natural regulators, the hawks, and owls.

And if you think the hawks had it bad, baby, you didn’t want to be a crow.  Crows were at the top of the list of the undesirable element and also at the top of every boy’s hit list.  They were shot, poisoned, and dynamited at their roosts literally by the tens of thousands, and at government expense no less!

At that time the Future Farmers of America encouraged hunting and trapping as proper land management, as did the Boy Scouts of America.

 We shot everything and anything that moved and bragged of the killing.

 Now I said that to say this… I considered it right and proper to shoot animals, but some things happen in our lives that have a profound impact, an effect that can be life-changing.

 Many years have passed since the occasion I am about to relate and yet I can see it still. A group of crows started showing up each day in my woods and I laid-in-wait for them with my twenty-two rifle.

Within minutes I had a dead crow at my feet and as every crow hunter knows if you position a dead crow on top of a fence post it acts as a decoy to the rest of the flock and if you are clever and remain well concealed you can keep shooting and wipe out the entire group.

I placed the crow on top of a post and took up my position, rifle at the ready.

A single crow began calling and soon it flew down and landed near the dead crow.  I took aim but something kept me from pulling the trigger. In retrospect, I know what that something was.

The crow hopped closer to the fencepost where the dead bird sat still as death and then it flew up to a branch of a nearby tree.  A distance of four or five feet separated the dead from the living.

The visitor cocked its head and gazed at the inanimate bird as it began to cluck and croon.  It flew near the dead bird several times as though attempting to drive it into flight but, sad to say, dead birds don’t fly.

Eventually, I left and returned to the house but later I looked and the crow was still there, slouched, crouching there in its black mourning attire, crooning and whispering so sorrowfully.

I believed then and believe now that the mourning crow was the dead crow’s mate.

On the third day I went out and buried the crow that I had destroyed, only then did the mourning crow leave

Our actions and the results of those actions can impact us in profound ways.  So it was with the mourning crow.

That was the last crow I ever shot.

AN OUTDOORSMAN’S PRAYER

         Dear God, how it must grieve you to see heartless behavior in your children, those you have created to watch over the animals.  Yes, Lord, I want to please you in all things, in all ways.  I want to glorify you by showing mercy toward all your creation.  Lord, help me to have a spirit of protection, never destruction. Help me to recognize you as a merciful God, and to always practice mercy, love, and kindness.  In Jesus’ most Holy name I ask this, Amen


Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this insightful and powerful message. Our lives truly do have a ripple effect…one action impacts so many lives in so many different ways. Important to put this in perspective once in awhile. So, today I will think about how all good things I do will impact others…nice way to start a Sunday, right?

  2. O dear NH, i love it when folks think outside the box! Our every word, our every act, has what you have so perceptively called “a ripple effect.” “O Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, (that is my very thoughts) be acceptable to you, my Lord, my strength and my redeemer!” Yeah, it is a good way not only to start a Sunday but to live our lives! I can hear the Father saying to you, “WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL FRIEND, ENTER IN TO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD!” Chaz

  3. I had an incident with a crow, once upon a time. Coming home from work one day I saw a crow hopping alongside the road. When I went by the crow didn’t try to fly away. So, I stopped and backed up to take another look. It looked like the crow had been hit by a car and was injured. I decided to pick him up and see what I could do with him, when I got home. I put him on the floor of the right seat and he seemed OK with that. At home we checked him over and it looked like he had a broken wing. The two girls and my wife thought we should take him to our local vet, which we did. He said he had never tried to work on a crow before but said he would try, and told us to leave him until the next day. When we went back he had removed the wing and gave the crow some antibiotics. The girls decided his name was to be “blackie.” We fixed up a large platform on the outside of our living room picture window, and Blackie loved it! There was a big azalea bush under the platform and that was blackie’s home for weeks. The girls would go out to feed him and he would jump up on their arm or shoulder and ride around….like he owned the place! One day the girls came in crying and holding up two black feathers. Seems my mother’s cat was under the platform cleaning up what was left of blackie!

    I will say this about blackie, the crow; he was very smart and seemed to enjoy himself even though he could no longer fly. And, he seemed to enjoy it when the girls would take him for rides on their shoulders.

