Live with vultures, become a vulture; live with crows, become a crow.

—Laotian proverb

*

Why did the crow cross the road? The giggle answer that rose up was "to get to the other side," of course. As the black bird with the wide stance completed his hopping crossing, I drove on with a smile on my face.

OK, I admit it — I love crows! I know many people find them nothing but annoying, if not downright scary. The scary tag is a complete mystery to me, though annoyance at times might be understandable.

For me, waking to their raucous voices mingling with the twitter of the smaller finches and wrens and the soft cooing of doves is a complete delight. The cawing catches my interest. I want to know what they are saying — what they are up to.

The all-black crow with the twinkle in its eye is a rowdy character. The air of impudence they so often display, head often canted to one side, lends to their reputation in mythology of tricksters, I'm pretty sure.

Sociable when there is anything to eat, they will carry off just about anything they can lift. They have a diverse diet, and we all probably have stories of crows' scavenging.

One day a few years back, on a paddle trip down the Colorado through Grand Canyon, we were haunted by a large pair of these black creatures. The minute we stopped for the day and made camp, they showed up, and it wasn't long before they discovered we had food.

The pair hung around all late afternoon and evening, watching for opportunities. There were several of these even though we all tried to be careful.

As the daylight waned, I began to set out what I would need after dinner — night wear, face cream, toothbrush and paste, hormones, etc. The latter items were each in their own plastic ziplocked bags.

Well, you guessed it. I turned my back before tucking these away under my pillow and, with a swoop, the hormones were gone off to the sky. After I got over the shock at the audacity, I burst out laughing. My mind had conjured up an image of crows on estrogen. I still wonder.

Crows "score very high on intelligence tests." I have always wondered just how intelligence is tested in creatures like this. Stanford-Binet? Not likely, but, then, how? Still, crows seem awfully sharp to me as I have watched them over the years.

My husband had a pet crow, Solly, when we were first dating. Mike had gotten the crow when a nearby nest was abandoned. The friendly black bird appeared to recognize folks, and Mike's mom swore that she had him speaking a few learned words to her. She fed Solly raw hamburger and he ate right out of her hand after a while.

Being a pet had a big drawback, though, as someone stole Solly one day. Crows have a reputation for being long-lived. There is a record of one crow in captivity who lived to the ripe old age of 59, but in the wild they are more likely to live up to about 20 years of age. Just think, we could still have Solly if he had not been taken.

Clearly, I am not going to get over liking these birds any time soon. They make me happy and I agree with Maya Angelou: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Now, there's something to learn from these black tricksters!

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, and director of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. Always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the beauty and ever-changing mysteries of life, she can be reached at cherril@cherrildoty.com or by phone at (714) 745-9973.