to stuff or not to stuff: that WAS the crowstion

For most people, a dead crow in the grass is hardly a jackpot. It would more likely elicit a shiver of revulsion and a step back, rarely a second glance, hardly a second thought. Those who might linger over its body are among an elite group: five-to-ten-year-old boys, devil worshippers, scientists. And me.

I admit it sounds a little creepy that someone would come home bearing the gift of a dead animal; it may be creepier still to recognize said dead animal as gift. But how often do you get to see a bird that close? I think it’s weirder not to look! It’s weirder not to recognize the unique beauty of a creature.

That said, it’s hard to argue for going beyond rolling the thing over with a stick, snapping a few quick photographs, marveling at the shape of its feet, noting they are, indeed, like the lines around my eyes. I could, as my husband and daughter would, bury it in the yard and examine its bones later; bones are cool. The reasons to choose the bones over the body are rational ones: I’m underemployed and broke; our house is cluttered with things; this is not something I need, like a prescription refill or a computer repair; taxidermy is a bizarre art. And do we really want to have a harbinger of death staring down at us?


1.) I have given up my 4:00 beer, my weekday ale, thereby reducing the amount of money I drink from a cold pint glass by at least $10 a week. This crow is the new beer.

2.) Writers gather experiences about which to write; the most resourceful of us hope to parlay those words into publication, paying publication. This crow is my experience.

3.) Photographers are always in the market for models. This crow is my model.

4.) Things—jewelry, instruments, art—can’t make us happy, but they can certainly provide us with diversion from our problems. This crow is my diversion.

5.) I collect crows. I study them, I read about them, I take pictures of them. They are in my stories, essays, and poems. I have crow coasters, two crow puppets, crow statues, a set of wings, wall decals. I have t-shirts and masks and feathers. My first poetry chapbook was called Croetry (I sold it on my blog). This crow is the feather in the cap of my collection.

6.) My mother’s brother, who’d be known as my uncle had he uncle’d me any time in the past three decades, is a trophy hunter. He hunts all kinds of exotic animals and has them stuffed to populate his frozen zoo. He confessed to me a few years ago that he has an electronic box that replicates crow calls, which he and his hunter friends used to lure crows to them for target practice. He has no crowphy, however. They are not such a prize. This crow is a totem to replace his irreverence with my love.

7.) One hour after the crow came to us, our old friend, John Guttierrez, a fabulous furniture designer and my brother-in-law’s employer, died after a brief battle with late-stage cancer. This crow is a symbol in loving memory.

8.) Crows saved my own life. For the months of my back surgery recovery, when I knew only pain, the black birds I usually visited on the hill at sunset came to me, stopping to pick fruit from the flowering crabapple tree in front of my house. For their brief visit, I stopped crying. This crow is, ironically, my choice to live.

9.) For all I know, I am a crow. I like shiny things. I squawk when I am not pleased. I look good in black. This crow is self-preservation.

10.) Cawpe diem. I’m forty-seven, and I have never before found an intact crow on the ground. This is the crow.

The answer is clear. And it is beautiful.

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  1. Kim Hosey February 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    …five-to-ten-year-old boys, devil worshippers, scientists. And me.

    And me. Today my husband saw a huge hawk sprawled in a neighborhood intersection. I was sad. But I almost drove there to look at it.

    But, a crow. Dude, obviously that's you. You had to.

  2. jo(e) February 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    #9 is my favourite of the reasons.

  3. Aunt Teena February 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    I give. Uncle. Not yours.

  4. Blanche and Guy March 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    i really love reason number nine. sometimes i am sure i'm a dog. i'm glad you have this crow love in your life. because it's made us see crows differently. in fact i look at birds a lot more these days.

    and foooooey on your mother's brother! hunters suck bigtime!!! can't they find anything else in the world to do besides loading up a gun and shooting at peaceful animals, minding their own business. i never get it why people hunt. never will. it's just cruel.

  5. Anton March 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    When I was little and back in my dead country, we had a family of crows in the living room's chimney. What a noisy nuisance!

    Isn't it fascinating that a person's nuisance is another's self-preservation? To quote my most-read blogger — "The answer is clear."

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