Majik Musings

A blank page, an unpainted canvas, a raw chunk of marble and an unmolded lump of clay; all sad sights to the artist. So, I must apologize to all (especially Mike the Mage) for leaving this page blank for so long. I can only say that besides a few minor computer problems its my busy season. I offer this up as an explanation and not an excuse, there is no excuse for having waited this long. So for those of you who have waited patiently, this ones for you.

They say write what you know. So, bearing that in mind here's a little anecdote straight out of the hills of the Misty Highlands, submitted for your approval. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoy telling it.

Until next time, as usual, I remain...
Yours in service, under the oaks

Majik O'The Misty Highlands
"Vagabond bard and magician at large"

Majik o' the Misty HighlandsA Fondness For Crows

By Majik

I have always found crows fascinating for some reason, people as well. Put the two together and you had a strange pair in Billy and Earl.
Earl was an old high school buddy of my father's, a man whom I'd never met, but to hear my dad tell it (or any other story for that matter) you'd swear you had. Billy was Earl's friend who just happen to be a crow.

Earl never referred to Billy as his pet. In fact when Billy first showed up Earl used to call him "that damned bird". After a while this became more and more a term of endearment rather than an exclamation especially after Earl taught him to quit cawing at him all the time.

I say Billy "showed up" because no one was really quite sure how those two got together in the first place. Its as if Billy just appeared one day and the two of them got along so well that either one or the other decided it was okay with them if the other stayed. Whenever folks saw them together, and it was rare when you didn't, Billy always got top billing. It was never a matter of preference, it just sounded kinda natural when folks said "here comes Billy n' Earl".

Earl was a nice old man, a widower from the hills of West Virginia. After he retired from the railroad he spent most of his time fishing, hunting, and swapping tales down at the local watering hole. Most of the aforementioned tales had to do with the latest antics of Billy.

Billy spent most of his time fishing with Earl and lining his roost with ill-gotten gains, there-by supplying Earl with a never-ending repertoire of stories.

When he first showed up on his doorstep, Earl did every thing he could to convince Billy to go back to his own kind. Whenever there was a murder of crows near by Earl would shoo Billy off in that direction, only to have Billy driven out in the worst way. Crows are pretty smart critters when it comes to alot of things. They can count and can recognize a gun and stay out of it's range. They are so smart in fact that they rarely have anything to do with humans or anything that has come into contact with them. Proof positive that they are smarter than us, according to Earl.He was always quoted as saying "Have you ever seen a crows nest in the wild?" When folks said no, they never had, he would say, "And you probably never will either!" A couple of times finding Billy back on his front porch again all pecked at put a stop to Earl trying to rehabilitate the bird. And so it was that the two of them became a team.

And what a pair they made. Earl taught Billy to say a few words in order to make his meager needs known and to entertain the ladies and the local children, all of whom knew them well. He fixed him up with a large, covered roost out in front of the house so Billy could keep abreast of all the comings and goings in the neighborhood. It was a rare thing to be able to sneak up on Earl's place.

Billy was, for the most part, in crow heaven. He got all the raw hamburger and cornbread a body could eat. He could come and go as he pleased and no matter what he'd been up to Earl always had a place set for him when he got back. He had plenty of friends of the non-Corvus species and wanted for nothing. He had his own birdbath; even the garden was referred to as "Billy's". He could always count on Earl for a lively discussion on the topic of politics and the state of the union now that there was a "Yankee" in office. There was even an unwritten law in Fayette County that you couldn't shoot at any lone crows. He didn't even have to fly if he didn't have a mind to; he would sit on Earl's shoulder like some sort of monochromatic parrot. Billy was never know to turn his nose up at a free ride anywhere.

Just like all crows Billy had an infinity for anything shiny and a childlike curiosity. In fact Earl had named him after the pirate Billy Bones from "Treasure Island". So it almost came natural to Billy when Earl was able to train him to scoop up minnows out of the shallows and drop them in the boat whenever he ran out of bait while on one of their many fishing trips together. The local youths had a hard time of it pitching pennies on the sidewalk without having Billy swoop down out of nowhere and taking off again with one or two of their hard earned coins. One of the boys, after having read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", nicknamed him Billy the black handed. The girls in the neighborhood had to keep a close eye on their jacks as well. The up side to this kind of behavior was that the neighborhood was virtually free of just about any silver gum wrappers.

Earl got into the habit of carrying around a pocket full of change in order to reimburse the kids. He was always of the opinion that some of the older kids were on to him, but he didn't seem to mind much. He always said that Billy had saved him a fortune in fishing lures over the years, so it all kind of worked out in the end.

What really got Earl more confused than angry was the fact that he could never find out what Billy was doing with all of these little treasures. One day one of the local kids came home crying on account of Billy had made off with one of his favorite marbles. Earl looked high and low for that shooter. For three days he search every nook and cranny in the neighborhood. The first place he looked was in Billy's roost, but he knew he wouldn't find it there as he cleaned it out every year anyway. It occurred to him that Billy knew that as well, so he wasn't libel to keep his ill-gotten gains where just anyone could get at them. next Earl check the gutters on the house, one of Billy's favorite perches, with no luck at all. Earl didn't mind that so much as the gutters needed cleaning anyway. He checked every hollow tree he could reach with a ladder and even hired one boy to climb up the side of an embankment to a ledge where Billy had been spied on more than one occasion. Still, no marble. In the end he bought the boy a brand new aggie.
Now that was all well and good for the boy, but Earl was still at a loss as to what Billy was doing with all of his booty. And until he found out he had no choice but to replace whatever it was that Billy stole from good honest folks.

