Featured Column
Week of 5.16.2005
"Caw,caw. Don't wait too long"
          I’ve been fascinated with crows for years. Crows, ravens, jays, magpies, jackdaws – they’re all members of the Corvid family. They’re all the Einsteins of the bird family. No other bird come close to matching their intelligence. Crows live in close- knit family groups. They communicate – some 23 distinct patterns of caws have been interpreted – and they cooperate with each other. They don’t stab each other in the back when they’re at work. Back at their homes they don’t cheat on their spouses and they usually mate for life.
          So, when I saw this group of three crows sitting high on the overhanging horizontal section of the light pole across from the shopping mall I decided to observe their actions.
          Looking up, I was surprised to see three of them looking down, staring directly at me with their beady, defiant eyes.. There was an enormous crow, a medium size crow and a smallish one. Evidently, a crow family.
          I saw what I considered to be the male crow turn his large, curved beak towards the middle-sized mother crow and for the third time in my life I didn’t hear the annoying “caw-caw,” I heard words – distinguishable words. Words and sentences!
         The paternal crow was saying, “Look at that guy standing below. Doesn’t he have anything better to do? Sometimes I wonder about these humans. They don’t seem to be too bright – look at that one, just standing below us, staring upwards with that dumb _expression on his face.”
          The mother crow replied, “I know what you mean, I’ve watched humans for years and for the life of me I can’t figure them out. They let themselves get fat, they pollute their water and the air. They wear crazy clothes. Have you noticed those fat ladies walking around with too-short shirts and their bellies hanging out. Most unattractive!”
          Then I heard the squeaky voice of a child. I saw the smaller crow’s beak moving so I knew that’s where the voice was coming from. “So, dad, how come human kids aren’t close to their parents like we are?”
          The father crow stretched upward on his bony toes, flapped his large, ebony wings, settled down and said, “You see, son, human children want to get away from their parents as soon as they get the first sign of pimples. Just look down and you’ll see human kids riding around in big trucks, sticking those cell phones in their ears, wearing pants barely covering up their bottoms. Some of the girl humans have metal things stuck in their belly buttons and tongues and the guys are sticking sharp objects in their ears, lips and eyebrows. Evidently human parents keep giving money to their kids as soon as they’re old enough to spend it. There not like us crows. We work for what we need and we teach our young crows to work too.”
          Mother crow chirped in, “Go easy, dear, you don’t want to poison our little one against humans.”
          “But, daddy, why do humans hurt each other, you know, they smash into each other with their big cars and trucks, they shoot each other, they steal, they get jealous, they eat bad things, they drink things that make them wobbly and they actually put hot smoke into their lungs. How come they do these dumb things?”
          “Son, us crows have been around for thousands of years. We’ve learned that taking care of each other, loving and appreciating each other and all living things is the smartest way to live. We may not be as large as humans, but I think we could teach them a lot about life. I think from the beginning humans didn’t get the idea of what life is all about. My grandfather once told me that humans got off to a bad start when they were in that garden with the snake and the apple. Seems like the most important things to humans are themselves. They just haven’t learned to live with each other in peace and harmony as we have.”
          I noticed more crows starting to gather on nearby light poles. Five here, ten there, a dozen over there. Some started to flutter down to the ground nearby. Before long I realized that there was a circle of crows on the ground around me –stomping one leg, then the other and anxiously fluttering their wings to a common beat.
          Overhead, the crow family was standing quietly on the horizontal section of the light pole. They were leaning forward with their heads arched downward. Their eyes converging on me, standing below them.
          I heard the mother crow say, “Honey, I think we ought to take Junior and get out of here. Look down there. Our entire family has gathered around that guy who’s been standing there for half an hour. They must think he’s a danger to us and they’re giving us protection.”
          Father crow jerked his head towards mother crow and said, “Okay, okay. Let’s leave – those damn humans are getting to be a pain in the tail. Wherever those humans gather there seem to be problems. I wish they’d learn how to get along with us and each other.”
          As soon as the circle of crows on the ground saw the family fly off they all flew off as one.
          I was left standing alone, staring up at a light pole – realizing how different our human lives would be if we would learn even a little from these creatures – these Einsteins of the bird world.
          Then, from somewhere beyond the light poles I heard it, “Caw, caw, human, don’t wait too long!”
Are crows smarter than humans?
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger