One upon a time in a very small town in the heart of the deep-south there lived an old lady named Annie Bell. Now Annie Bell loved to work in her flowers and loved to raise her food fresh from the garden she planted each year.
On this particular year Annie decided to prepare herself a strawberry patch with about twenty-five huge strawberry plants. The instructions given on the package read that each strawberry would be about the size of a small peach. So Annie was eager to get them planted into the soil quickly.
Annie was up in years and was about to enter her seventies. So getting down on the ground to plant the precious plants was a big effort. Her legs were not as limber as that of a young person and her body was stiff from years of work. She also suffered terribly with an illness she had as a child called Polio. She had Polio at age three and was paralyzed from her waist down. God had been good to Annie and blessed her with healing of the polio virus but in her latter years the damaged muscles caused her great pain. Nevertheless, Annie sat down in the dirt and made sure each plants long wavy roots were planted just so. She made a special tea out of fish emulsion and watered them often. Having not planted strawberries before Annie was not aware that not only the insects, bugs, and worms loved to eat her plants but also birds.
As the plants grew and begin to blossom the bees came to pollinate each little white flower. Annie was so pleased to watch her beloved plants grow day by day. Then one day she noticed several large black birds walking around just beyond her garden. She knew black birds were bad news and would eat anything they could from the garden. Action had to be taken quickly. She clapped her hands and yelled out as loudly as she could, hoping to scare the creatures away.
Annie built a scarecrow and stood him very close to the strawberry patch. He wore a straw hat, bright red shirt and blue jeans. She attached aluminum pans that rattled in the wind hoping to scare the nasty birds away. She watched as they stood back looking at the human-sized figure in the garden daily. Each day they came a few yards closer to check things out. They watched the pans blow in the wind making a rattling noise but it did not hurt them. So the next day they decided to come a few feet closer.
Now Annie was watching from her porch and she knew she had a big problem on her hands. She began to ask about town to find out the best way to get rid of the birds and save her strawberries. She bought fresh hay and put it all around each plant to keep the strawberries from lying on the wet earth. She fertilized them with her special tea so they would grow to be big and strong. Each day the tall black birds returned casing out the strawberry patch for they absolutely loved to eat sweet ripe strawberries.
In her quest for information Annie spoke with a man named Henry Webb who knew all to well about black birds and strawberries.
“You can put up scarecrows, things that make noises, cover them with hay to protect them but them dirty ole black birds will not be frightened away with all of those devices. A blast from a shotgun will drive them away but not for long. I’ve tried almost everything to keep them out of my patch. I’ve even sat under a tree with my pellet gun and took a few shots at those buggers. They just fly away for a few hours then return. They are very smart birds and they learn quickly by simply watching. They will stand out there in the field and watch to see what you do. They will keep coming closer and closer to investigate any device you put in the garden. The only way I have been able to save my strawberries from those nasty black crows is to buy a net and spread it over the entire patch. Do you know they still came and tried to sneak under the net? So I put stones and bricks all around the net to hold it down. I stood back and watched them. It was as if they were trying to figure out a way to get under the net even with the stones surrounding it. They are intelligent but pesky birds.” Henry advised Annie. “You must be vigilant to outsmart those black shiny birds.”
So Annie purchased a black net made of nylon. She spread it over the patch and put stones all around it to hold it in place. Each day the black crows came and watched from a distance. They were watching and thinking about how they could fetch those delicious red berries. The holes in the net were far too small for them to get inside and their feet would get tangled up in the threads. If they could just figure out a way to slide under the net, they could eat till their black tummies were full. It was a very BIG IF.
Then one day a local neighbor came to visit Annie. He often helped her with plowing and digging.
“Annie your plants are not getting pollinated well because the bees are having a hard time getting inside the net. You need to pull the net back and let the bees pollinate the plants. Then put the net back over them.” He commenced offering his expert advice.
“Well if I remove the net, the birds will come and get into the patch. They are just standing out there watching for a chance to pluck my berries, those devil crows.” Annie reminded her friend.
“I know but if the bees can’t pollinate the plants, there will be NO strawberries.” He laughed.
So reluctantly Annie pulled back the net to allow the bees’ easy access.
The sun was shining brightly and the clover was lush. It reminded her of the days she used to roll in it as a child. Bees are lovers of clover blossoms and fly from blossom to blossom pollinating each one. It was Annie’s prayer that they would pollinate her strawberry flowers as well. Annie sat down under a tree in a clump of green clover and began to look for four-leaved clovers as she did when she was young. The sunshine felt good to her frail body and pale skin. The warm weather was always better for Annie’s ailments than the cold winter months when she had to stay inside. Even then she fed and watered her precious violets just to enjoy giving them away when they were full grown.
Annie had very little money so she had to be careful about spending it on trivial things. Yet despite the bad economy and the high prices, Annie continued to enjoy her beloved flowers.
Then one day Annie awoke to the squawk of birds outside her bedroom window. Quickly she through on her bathrobe and ran to the back door. “There are those infernal black crows getting into my garden. Lord knows in an hour they will have plucked green tomatoes and beans not to speak of my nice plump strawberries.” She said aloud making her way out the doorway.
“Shew! Get out of here! I’ll blast you all with my shotgun if you dare pick one of my strawberries!” She yelled to the top of her voice. She picked up sticks and rocks throwing them in the direction of the crows. They just stood there looking at her as if she were totally out of her mind.
“I’ll boil you in oil, you devil birds! I’ll put a curse on you and your wings will not fly!” She threatened.
Then she thought about the fact that if she did put the curse and their wings could not fly, they would just walk about still eating her veggies. So that idea went out the window quickly.
“Yes I will boil you in oil and eat you for my dinner!” She screamed loudly. “Just let me get my gun and I’ll show you who is boss over this garden.” She yelled as she turned to go back into the house. Her face was as red as blood and her temper was at its highest.
Her hands brushed off the dust from the old shotgun and she filled her pockets with bullets.
“I’ll have crow for dinner tonight!” She fumed.
Boom went the sound of the gun. Boom! The old gun was as good as it used to be. It made an awesome sound and the birds went flying into the trees. When the smoke cleared a bit, Annie noticed two birds lying in the grass. Placing the gun down on the ground she quickly went to see how much damage she had done.
She picked up two huge crows and made her way back to the house. Just like she said, she had crow for dinner that night.
Before the sun came out the next day, the net was placed back over the strawberry patch. Large stones were placed all around it to keep out unwanted visitors.
Annie enjoyed her plump red strawberries all season sharing them with company and her company was NOT black crows!
Question: How intelligent are Black Crows?
Written by Sybil Shearin
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