My Dad & His Pet Crow – Happy Father’s Day

Years ago, I began writing about how my dad was like the circus man P. T. Barnum, and he was almost a carbon copy of Professor Marvel, the guy who told tales and sold snake oil from the back of his gypsy wagon on the Wizard of Oz. Well, it is Father’s Day again and although my dad is no longer here–at least not physically here–he planted seeds inside me that will live for at least as long as I, and I want to tell you about some of those seeds.

My dad would have been perfectly happy to ride from place to place, pulling his carriage of tricks behind him, and even without his gypsy set-up, he was never far from the stage. My dad could tell a tale to a fence post, and the post would jump up and down. My dad always had a story to share, and I inherited that from him. My dad was also a dreamer, and I inherited the capacity to dream from him, too.

When I was a kid, my family would regularly get loaded into our station wagon and we would trek out to some woodsy and woolly spot to gather wild things to eat. We would harvest milkweed, and my folks would cook it like asparagus, and we gathered acorns that my parents ground into flour to bake brown bread. One day, I want to collect the recipes for all of the treats that we harvested from nature, but what I gained most from our outings was a love and an affinity for what is natural.

On one outing, my dad found a baby crow who had lost its mother, and he brought the crow home and cared for him. Dad named the crow Sam, and he taught Sam to talk. Sam was only one of the critters that my dad brought home, and although my mom never loved my dad’s menagerie the way that he did,  she taught Sam a few words, too.

This was back in the 1950’s, and it was before my family had a clothes dryer. Every time that my mom would hang clothes on the line to dry, Sam would swoop down and grab the clothes pins out of her hands, or he would steal an item of clothing off the line. Sam loved the shiny metal that held the clothespins together. When he snagged a pin, my mom would yell: “Stop it, Sam!” And Sam would cackle and repeat what he heard: “Stop it, Sam! Stop it, Sam! Stop it, Sam!”

Sam also loved the little aluminum dishes that the child next girl kept in her sandbox, and he also loved to swoop down and pick up her aluminum pretties and begin to carry them away. The little girl next door learned to say: “Stop it, Sam!” And Sam loved to cackle at her, too. He was a tease, and he would usually drop her little dishes back in her sandbox, but he would jet back into the sky and taunt her by repeating “Stop it, Sam! Stop it, Sam! Stop it, Sam!”

Within a couple of months, Sam became well-known throughout my neighborhood, and I believe that most of the people around town  got a kick out of Sam’s pranks, but the old coot who lived behind my house hated Sam. Truthfully, I think that he hated everything and everyone, but he terminated Sam. One day, Sam ventured into that neighbor’s yard and Bam! Sam was gone.

Raven: Reflecting – Jacki Kellum Graphite Pencil Drawing

Although the old man in my neighborhood shot Sam when I was still a young child, he did not truly kill him. Just like my dad, who also is gone now, Sam still lives in my heart. I recently traveled to Vancouver British Columbia, and I enjoyed watching the giant and glossy back ravens pecking at each other and squabbling over bits of this and that. If it were not for my Dad and for the ways that he taught me to see the magic in the little, I might not have noticed the ravens at all.

My dad taught me to look and to see and to be excited about what I saw. As I have said many times before, my dad was like the Wizard of Oz to me. He taught me to view the world as a wonderland. My dad was a trained cartoonist, and because of his drawing, I also draw and paint. But art is more than merely drawing and painting. It is the way that a person sees the world. My dad was a true artist, and because of the artful way that he lived his life, I am also an artist, too,

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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