  4. Don, you are so right about them being smart. Ravens, crows and their relatives are all extremely intelligent. When I was a boy I was owned by several crows at various times and each of them was an incurable trickster. Keep in mind that my crows were in possession of both wings so they could fly very well. One of them, Joe by name loved to pull the clothes pins from the clothes on the clothes line and drop the clothes on the ground. My mother would run at him and he would fly away just out of her reach and laugh at her. Joe eventually had an affair with a cute lady crow of ill repute and she led him away to a life of crime. Thanks Don, Chaz

  5. Beautiful article Chuck. Growing up in the Midwest I remember my brothers talking about hunting crow and such at my grandparents farm. Never thought much about it then but your column shines a different light on it for me now. Even the crow is God’s creature, relatable and deserving of respect.

  6. “Every creature is better alive than dead; men, moose and pine trees, and he that understands it aright would rather preserve it’s life than destroy it.” Henry David Thoreau

  7. Dear Chuck…I never tire of your articles!! In most of them, at some point, I get a good laugh or at least a good chuckle. I love to see others’ responses, as well.
    This crow story had a lot of emotions rolled into it…humor, then sad, ending in thought provoking. I know crows can be quite annoying at times, even downright irritating. It made me wonder just how many times we are annoying or irritating to other people…even to the Lord, Himself!
    When we put ourselves and our own behavior into focus, the big picture takes on a whole new perspective. Thanks for the insight. God bless you richly.

  8. This is an interesting story of how people used to do things, not realizing the consequences until later. Like how the indiscriminate shooting of all the birds created an overgrowth problem with the other vermins. We learn as we go, I suppose. Even better is how you listened to your inner guidance and didn’t shoot the second crow. And then you watched, waited and observed. That poor mourning crow! I’m so glad it touched your heart and made a difference to you.

  9. I enjoyed this article you wrote Mr. Towne. I really like birds and have always been fascinated with them. I have had a lot of birds throughout the years, that I kept, as pets, but over the years, I am now down to just two white doves, and they are getting mighty old! I know their cooing sounds all too well, lol. I love to hear them, and they don’t bother me one little bit, as I am oblivious to their cooing sounds, and all my past dogs, and current dog, loved to sleep to their cooing. Sometimes they decide to get fairly repetitious, while lowering and raising their heads and continue on and on, making noises. They may have OCBP, like people have with the constant hand washing….lol. They also make really cool laughing noises too. They are beautiful and don’t bite, and I let mine out in my house to fly around, I just have to be sure the ceiling fan is off, stove burners aren’t on, plus my cat hasn’t slipped in. I used to have cockatiels, parakeets, and love birds. My mother used to come over, and I would set my cockatiel, Jethro, upon my mother’s shoulder, and he would take his beak and try his best to pull my Mama’s diamond out of her wedding rings. I told her, “Mama, Jethro’s trying to eat your diamond!” ….”You better watch him”….and she just laughed, saying he can’t get it. I said, “But what if he does eat it and swallow it!” and she would just laugh, and play with him. He would sit on my husband’s head and pull his hair and pull his beard. He was one character. He would whistle at me when I undressed and changed clothes. I swear, he did that. My husband thought it was funny and said he was a dirty bird. His mate was named Ellie May. Like on the Beverly Hillbillies……….

  10. There were a lot of times because both of my parents worked, and I was an only child, I had to stay with various people, especially if there were blizzards and snow storms, and my parents would stay at the hotel my father worked at, because the roads were too bad to drive on, going back and forth to work in the city. We lived out in the country at that time. I stayed with my neighbors about a mile down the road at the school bus stop, and my parents paid our neighbors to let me stay with them, during the bad weather, and they had two girls, one a lot older than me, and another girl a little younger than me. The older girl was a total tomboy, and hunted, and she was about 17 and I was about 10 years old. My parents didn’t know it, but she took me and her younger sister hunting out in the woods, along the frozen creek banks, and they had on boots, but I had only brought regular shoes, and so the older girl “made” me boots with a few Merita Bakery bread bags and rubber bands over my shoes for boots. It was extremely cold, and I came so close to getting frost bite on my feet and toes, and we were way down in the woods, and she handed me her rifle and told me how to aim and how to shoot and told me to shoot the sparrow birds. I didn’t want to. So I said I didn’t know how. So she shot a bunch of the birds, and they fell down into the snow, and bloodied the snow, and we went over and picked them up, and I practically cried. She said okay, now you shoot them. I looked at those poor little birds and refused, and said” No, I am not shooting any birds, no way! ” I knew right then and there, hunting was not for me! And I have never killed an animal like that, just for fun or for food, or any reason. It is not in my makeup. Her daddy was a hunter and had a bunch of Beagle dogs he kept behind their house in a kennel, and he hunted rabbits, deer, and quail. I also ate at their home, and once thought I was eating fried chicken pieces, and learned it was fried rabbit, which made me sick, when I learned that little fact, because I had a bunch of pet rabbits, that I used to get for Easter, as pets.

