Ravens & Crows

Crows & House Mountain Lexington VA 
  (Photo by Richard Moore-taken in the Lexington VA area)

A few weeks ago, Mike McClain told me I should check out a new group he recently heard-Dehlia Low. So I gave them a Google-and within 10 minutes I was Dehlia Low's newest groupie.

The band has been together since 2007-it originated in Asheville NC and consists of:

  • Anya Hinkle-vocals/fiddle
  • Stacy Claude-vocals/guitar
  • Aaron Ballance-dobro
  • Bryan Clendenin-mandolin/vocals
  • Greg Stiglets-bass/vocals

Dehlia Low photo 

Dehlia Low has a typical bluegrass/oldtime feel-with fantastic harmonies-and outstanding instrumental breaks in their music-but they bring a new feel along with the old. Maybe the newness happens naturally because the band performs mostly original songs.

As I browsed around their website I was intrigued by the band's latest cd-Ravens & Crows. With The Week of the Crow looming closer-I got to talk with songwriter Anya Hinkle about the title cut from the cd-Ravens & Crows.

Anya told me she grew up in Blacksburg VA-playing fiddle and singing in church. Anya and her husband moved to Asheville NC for the energetic music scene the area offers. I was so impressed with Anya's songwriting I assumed she'd been writing since she was a child-not so. Anya started writing songs soon after the band-Dehlia Low was formed. Once she told me that I was even more impressed. Check out the lyrics for Ravens and Crows:

Ravens and Crows(A. Hinkle)

When I went to show my color I carried a heavy load And when I cried to my mother She said it’s all ravens and crows Baby, it’s all just ravens and crows

When I saw that ringing hammer Well it did not shine like gold Whether it’s coal, rock or steel it doesn’t matter Cause it’s all ravens and crows Hey, hey it’s all just ravens and crows

Now the sands from the storms are uniting At the angle of repose Them boys put down their guns and quit fighting Cause it’s all ravens and crows Brother it’s all just ravens and crows

Well it’s a red, red wine in the pulpit Corn whiskey when I’m low Well it’s just water when I’m hard up lord And it’s all ravens and crows Darlin’ it’s all just ravens and crows

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The more I listened to the song-the more meaningful it became to me. It could be because I'm raising 2 teenage daughters who are dramatic-or maybe it was because crows had been on my mind so often in recent weeks-but the more I heard the song-the more I found myself saying "Yep its all just ravens and crows."

When I asked Anya to tell me how she wrote the song-I just knew she would tell me it was based on an old saying her Mother used. It turns out-the line "it's all just ravens and crows" popped into Anya's head as she drove between her job in Highlands NC and her home in Asheville. After she had the phrase-the rest of the lines were worked out until it all flowed into a song. Anya said she was often asked about the meaning of the song and she found it more interesting to find out what the song meant to the individual listener. Many folks-like me had assumed it meant something like "its just dust in the wind".

I could gush about how much I enjoy Dehlia Low's music all day-and believe me I have to anyone who'd listen in the last few weeks. The band was nice enough to donate a cd for me to giveaway during my Week of the Crow so one of you could get a chance to hear their tunes too. Interested in winning it?

To enter the giveaway:

  • Jump over to their website-go here to find their music page
  • Listen to the player at the top of the page
  • See which song you like the best (my favorite is the last one)
  • Come back here and leave me a comment telling me the name of the song you like best
  • The giveaway closes Wednesday-Oct-5th

Dehlia Low's music speaks to me. I love that a Blind Pig reader cared enough to mention them to me. I love that their music makes my heart-head-and feet jump. I love that Anya Hinkle wrote a song about crows-and the band decided to make it the title cut of their latest cd. I love that its a small world-and my 2nd favorite Contra Dance Caller who lives right here in Brasstown happens to have been Anya Hinkle's first playmate. I love that over the last few weeks Dehlia Low has been the soundtrack of my life as I drove to and fro during an especially exciting time for me and the Blind Pig.

