My first encounter with an animal rights advocate

crowreadingWhen I was eleven, perhaps twelve, I had a pet crow. I came across it while exploring the bush behind the Springside Sports Grounds.

A feather or two shy of flight, it flapped in spirals down from its nest. I caught it, cradled it under my arm, took it home and fed it wieners which I filched from my mother’s fridge, or at times, from my parents’ store. I would break off chunks and the crow would swallow them whole.

While I was unsure my parents would approve of my pet, I was quite certain they would disapprove my wiener thievery. Committing myself to covertness at home, I was nevertheless quite proud of my bird and would take it for walks along Railway Avenue. By this time crow was able to fly, so on these diurnal rambles I would tie a length of twine to one of its legs to keep it from launching off.

It rode on my left shoulder and would shit on the back of my blue-checked jacket as we walked—a discovery first noted when dropping my jacket on its hook. Thereafter I took to stowing the garment and using it for this singular purpose, as one would a smoking jacket. As I think of it now, fragging my back with grey-green-white excrement was the crow’s sole avenue of protest.

Our 57 Ford Fairlane, abandoned behind the store and parked near our neighbour’s page wire fence, served as the crow’s cage. I had plans of teaching it to talk (a myth circulating at the time was that if you split a crow’s tongue it could achieve speech). And so, as it was, I continued to nurse my crow to death with wieners and ignorance.

Thankfully our neighbour, Wingate Swain, (a name that clearly determined his vocation) a postmaster, and well respected in town, and like Mrs. Swain, a master gardener, which meant that he was a kind man, took pity on the crow and one night left the Fairlane’s drive-side door cracked bird-width open. As I imagined it: the crow stepped off its seat back perch, slipped out and flew at midnight to join its dark fold.

For a long time I resented Mr. Swain for foiling my project of owning well trained articulate crow. Now, I hope one day to be like Mr. Swain.


  1. Hey Steve, reminds me of the same story in England with my pet crow when I was a young lad ,, and yes my crow after a few weeks joined all his feathered friends in Cotswold crowland !!! Phil

  2. Such a great story. I had a starling for quite a time but I had no mr. Swain. Or rather my bird didn’t / so it’s fate a little more tragic.

    I too remember splitting the tongue theory and dreamed of having such a pet.

    You are a great writer
    And I imagined the sights of springside easily


  3. Ha. I don’t remember that.. But then you didn’t;t quite share everything with your little sis. But ah the Swains- delightful folk though they confiscated a few balls we lobbed over their garden to the Lairds/

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