Crow Story, Part Four.
Sunday morning dawns chilly for the first weekend of summer. Swift, sporadic clouds rush overhead as Fred, our four dogs, and I appear to have the park to ourselves. The wind blows predominantly out of the West and slaps our faces as soon we’re over the footbridge. We start down the trail that winds along the river. Gracie, Joker, Sadie and Taco all have their noses in the air as they lead our way past the football and the soccer fields and out onto the river trail. Sunshine dots and dashes along the spectator berm like nature’s Morse code.
I ask Fred if he called his cousin. ‘Playin phone-tag,’ he says.
I show him the charm, now in a baggie with the pouch of poo pourri. ‘This is what that crow dropped on my deck.’
Fred looks at it. Stops. Doesn’t take it or say anything, just lights up a joint. I put the charm back in my pocket.
We’ve done this before, smoked in the park when it’s just the two of us. I don’t think any more of it than he does. Marijuana can enhance your senses, especially when the sensations are created by Mother Nature. It can dull other senses, too, like being clued in to what your dogs are doing. Fred takes a hit then passes the joint to me. I fill my lungs until even my nostrils flair, then pass it back.
I pay only casual attention to Gracie with her nose high in the air and prancing left then right. All the other dogs start to mimic Gracie. She growls deep-throated and glances at me a few times. But Fred hands me the joint and I’m easily distracted. Fred starts to say something, but, just like that, Gracie bolts and the other three dogs follow her into the woods and out of sight.
Fred calls, ‘Sadie, Taco! Here!’
I give the joint back to Fred, ‘I’m done.’
We hear my dogs’ cowbells and their growling and barking but we can’t see them through the underbrush. Suddenly, a deer bolts from the woods and gallops past us, zigging and zagging across the soccer field. It goes over the spectator berm and out of sight. We both call our dogs, but another deer comes running out next. Short and lanky and still with its spots, it can’t run nearly as fast as its mother. It follows her scent over the berm. Fred’s Chihuahua comes out chasing the fawn. It’s hysterical and I start laughing, but Fred calls her off, ‘Taco! Here!’
We hear growling and snarling in the distance. Fred says, ‘She probably had two fawns.’
Humor gone, I say, ‘Had being the operative word!’ We fast-track it into the woods.
I don’t have much sympathy for baby deer – they just grow up to become car magnets – but I don’t like my dogs killing them. I say, ‘I just hope it isn’t another skunk, or worse; a porcupine.’
Fred puts Taco inside his jacket and we follow a deer-worn path through the woods and underbrush calling for our dogs.
It’s some minutes and we’re at least fifty to sixty yards deep before we see them walking out of the swamp with their tails tucked and ears down. Joker’s legs and underbelly are as black as Gracie’s natural coat, but there is no blood around her mouth. Sadie, tan, and tall as Gracie, isn’t nearly as bad. Gracie, you can’t tell at all without your nose.
Fred looks over Sadie and says, ‘Fawn maybe got away.’
We look and listen but do not see or hear anything dying or crying. I say, ‘Let’s get these girls in the lake before this shit turns crusty.’ We head for the L-shaped lake-with-no-name in the northeastern corner of the park. It’s about a half mile from here, as the crow flies. We finish the joint on the way.
Sadie and Gracie are already in the lake when we get there, but Joker is just standing on the shore. She was swept away in the river when she was a puppy and has never trusted deep water since. Taco walks along with us.
On this side of the lake, there is only the old public launch; a cinderblock-lattice slope of about twenty-degrees that these days disappears under mature lily pads. I take off my sneakers and socks and strip to my boxers. It looks like I picked the wrong day to wear my pink and green polka dots when I hear Fred laugh and say, ‘Your wife names your butt!’
Three homes on the far shore have a clear-if-distant view of me in my Honey Buns but I don’t care. I’ve done this twice before when I had to de-skunk Joker and I can now strip faster than a streaker. I put my sneakers back on.
I pick up the stinky, white dog and point her feet to the sky to keep most of the muck off me. I carry thirty-eight pounds of snub-nose protest wiggling and twisting into the water. Fred laughs and encourages the dog, ‘Go Joker! Go! You can do it!’ The launch is slimy and I lose my footing, slip and fall on my ass, but manage to keep a grip on Joker’s collar. With her rear feet on the cinderblocks, she calms down and starts licking my face. Her breath doesn’t stink, and that’s a good sign, too. I use one of my socks to scrub off as much swamp as I can. Thankfully, I find no bite marks or broken skin wounds on either Joker or Gracie, but Fred says that only confirms his second-fawn theory when I tell him that Sadie is clear of any marks, too.
Fred points to the sky over the swampy area. ‘Look.’
I turn to see two vultures circling barely tree-high. ‘Probably turkey buzzards,’ I say, and automatically scan the skies for crows. Then it dawns on me – vultures only eat carrion!
Fred says, ‘If they’re in the air, the fawn ain’t dead yet.’
Back in the parking lot, and with my shirt and pants back on, I dry off my dogs. Fred lets his dogs just jump right into his pickup’s cab. He says, ‘Fawn probably got stuck in the swamp,’ and rushes off.
I scan the skies again. Still no crows, but now there are three buzzards over the swamp and I realize Fred is probably right; fawn is probably laying on some slope, struggling between slippery logs where it can’t get traction to free itself. Digging its own grave. Maybe it broke a leg. Either way, it will soon die of exhaustion.
And that’s all my dogs’ fault!
This is that crow’s doing, somehow, I know it! And it doesn’t make me feel good at all.
Instead of heading straight home, I cross over the car bridge and drive past the soccer fields. Then out of that parking lot and onto the trail we walked earlier until I get the van as close as possible to the swamp. When I come around the last corner, I see Fred’s truck. Taco perks up in the back window, but Sadie must be with Fred.
I park behind the pickup, put Gracie on a short leash and tell both dogs, ‘Go find the fawn! Find Sadie!’
As we head into the woods, I call, ‘Fred!’ But before he responds, I hear three loud, harsh caws. I look up, see no crow, but hear it call again, angrily drawing out each caw. I up my middle finger to the sky.
End, Part Four.