Sunday, November 11, 2012

Uncle Hubert’s Thanksgiving Day Crow Logic

Hoot’s uncle Hubert suffered a stroke in his early teens that left him with a lifelong limp and a useless left hand always tucked into his trouser pocket.  Hoot remembered that Uncle Hubert drove a column-shift 1954 Ford in 1961 – the year Hoot turned twelve.  This was before the days of power-assisted steering, power brakes, power anything – and watching him execute a braking turn (including a downshift) using only his right hand to operate the steering wheel, turn signal lever, and gearshift lever while working the clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals with only his right foot was like watching a ballet of quick-draw speed and gunslinger purpose, a sight that has stayed with Hoot the past 50-plus years.

Uncle Hubert would come home from Albuquerque for Thanksgiving and they would go crow hunting – Hoot’s father with his .22 carbine and Uncle Hubert with his sawed-off shotgun pistol, Hoot tagging along with his B-B gun.  It was a stretch, no doubt, but ‘taking the boy hunting’ for any kind of critter was the epitome of rural male bonding in the early sixties, and they made a big deal out of it including breakfast at Grandma Theo’s.

Hubert had a crow call and could bring curious birds from two pastures away in close.   Hoot remembered his uncle’s wisdom regarding crows: “Smartest of all birds,” he would say, but curiously, he had no qualms about hunting these smart creatures for the simple pleasure of having something to shoot at.  Crows were a nuisance to farmers, and weekend holiday nuisance hunters were welcome on most farms.  Hoot’s ol’ man and Uncle Hubert were careful to close gates behind them.  Ask permission beforehand.

Hoot remembered crossing a field with Uncle Hubert one Thanksgiving, a flock of crows up in the branches of the tree line ahead, Uncle Hubert called them a sizeable murder of ravens claiming that Edgar Allan Poe would have called them that.  Hoot hid his B-B gun under his coat similar to the way his uncle concealed his shotgun, assumed an exaggerated limp, and walked proudly to the fray.      

“You don’t need to hide your B-B gun,” Uncle Hubert said.  “Crows know the difference between a B-B gun and a real one.”

Hoot kept his not-so-deadly weapon hid anyhow.  Just in case…

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