When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm. –Don Heist
The past several years Bruce has leased rights to hunt upland game birds on the Limmeroth Ranch. The ranch is roughly forty-five minutes from our farm, and recently the ranch has come up for sale. This huge multi-parcel ranch has at least five old homesteads on it and as many old barns scattered across its roughly 4000 acres.
Bruce became well acquainted with one of the three owners, because the rancher needed foot surgery, and Bruce did the work. When Bob realized we were restoring our nineteenth century barn and we needed old barn wood for the siding on the new house at Mule Springs, he offered Bruce the wood from an old barn on Limmeroth Ranch. Bruce remembered the barn Bob was thinking of, because Bruce had hiked by it many times with the dogs while they hunted for Hungarian Partridge. For Bob the sale of the ranch is a sad event, so Bob was pleased to see at least one of his barns live on in a new way before a different owner takes over the property.
The barn was once used to feed cattle. It’s falling down now though, and probably wouldn’t last too many more seasons, since one of the main support beams has broken, and the roof is beginning to cave in.
Bob said we could have all the wood from the barn, as long as we provided the labor to take it down, and we left the site clean.
We took our friend Chip Wood and builders, Tim and Laurie Southworth, to see the barn. Each of us liked what we saw. Much of the old wood is in great condition. We could imagine the wood being used for siding and in many more ways for the new house. So, it was decided we would go back the next weekend, with a crew, and tear the old barn down.
While everyone was standing in the lower section of the barn, four American Crow fledglings were disturbed in the loft. Three of the babies flew safely to an outside fence, but one baby did not make it outside. Though I did not see the bird fall, I noticed the baby on the ground and watched it drag itself to a quiet spot against the wall.
The barn is so remote I doubt this crow had ever seen a human, and the young bird did not show any fear when I tried to pick it up. I realized then its problem was not genetic; the bird had a fresh compound leg fracture. Bruce said he could splint the leg, and we might be able to save the bird. Otherwise it would perish shortly, because it could not get away from predators or feed itself. Bruce said, “If the leg heals, you can release him back here and he will rejoin his family.”
It’s easy to confuse an American Crow with a raven, because American Crows are two-thirds the size of a common raven, and when crow comes to mind, for most of us, it is the less easily mistaken smaller bird—the northwestern crow– we envision. The American Crow has a wingspan of three feet; it is a large bird. Young birds often have sapphire colored eyes as this one did.
Craven (half crow half raven), as we eventually came to call him has been with us for over a month, and has had several splints. It is illegal to keep a crow as a pet. It’s still to be determined if he will be able to be released into the wild; it will depend on how well the leg heals. Our intent is to release him, if it is possible.
So, for now, we have the old barn wood for our new house, and an unexpected guest –Craven, an American Crow. Both will feature in future Mule Springs Farm stories.