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.
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
next time, as usual, I remain...
Yours in service, under the oaks
O'The Misty Highlands
"Vagabond bard and magician at
Fondness For Crows
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.