He followed us around like a dog. He came to school and waited for us in a large tree on
the playground. He followed us home again, flying just above our heads all the way, occasionally landing on our
shoulder. When we went for a row up the creek in the dory he followed us, soaring high over our head, or
perching on a dead tree on the bank of the river.
Everyone for miles around knew Joe. He would sometimes venture off on his own. Going to
town was usually a disaster. Mother would get calls from local merchants saying that Joe was harassing people
on the street, landing on their shoulders, begging for treats, or stealing items from cars if they were foolish
enough to leave their windows open. Men's hats were fair game, especially the ones with feathers in the band.
Mother would walk to town to get him. Joe would see her coming and fly down and
light on her shoulder for a ride home.
Our next door neighbours were an elderly couple, and Joe visited them often, usually early
in the morning just after the milk man had made his delivery. You see, Joe liked cream! In those days milk came
in bottles with a cardboard cover (like a pog) on top. The milk was raw, nor homogenized, and when the milk sat
for a while the cream rose to the top. Joe would skilfully remove the cardboard top, drink the cream, and
replace the top. The neighbours couldn't figure out why the milk bottle was only three quarters full every
morning, until she caught Joe in the act . . . .
Joe lived with us for two years. One late August morning he went out as usual but did not
return that night, or the next. We watched for him the rest of that summer and fall. Joe never returned to his
box in the porch, but for several summers after that one, whenever we went for a row up the creek, a large,
glossy, black crow, would soar over our heads and follow us a ways. We never knew whether or not it was Joe,
but like to believe that it was.
I have heard that, if a person is lost in the forest, they should call upon the crow for help. If
you call the crow, you should watch carefully for it to appear, because it is certain to happen. It will
fly near to you, or pass directly overhead. When this occurs, you should follow the
crow, even though it is a trickster, and may make you walk through difficult terrain. The crow likes
to joke around. However, in the end, it will bring you safely from the forest to a familiar location.
My long-time friend, Peggi Thayer, who presently lives in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, is very much
aware of the crow's intelligent nature. She told me a story about asking a crow for directions. The incident
happened several years ago in Windsor, Nova Scotia. In Peggi's words,
I got up early and headed out walking to the hospital to visit a
friend, Harry, taking what I thought would be a shorter way than walking out the highway. After about a
mile and a half, I realized that the road I was on was going off to the right, and away from where the hospital
should be. About that time I heard a flutter in a tree up over my head, and a crow called out as it fluffed its
feathers and settled down on the branch. I looked up and said, "Good morning crow," and walked on a few
Then I started thinking of what I'd been told about crows - that they were
messengers,22 could be tricksters, and could give
directions. I thought, well, no harm in asking -- so I went back a few steps, looked up and asked
the crow which way it was to the hospital. Sure enough, the crow let out a caa, and flew off to the left.
When I watched his direction, there off across a railroad track and a big cow pasture, was the hospital
building about a mile or better away on the other side of the field, and in that field were a few head of
cattle, including a bull.