  11. Although, I have fished a lot in my life. Most of the time, if left up to me, I released the fish I caught. I didn’t want to keep them, but sometimes the people I fished with, insisted on keeping them. I really feel strongly about not killing mammals though, or birds. Pythons, that is a different story though, lol. Bring on the python hunters!

  12. Dear CSG, In my life as a writer speaker and inquisitive wanderer I have learned that in most communication there is usually several facets of communication waiting to be explored. Take my mourning crow for instance. Crows talk a lot to each other and the world in general. There are some that believe crows have an extensive language with which they can and do express themselves quite well. That long ago experience reveals grieving. Grieving alone might not reveal much but combining it with the other emotions this marvelous bird is able to communicate should give us cause to reflect on its depth of intelligence and communication ability. If we could only see nature in its true sense we might be astounded at what we are missing. Chaz

  13. Mama Mia, I am proud of you for your stance on shooting the sparrows. What you wrote about the bread bag shoe covers, about the rabbits, fishing, and life in general is charming. God bless you dear lady, Chaz

  14. Dear Mama Mia, when you write about your childhood you express a delightful degree of humor as well as pathos. Keep writing, the bread bag shoe covers are wonderful, the refusal to shoot the sparrows touched my heart, God bless you, Chaz

  15. Kristin, isn’t it true that our decisions, great or small, can live on to haunt us? That experience, though it happened scores of years ago lives with me even yet, and now it is yours as well! Blessings dear one, Chaz

  16. Dear Mama Mia, You wrote, “So she shot a bunch of the birds and they fell down into the snow and bloodied the snow and we went over and picked them up and I practically cried.” Your few words are rich! In that brief sentence you exposed your true self. In that brief sentence, in 31 words, without trying, you expressed more feeling and emotion than many writers express in a lifetime. Chaz

  17. This is a heartwarming story of learning about the love and compassion that animals have for each other. And the love we can show them by honoring them whenever possible. It is such a rich world of creatures and it will be nice when we one day live in better harmony and understanding with each other. It is really up to us humans, though, eh?

  18. Nicole, isn’t it the truth? Harmony my friend is a thing we humans must learn. Blessings on you and yours, Chaz

  19. These stories of birds in y’alls lives reminds me of how in some biblical stories, birds were even beneficial to humans. I think of Noah and the ark and the raven and the dove that let Noah and His family know when it was safe to come out of the ark. Another story I like is when God sent ravens ( kinda like big crows, huh?) to feed Elijah when he was in hiding from King Ahab. Scripture also promises, in the end time when God’s people will be hiding from those that will seek to kill them, that bread will be given them and their water shall be sure. I wonder if He will have ravens or some other bird feeding them. Jus sayin, Never thought of that before, but your stories made me think of that possibility. But of course, God’s ways are so far above ours and He has a thousand ways to take care of His children. As a child, I enjoyed “catching and releasing” baby killdeers not realizing how frantic I made the parent birds. I enjoyed the challenge and thought nothing of the poor parents. But I would never kill a bird. Maybe chase and scare them away like crows and blue jays that were annoying, but loved the song birds. Interesting how our upbringing can predispose us to certain unkind or unhealthy behaviors but as we mature hopefully we see things more clearly as y’all have pointed out so well. These stories of birds and other creatures have been very special. Thanks to all and you, and especially you unka Chuck for your reminiscings!

  20. Linda, we are so very fortunate to have all of nature. Your scripture illustrations are so appropriate to this article. Blessings to you and yours. Chaz

  21. Thanks for your inspiring reviews of my writings, Mr. Towne. You “read” all that, into that little true story of my first and last hunting experience? I had to look up your word, “pathos” that you used, as I didn’t know what that meant….if you say so, lol

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