For a stretch of about a hundred meters, down Double Bluff Road, I like to drive like a crazy person might. I’m careful. I check to see if anyone’s about, but then I make an effort to slow the car and steer all over the road as much as I can before I get to the end of the section.
The audience for these shenanigans is made up of serious looking, black suited, pointy faced corvids. Perched on low-hanging power wires, they look like bobber weights deepening the scallop between worn T-poles. But they are observant and focused in their beady-eyed attention, watching my progress carefully. Which nuts my tires smash is a matter of significance to this crowd, for they have placed them with apparent forethought.
I love running this corridor of crows. Since I daily travel this piece of road, I began to notice a pattern in late summer. As I’d round the corner coming from work in mid-afternoon, the road ahead was crowded with birds. Crows were stalking about on the blacktop, conversing and socializing. More crows lined the wires at odd intervals and still others hunkered on fence rails in bunches.
The whole scene had a casual air and as I approached, no one hurried to get out of the way. They had my speed and their movements expertly timed to coincide and insure safety. The birds moved just far enough toward the verge to allow my passage. Nobody ruffled a feather or hustled in the least.
I was so busy watching the birds and their progress or lack of same and driving near the middle thinking to miss them all, that I failed to grasp exactly what they were doing on the road in the first place. At the corner stop where Double Bluff crosses the main road, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the entire crew reassembled on the paving. Strange. Bent to paying attention to traffic and moving into it, I let go of the mystery.
It only took a few passes for me to understand the routine and that the birds were hardly interested in what I understood. They could and would use me and my vehicle whether or not I was a willing participant.
Because I wasn’t always thinking about crows when I left work, I regularly was caught unawares as I turned the corner: “oh yeah, the crows”. By then the first hundred meters were gone and I was on them, taking care in how I drove. But now I slowed considerably and noticed the filberts. I laughed. I laughed outloud and louder, then chuckled, shook my head and muttered “clever rascals”.
It all came together as I realized Sheriff Hawley’s filbert grove was behind the fence on the south side of the road. His failed walnut grove (only three trees remained) grew just east of the filberts. All four strands of barbed wire fencing meant to keep out deer were perfect bleachers for crows in cheap seats. Overhead wires were for swoopers, and serious nutters kept to the grassy shoulders.
Hunched schemers placed their nuts carefully as casino bettors and watched for cars to smash them. They left their booty unguarded as little time as possible so as to give swoopers and poachers no quarter. In this game, timing is everything, including your life. And it gives new meaning to “keep a sharp eye out”.