"I have asked them all, and no one seems to have the slightest idea."
Originally published on LinkedIn — October 25, 2020
Most of the crows were still perched in the trees on the southern end of Round Mountain, where they had roosted the night before. Dawn was breaking, the sun would soon rise, and they were starting to stir. Only a few scouts had taken flight to get a jump on the day’s activities, doing what crows do. Most days are routine, but a drama would soon unfold that crows live for, a drama that gives their lives meaning far above mere survival.
Cheyenne, a young crow, born only this spring, sat close to his mother, Cha Cha. Cheyenne was grown and independent of her, but still stayed close. He was still young enough to not take the daily activities for granted. Everyday still seemed like an adventure for him. But, it was nice to be with mom.
Oliver, a wise, old owl, sat on top of a fence post quietly looking around at the lovely meadow filled with fall wildflowers. Looking at the eastern sky he knew it was about time for him to be off to his den tree where he would spend the day sleeping. Oliver had a good life at Round Mountain. He kept to himself mostly, and minded his own business. The other critters paid him little mind. He didn’t bother them and they left him alone. All the critters considered him wise, and would turn to him for council from time to time. Sometimes he would would advise them, but often would not.
This only made Oliver seem the wiser to the critters of Round Mountain. Thelma, the undisputed matriarch, and enforcer of the Round Mountain Critter Code of Conduct, and chair of the Round Mountain Critter Council, was second only to Mr. Charles. When Mr. Charles was gone Thelma would occasionally be seen meeting with Oliver. There seemed to be mutual respect between them.
But the peace Oliver enjoyed as he sat there was about to be shattered, and he knew it the moment he saw Comet, the leader of the crow clan. Oliver knew he had waited to long to retire to his den this morning. Comet had seen him and had sounded the crow’s alarm. Chaos would ensue, and Oliver just shook his head, and prepared for what was coming.
The air suddenly exploded in a blaring, ear splitting din of “caws” as the ominous storm of crows, led by Comet, came out of the woods. The caws were not normal, but filled with hatred and rage. Little Cheyenne stayed close to his mother, confused by the mindless, raucous sounds, and frenzied attack of his family. The crows dived down at the Oliver repeatedly until they were all exhausted. Though having no idea what this was all about, Cheyenne had joined in, and made his own “dive bombing” runs at the owl.
The crows retreated back into the woods, and the owl made his way to his den. Cheyenne sat on a limb beside Cha Cha, gasping for breath. He was confused by what just happened, and turned to his mother.
“Momma, why did we get so upset at the owl sitting on the fence post?”
“We’re crows. We hate owls,” replied Cha Cha.
“But why?” Cheyenne asked.
Cha Cha seemed a mite annoyed, but responded, “I don’t know. We just do. Crows just hate owls, that’s all. Maybe you should ask Comet, your grandfather.”
Cheyenne purposed to do just that. He wanted to know. After the crows had settled down, and recovered their strength, he flew over to the branch where Comet sat, still feeling the anger engendered by what had just transpired.
Cheyenne asked, “Grandpa Comet, why do we hate owls?”
Comet was nonplussed by the question, and spoke with a harsh tone to his grandson. “You’re a crow, and you ask me a stupid question like that?”
Cheyenne pressed on, to the annoyance of Comet, and he quickly lost his patience with his grandson.
“I don’t know, dang it, we just do. We’re crows. If you’re a crow you hate owls. That’s just the way it is. Now, enough of your witless questions.”
Cheyenne flew back to another branch, this time away from his mother. He wanted to think. He wanted an answer to his question, and, “We just do,” was not an answer, just a statement of fact. He realized he had no reason to hate the owls. He was just supposed to hate them because everybody else did. But, why? There must be a reason. He determined to find the answer once and for all. Somebody ought to know.
He went to all his aunts and uncles, and enquired of them. The response was the same with all of them. “I don’t know. We’re crows, and we hate owls. That’s just the way it is.”
The young crow realized that no one in his family would be a source for solving the mystery. Weeks past as he pondered on how he might find the answer to the mystery. He didn’t know where to turn.
Then one day the crows caught Oliver out in the open again, and the crows went wild with hate and anger. But, as they all dived at him repeatedly, Cheyenne held back. He flew in circles as the others attacked, but only watched and did not participate. He just didn’t feel he had any reason to hate Oliver. It fact, if hatred made crows act so irrationally he wanted no part of it. He didn’t want to hate anybody.
Several months later Cheyenne was out alone. He took note of a large white oak, and settled on a limb to rest a spell. He noticed a den nearby in the trunk of the tree. His eyes caught movement. Momentarily Oliver, the owl, stuck his head out just far enough to look around. Their eyes met. Cheyenne started to fly away, but something that could only be called a “eureka moment” stopped him cold. He thought, “Maybe if I’m nice to him I can ask him why crows hate owls. It couldn’t hurt.”
Oliver was calm, and unperturbed as he looked at Cheyenne closely.
He spoke matter-of-factly, “You’re the young crow that didn’t dive down on me when the rest of your family did”
The young crow nodded, indicating that this was true.
Oliver was then silent, closely watching the young crow. It had the effect of causing Cheyenne to blurt out his question.
“Mr. Oliver, do you know why crows hate owls?”
Oliver decided to answer the question with the question.
“Why don’t you ask your family?”
Cheyenne responded, “I have asked them all, and no one seems to have the slightest idea. I’m hoping maybe you know, since we crows are so mean to you.”
Oliver smiled and asked the young crow to come closer.
“Yes, the story has been handed down to me through countless generations. Unfortunately, the same is not true with you crows. If you agree listen carefully, without interruption, I’ll answer your question.”
Oliver began to speak of a time many, many years ago when owls and crows liked each other. It was a time the Egyptians called Sep Tepi, which means First Time. The Greeks called it the Golden Age. It was in a time before a great flood, when animals, large beyond belief roamed about here at Round Mountain; mammoths, huge bear and beaver, gigantic saber tooth cats to name just a few. It was about 12,000 years ago.
Cheyenne listened carefully.
Oliver told how the leader of the crows, and the leader of the owls had been great friends at this time. The leader of the crows was named Conan, and the leader of the owls, Ollie. One day Conan came to Ollie, complimented him on his well known wisdom, and asked him to give advice on how he and his crow family could become wise.
“Speak less, and listen more,” was Ollie’s reply.
Conan thought about this for a moment, and his temper flared. He considered this to be an insult, and hatred boiled over in his heart. He flew away without another word, rejoined his crow flock, and told them of the slanderous offense. He told them that Ollie said crows are loud mouthed, obnoxious birds who should learn to shut up and listen. He called for avenging this shame. The crows all flew to Ollie’s den , caught him out on a limb, and began to dive on him. From then on each generation taught next generation to hate owls. After a while nobody remembered why.
Cheyenne finally spoke. “You mean that crows hate you because of something that happened 12,000 years ago?
“So it would seem,” Oliver answered.
Cheyenne flew back to his flock and told the story he had heard from Oliver. He said emphatically that it was time to let this go. After heated debate the crows began to realize Cheyenne was right, and started feeling foolish. On that day the crows of Round Mountain met with Oliver and all the owls, and peace was made after all this time, much to the approval of all the Round Mountain critters.
The crows even learned the nursery rhyme song that had been forbidden, and laughed at themselves as they sung it to the owls, with great joy.
“A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”
Cheyenne became the leader of the crows, and was revered by all the critters of Round Mountain for his wisdom.