Joey my Crow
Round where I was growing up they used to poke crows. That’s how I came by my pet crow Joey.
In order to cull the crows they would go along to the rookery with great long poles that reached right up to the top of the trees. They would poke the nests and knock the fledglings and eggs out.
My friend Tony and I went along after the pokers had gone and found two live fledglings. They were the ugliest things you could imagine with their transparent saggy skin, bulbous bellies and no feathers but we thought they were great. We took them home.
The little birds needed feeding every two hours. We mixed up this thick goo of egg, milk and bread. I would put a dollop of this paste on my finger and when I approached him Joey would stretch out, flap his rudimentary little wing stubs, open his beak wide and squawk loudly. He thought I was his Mum. I simply shoved the paste down his throat. Every now and then I would give him worms or bits of bacon to vary his diet. Both our birds seemed to thrive on it.
School was a problem. The teachers were not very understanding as to regarding the feeding necessities of crows and we doubted that they would be amenable to letting us out of class every two hours to go home to feed them. We got round that by taking our birds into school. As we thought that our teachers might take a dim view of us bringing our baby crows into school we simply did not tell them. Fortunately we had those big old wooden desks in our form-room which were quite deep and had lids. We were supposed to keep our books in them but ours were empty so we used them for crow rearing.
We made little nests out of paper and plonked the crows in. When you shut the lid it was dark inside and they went to sleep. At break and lunch we opened the lid and to everyone’s amazement they would squawk and clamour and we’d cram the egg and milk paste down their throats. It was magic. You shut the lid and they were silent. It was like turning the light on and off. Our classmates thought it was great and not one of them spragged to the teachers about it.
It amuses me to think that many other kids sat at those desks in the course of the day without ever knowing our crows were inside. They might have had quite a shock if they’d lifted those lids – but nobody ever did.
We did it for weeks, until our crows were fully grown, and never got caught.
I named my crow Joey. He grew into a fine handsome affectionate crow with inky black feathers that had a lovely blue sheen. When he was an adult I kept him in my shed. Every morning, and when I got home from school, I would go down to the shed and get him. He’d jump straight on my shoulder and nibble my ear.
I taught Joey to talk. Well he could say twelve words. When I went in to him he’d squawk ‘Hello’. He could say his name ‘Joey’. He was quite clear in his pronunciation.
I had to teach Joey to fly. I’d take him into the garden and throw him into the air. He’d flap to the ground and crash. Gradually he caught on to the idea and then the progress was rapid and he’d enjoy flying round and then sit on the roof. He’d always come back and land on my shoulder though.
One day I took him out front for a fly round somewhere different.
We had a neighbour called Mrs Drain who was very house-proud. She had a red tiled doorstep that she used to get on her knees and polish every single day. Joey saw her down below and decided she would make a good perch so he landed on her back.
It gave her such a fright. He was very big and heavy and had sharp claws. She wasn’t expecting a big bird to suddenly land on her. She jumped up with Joey hanging on to her and ran screaming down the road. Joey dug his claws in and flapped his wings. I can still picture her running back and forth shouting at the top of her voice with Joey clinging on for dear life.
She eventually forgave me.
I lost Joey when I went off to camp for two weeks leaving my Mum in charge. One day, while she was out shopping a man came round. He had lost his pet crow and heard from one of our neighbours that I had a crow in my shed. He thought it might be his crow. He knocked on the door but nobody was home. So he went down the bottom of the garden and opened the shed. Joey flew out.
My Mum said that Joey sat around on the roof for over a week but she couldn’t entice him down. She told me he was looking for me.
By the time I got home he’d gone. I never saw him again.
I hope he met up with a nice lady crow and impressed her with his line in human sweet-talk. She would have been sure to be impressed. My hope is that Joey’s descendants are squawking up in the trees right now, discussing the great god who had given life to their forebear by feeding him with the gooey elixir of life.
So if you hear a murder of crows up in the trees squawking something that sounds like ‘Joey’ or ‘Hello’, please let me know.