Amish Principles for Today's Families
11/25/11 at 11:11 AM 0 Comments

Plain Talk about the Amish: Charlie the Crow

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"Patience is a quality most needed when it is exhausted." Amish Proverb

An Old Order Amish family in Salem, Indiana found out that crows are very smart birds, even though they seem so ordinary, often annoying. One October afternoon in 2006, a woman's sons found a crow's nest and brought home a baby crow. The boys clipped the crow's wings so he couldn't fly too far and planned to raise it as a pet, maybe even teach it a few words. They named the baby crow "Charlie." It wasn't long, though, before Charlie was running the household ragged, especially the poor dog. This is the mother's story of "Charlie the Crow," written over nine months, used with permission, taken from her scribe letters to The Budget:

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

I've had an occupant on my porch swing for the last few weeks. He appears around dusk, sleeps there all night, and what a mess he has created by the next morning. He's always awake as soon as it's daylight and is soon asking for his breakfast. His caw-caw-caw can be quite annoying. He follows us around the yard and is a unique pet as of now. The boys have hopes of getting him to say a few words, but we'll see. Our dog isn't too sure about this blackbird that wants to be his friend. The crow walks up to him and puts his beak against his nose as if to say, "I'm your friend." The dog quickly leaves and finds another spot to take his nap, only to be followed again and again. Just this morning I saw him tugging at the vines hanging down from my hanging pots on the porch. Our unique pet might end up being a unique pest!

***

Our pet crow, Charlie, has indeed proven to be quite a pest. We can't understand anything he says but he sure does a lot of jabbering, making noises I never knew a crow could make. He is a real pack rat. Anything shiny or brightly colored attracts him immediately.

Charlie quickly grabs it up and takes it to his favorite hiding place in the window wells of the basement or a hole in the concrete blocks of our outside basement steps. Clothes pins have always attracted him and I have to cover my clothes pin pail at all times when I hang up clothes or he carries them off just as fast as he can, one right after the other. Recently he started going in the window shop if the doors are open and carries pens and pencils off.

***

The other day I heard Charlie making a fuss on the porch so I went to investigate. He had a white screw in his beak that they use on the windows. You might as well forget about chasing him to get it because he really has fun if you do that. We have found the best way to get it is ignore him and watch where he drops it. If you don't chase him he eventually gets tired of carrying it around.

Charlie's latest prank is to chase the grandchildren and peck them once he catches up with them. If they don't start running he won't do anything, but several of the grandchildren start running and screaming if he comes within 50 feet of them and he loves that.

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

Charlie is very fond of dog food so one of our drivers brings some along for the dog and the crow. Every morning when he drives in they are both right there waiting for him to toss some out for them. The crow can snatch it up before the dog has a chance to get it and so far he still intimidates and gets the best of the dog. He also loves to sit on your arm and eat dog food out of your hand.

***

Our pet crow is still alive and well. Too well, sometimes! He jabbers around and sometimes when he's carrying on it actually sounds like children talking in a distance. He spent the last two days in a cage as his punishment for dumping out small pots of flowers that we got to put in an old milk can. I came home from town, set my flowers outside and quick as a wink he had emptied a 3" pot and took off across the yard with the empty pot in his beak. We retrieved the pot and put the plant in again. After doing it three or four times there was hardly any dirt left on the plant. He doesn't seem to bother them after they are in baskets so we planted them last night and let him loose. We shall see what happens.

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

***

I was sitting on the porch swing last night reading our local paper and had laid some advertisements beside me on the swing. He sneaked up behind me, pulled the ads through the crack between the seat and the back of the swing, then took off running. He didn't fare too well when he tried to fly up over the porch railing with this big paper flapping in his beak. He dropped it so I quick grabbed it. He then had a big pity party out in the yard. He put his head down on the grass and jabbered away. I didn't understand a word but I'm still wondering what he was trying to say. We have one member in the family that thinks he would make a good target to try out her shotgun on, but so far no one else agrees.

***

Charlie, our crow, is still alive and on the loose again. He picked off four of my rose buds before we penned him up for a few days. Now that he's loose again he hasn't bothered them, so just maybe he learned his lesson. At least that's what we are hoping.

Our pet crow "Charlie" is very curious. Anything bright or different gets his attention right away. I sat at the picnic table writing a letter the other night. Of course, he was right beside me and as soon as I laid my pen down he grabbed it and started hoping around. I ignored him and he finally dropped it. His latest tactic he's using to aggravate the dog is coming up behind him and pulling his tail. So far he's gotten the best of the dog every time.

***

(C) Bill Coleman/amishphoto.com

Charlie notices anything that you set outside that isn't normally there. We had some shingles blown off our barn from a windstorm so the boys repaired the roof patching in shingles where needed. Naturally they couldn't match them exactly. When they came in to eat dinner, Charlie was on the barn roof checking out these slightly different colored shingles. Walking from one patch to the other, cocking his head sideways and giving the patches a good peck once in a while.

Our taxi driver loves to drive in and throw a shiny penny out—that quick Charlie catches it and struts around with it in his beak. If you ignore Charlie and just observe, he'll usually drop it and you can get it...if you are quick enough.

Charlie carries his pencils and clothes pins in his beak sticking straight out. He doesn't put them in crosswise. He takes my clothes pins and jabs them into the ground hard enough that they stick in the ground and stand there sticking up real straight. It usually takes a good pull to get it out of the ground, especially if the ground is wet.

Periodically, Charlie comes strutting in from the barn with a freshly killed mouse in his beak. And yes, he eats it, on our front porch! Yuck! He also ate other little birds, saving the claws and carrying them around for days from one place to the other.

***

The era of Charlie the crow is now history. He was on his perch on the porch as usual about 10 pm one night and the next morning at 5:15 he was nowhere around which was unusual. We have a feeling an owl or hawk got him. Even though we miss his jabbering it's nice to take the clothes pins out to the clothes line and leave them there with no worry of having them carried off. He loved to go to the garden with us and I had already imagined him pecking the tomatoes once they turned red because of his attraction to bright colors. A-h-h. One less thing to be concerned about.

Let's talk about it!

Even though this mother complained about Charlie, it's obvious she got a kick out of him. Charlie was a nuisance, but provided entertainment for the family. Why do you think people like having pets?

What are some life lessons the family gleaned from Charlie?

Research has found that having a pet can lower a person's stress levels and blood pressure, as well as reduce loneliness and depression. Having a dog, for example, encourages its owner to get more exercise, which can improve overall health. Pets do come with additional work and responsibilities, and they're not for everyone. But for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. How can having a pet help a family bond together? Have you considered having a pet? Of if you have one, how does it draw your family together?

About Suzanne: She is an author of bestselling fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne's grandfather was raised Plain. She's always been fascinated by her gentle, wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her weekly radio show, by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. And please leave a comment!

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