Once, on a fishing trip, Earl's motorboat wouldn't start. It had happen once or twice before so he knew all he had to do was clean out the fuel line. He always carried a toolbox with him on these outings, so he set to work. No sooner had he cleaned off and set down a little brass filter screen when Billy swooped down and picked it up. Earl nearly tipped the boat over making a grab for Billy before he could get airborne again, but it was to late. He watched helplessly as Billy flew out of sight with the vital part, leaving him stranded. He had rowed himself almost all the way home before that "damned bird" came back and perched on the stern of the boat and looked at Earl as if nothing were wrong at all. Earl had a little talk with him on the subject of theft, but Billy must of thought he was going on about that Kennedy fella and how much money he was wasting on the space program again, because Billy didn't budge. He never turned down a free ride anywhere, especially home.

Well, brass screens were cheap and Earl had a forgiving nature, so it wasn't long before things were back to normal, or as about as normal as things can get with a crow in the picture. That is until the day Earl's truck finally broke down.

Earl had been a mechanic for the railroads for over fifty years and he had the gold watch to prove it. There wasn't anything he couldn'd fix on his own. His truck had never seen the inside of a garage and it wasn't likely to as long as he was alive. So, on the day his radiator sprung a real bad leak, he didn't see any need to do anything except to pull it out and patch it.

In those fifty years he had fallen into the habit of emptying his pockets before he started on any major projects so as not to damage or lose any of his prized possessions. On this particular occasion he had on him his whittling knife, his usual pocket full of pennies, a key chain, and the watch they had given him upon retiring. He put all these things in an old red bandanna put it in the top of his toolbox and went to work removing the radiator out of his old Chevy pick-up.

Billy was off doing whatever it was he did when he wasn't fetching bait for Earl or stealing marbles from children. It wasn't until he was flat on his back struggling with a ratchet wrench that Earl gave him any thought at all. That's because that's when Billy decided to return from his morning flight. Earl heard him come flapping in, immediately followed by the unmistakable squeak that his toolbox made whenever Billy landed on it. Earl heard him shuffling something around and feared the worst. He shouted "Billy what are you gettin' into up there?!", as he began to get himself out from under the truck.

In the time it took Earl to get up, Billy had unwrapped Earl's bandanna and, out of all those pretty, shiny objects, had selected the item he had deemed his by right of maritime law. You guessed it; Earl got up just in time to see Billy take flight with his precious watch and fob clutched firmly in his greedy black beak.

Earl was furious! He started to jump up and down and cuss a blue streak. He shook his fist in the air like a Saturday matinee villain who had been foiled again. Woman ran from their kitchens in order to clasp their hands over their children's ears and to get them into the house as fast as they could. This sort of thing was a long time coming and folks were running for cover. All the woman prayed for Earl's soul for the language he was lettin' fly, and all the children were praying for their old friend Billy for fear of what Earl would do to him when he got back. All the men folk gathered round and tried to calm Earl down. They were afraid he was headed for a stroke.

Well they got him calmed down some by the time Billy got back. When he landed Earl walked over to him and said "You no good lousy bird, I feed ya and give ya a place out of the rain and this is how you pay me back! If you don't bring back my watch I'll kill ya!"

Billy took off again right away. He wasn't certain but he was pretty sure that this time Earl wasn't talkin' about that Kennedy fella.

Nobody was ever quite sure what it was that Billy understood in that sentence. Whether it was the "bring back my watch" or the "I'll kill ya" part will forever remain a mystery. Suffice it to say that when Billy got back, from wherever it was he went all those years, he had Earl's watch with him. He set it down pretty much where he'd got it from and took off once more. When he got back this time he had a marble with him. Billy flew back and forth between the house and his secret hiding place for over an hour and each time he returned he had some little bit of treasure with him. He brought back old tarnished coins, children's jacks, gum wrappers and even things that Earl didn't even known he'd stolen. One item was a half of a pair of women's ear rings. He came back one time with a piece of fool's gold he must have found in a stream bed somewhere. He even brought back that piece of fuel filter.

It occurred to Earl that up until that day he had never simply asked Billy to return the things he had taken, let alone threaten him with physical harm. Things were a little different from that day forward. Now, whenever someone told Earl that Billy had stolen from them, Earl would just tell him to go and fetch it back. When he got back with the item in question Earl would trade Billy a piece of wadded up tin foil, or some other worthless object he thought he might enjoy, for it.

Everyone was happy; the kids got their toys back, Billy had a whole roost full of little shiny things that only he held dear, and Earl saved a fortune in pennies.

One day Billy flew off on one of his morning jaunts and never came home. Earl said he'd miss "that damned bird" but that all he'd ever wanted for him was to be free, safe and happy. In the end he hoped that's what he'd gotten. Everyone knew that Billy was free to leave anytime he chose, he just chose to stay where he knew he had friends. To this very day I believe there is still an unwritten law in Fayette County that you shouldn't shoot at any lone crows, all for a fondness for Billy.