Tipper

Carved crows Large Web view 
p.s. Don't you love these carved crows? If you're interested in buying one-contact Art Larsen at this email address: perrycountylass@aol.com 

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - Refuge

Crow folklore 
This was one of my favorite photos I took of crows-not that its anything special-but I just like the look of them flying as the skies are changing from late summer to fall of the year.

A week or so ago I told you at one point in my life clogging was my refuge. Today's crow story was written by Misty Taylor-seems once upon a time crows were her refuge.

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Refuge by Misty Taylor

There was a time that my world was upside down. During that time, I was offered a respite care in Brasstown, NC. It was a special, quite place where everything appeared to be exactly as it should.

Outside my friends house was a Cherry tree overflowing with fruit. It was such a pleasure to see the Crows devour the cherries. The contrast of their large, inky bodies against the green and red was breathtaking. In their pursuit of nourishment, I was nourished too. Because they shared with me, I had the strength to face the battles that lay ahead.

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If you jump over here-you can see a mixed media painting Misty did in honor of her helping crows. The painting has long been sold-but if you like it-maybe you could convince Misty to do another one.

One last crow post coming up for tomorrow. As I wrap up our Week of the Crow-there'll be a giveaway-so make sure you drop back by.

Tipper

p.s. And if you make it to the JCCFS Fall Festival-make sure you say HELLO to me!! You can go here to see the schedule of events: Fall Festival Schedule.

Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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Uncle Joe's Pet Crow

Pet crow 
Today's Crow Story was written by Kenneth Roper

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Uncle Joe's Pet Crow

When I was just a young boy of about 10 or 11, along with a 2nd cousin, I used to ride my new bicycle on an old paved road close to my house. One of my older brothers had moved out and was working in the big city and he bought me a Columbia bike. Boy that thing was fast, but it took me a few days and lots of scrapes to master the ride.

The highway department had made a better road along about '55 and left an old portion that was hardly used. Not many folks owned a car then, including us, so that made a great ¼ mile of sheer joy for our pleasure rides.

About halfway down this road was a little trail leading across a wooden bridge to my great uncle's house. His name was Uncle Joe Matheson and he lived by himself, mostly except for his pet Crow. So when we were riding by and saw him in the yard or on his porch we'd hollar at him and he'd usually invite us over. If you met him walking beside the road you had to stay clear of his cane. We all had learned that lesson, cause he was a bit ornery anyway, being in his late 80's.

My mama and daddy didn't want me around him much cause they knew he drank and made his own whisky and to beat it all he taught his pet crow to drink too, and to do tricks.

One day in particular we were riding by and saw Uncle Joe sitting on the porch. One of us hollared at him and he motioned us over. Well, to 11 year old boys he didn't seem so crazy, so here we went, down the trail and across the footlog bridge up to his place. We got off our bikes and sat on the edge of the porch in case we needed to run. But Uncle Joe treated us really nice and asked us if we'd like to see his pet crow. We nodded with excitement!

Uncle Joe got up and opened the screen door and went inside. He came back out carrying a saucer and a jug of his corn whisky. He poured the saucer nearly half full and went back inside. When the door opened again he started muttering in a low voice and I saw his pet come out from under a chair,walk through the doorway, and start drinking that stuff. Lordy, that stuff was strong, you could smell it several feet away. After the crow had drunk enough, those little beady eyes just froze for a couple of minutes, then he waddled toward the end of the porch and jumped. He sailed a few feet then started climbing almost straight up till he got 150 feet or more. And if I hadn't seen this with my own eyes I wouldn't tell it. That ole crow folded his wings and here he come, like a black rock a falling from the sky. When he got within 20 feet from the ground he opened his wings and sailed down thru the valley. We thought that was awesome!

Uncle Joe had a one gallon paint bucket on the porch and he told us he never had to buy any clothes pins. The crow combed the neighborhood and anything left unguarded that he could carry went in that bucket. We looked in the bucket and saw a pocket knife, some jewelry and a bunch of clothes pins too.

A few weeks later we were riding by and had another friend with us. We wanted to show him what my uncle had at his house. When we got to the house, Uncle Joe was near his corn field with his shovel. We asked him if we could see the crow do some tricks. Old Joe looked up at us and said “Sorry, boys no more tricks. He forgot to open his wings this morning.”

