Raven Walking or Stalking?
I swear I was being stalked by a raven today. I saw him sitting atop the telephone pole at the end of our road as I headed out for a walk. He stared down at me, completely silent, until I got near the pole, then let out a long, loud “gorrrrokk,” and took off. But he didn’t leave – he just flew a few poles ahead and almost seemed to wait until I caught up. Then he’d look down, grok at me again and head off to the next pole.
For a stretch of the road, he hung out in the scrub pines at eye level to me, hopping from branch to branch along side me until we hit the paved road. I was distracted, listening to an audiobook and watching for cars but I couldn’t help noticing that he never got too far from me. The way he’d sort of look at me out of one eye made me think of Edgar Allen Poe. Kinda creepy.
As we came up to the first house on the road, he swooped up to the top of a high power pole by a blue fenced yard and started grokking like crazy, as if he wanted me to stop. I stood there staring up at him when I noticed a guy in a black felt cowboy hat, Carhartt work pants and a carpenter’s apron heading towards me.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think that raven is following me,” I said to him. “Do they do that?”
“Him?” the guy said, “He’s been around here for days. Come on over here, I’ll show you why.”
He walked up to the blue fence and waited for me to get right up next to him. I had to stand on tippy toes to see over. I looked down.
“No, not there,” he said, “Look up. See that old storage shed over there? That’s what he’s after.”
I squinted. I could see a faint outline of a fur tail.
“I found a dead fox on the side of the highway a couple weeks ago, so I brought it back and threw it up on the roof for the ravens,” he said. “They’ll eat ’em. That’s how you attract them. This one, though, I think he’s a juvie, because he’s alone and because he’s not sure what to do. He swoops down like he’s going to pick at it, but he doesn’t quite know if he should. So he keeps flying in circles.”
I looked at him again. He seemed like a nice, normal guy, suntanned from working out doors, well-enough dressed…. but throwing roadkill on your roof?
“How’d you learn that trick? I asked.
“I knew a guy once, that’s how he tamed them. He had a pet raven,” he said. He went on, “We were sitting at on my porch over there having coffee and that raven perched on the back of my chair, looking for food. I dug in my pocket for something but came out empty-handed. That raven hopped down my arm, just waiting for a snack. When he saw I came up empty, he bit me. Hard.”
“What did you do?” I asked, “Push him off?”
“Nahhh, I asked the guy, ‘what does he eat?’ I thought I’d go get him something from the house.”
“‘Tomatoes. He likes tomatoes,’ the guy said. I had some growing in that corner of the lot over there so I picked one and the bird ate it right out of my hand. He took a big peck at it and squirted me all over the face. I looked at the guy. He shrugged and said, ‘He doesn’t really like the whole tomato, he just likes the seeds.'”
“But get this,” my new friend, whose name I had learned by now was George, said, “My friend got up to leave. The raven looked up as if to follow him, but he loved those tomato seeds so much that he didn’t want to leave. He jumped down and started burying a few of them by this fence post we’re standing by. My friend kept walking. The raven would peck the dirt, look up at me and off towards the guy walking away, and start pecking the dirt again. Finally, he couldn’t stand it. He dropped the seeds and took off like a bat out of hell after the guy. He was bonded to him.”
“Do you think this raven here will ever eat that fox carcass?” I asked. “How long has it been up there?”
“Oh, about two weeks,” George said, “I should probably climb up there and get it down, it’s going to start stinking.”
Nahhhh. We’re way past the stink stage now.