Earlier this past week, I met an 83 year old guy who knew my uncle Joe many years ago and he told me many interesting things but no one ever knew how he was able to tame a crow.

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Kenneth's story was one of my inspirations for The Week of the Crow. When I asked him if he would write it out for me, he hesitated a little-telling me he wasn't a writer. I think he did a fine job don't you? I'm glad he wrote it down for us-but I'm even happier he put the story on paper for his daughters. Kenneth had never shared the crow story with them-but now he has-and even better he's ensured future generations of his family will know it as well.

There's still more crow to go-so drop back by tomorrow.

Tipper

p.s. If you make it to the JCCFS Fall Festival this weekend-make sure you say HELLO to me!! You can go here to see the schedule of events: Fall Festival Schedule.

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - Old Jim The Pet Crow

My life in appalachia - Pet Crows 
Crows in flight-apparently the only way I can get a photo of them.

Today's Crow Story was written by Charles Fletcher.

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I had a pet crow when I was about ten years old. I found the crow under a big pine tree hollering his head off. There were about ten crows trying to rescue him. The baby had fallen from its nest during a wind storm.

It was a little risky getting him with all the big crows nose diving me. Just the same I got him to safety. I took him home and named him Jim.

He was so small I had to feed him by dropping food in his mouth for a few days. But crows are smart and he quickly learned how to feed himself.

I had to show Old Jim off to my Grandpa Pressley so off to his house I went. Grandpa told me he had a pet crow when he was a young boy too. He told me if I split Jim's tongue he could talk. I never did this, but I did clip the feathers off one of his wings. This kept him from flying. He would attempt to fly, but was off balance and couldn't get airborne.

It wasnt' long before my Mother began complaining about loosing things. It was always something shinny like small spoons or thimbles from her sewing basket. It seemed Old Jim loved shinny things.

Jim was soon as large as all the other crows that came by trying to get him to fly away with them. I quit trimming his wings and one day he flew up and joined the flock. For a few days he would come visit me when he was hungry and wanted a handout. Finally the day came, when Old Jim joined his friends and never returned to me again.

My Mother was  house cleaning when she solved the mystery of the missing items from around the house. Old Jim had a secret corner in the closet where he hid his loot.

I never had another pet crow but enjoyed Old Jim. He was a very smart cookie.

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Hope you enjoyed Charles's memories as much as I did!

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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Crows On The Ridge

Crows on the ridge 
From the minute I hatched the idea for The Week Of the Crow-I started trying to get photos of the crows that fly about my mountain holler and the road that leads to it. You've already seen a few of them-so you'll believe me when I say-not one good picture have I gotten. It's like it was a game-they knew the minute I turned my camera in their direction and immediately took off for distant lands only to circle back when I was facing the other way.

In the back of my mind-I knew I had access to a secret weapon for getting the clever crows to come closer. Finally last weekend I decided it was time to call my brother Steve.

Steve has a crow calling machine. Its really just a tape deck with a large speaker and tapes filled with crow sounds. When I asked to borrow the caller-Steve said "You can borrow it-but you'll probably have to go somewhere down the road to get them to come to you, the ones around here have about figured it out." I wasn't interested in going down the road-I wanted to go behind the house. But I went and got the caller anyway.

As soon as I got home with it The Deer Hunter said "You know you won't get any crows to come to you around here don't you? Why don't you go over to Jackie's house. Don't she have a lot of fields around her place?" I didn't like his remark any better than I did Steve's.

A few hours later I decided if I was going to try the caller it was now or never. I decided I was going up on my ridge-you know the one I dragged Chitter and Chatter up when they were just little chubby munchkins.

Before I left the house, The Deer Hunter told me I'd never get them to come if I didn't wear camouflage. Like I have camouflage. I did wear one of his shirts-and Steve had left some sort of camo netting in the caller so I wrapped that around my head.

Steve also warned me the caller was heavy and as I pulled myself up the slick slope of pine needles I thought "he sure was right about the weight and I'm sure he was right about me not being able to call any crows too."

Pine beetle diseased tree 
The Pine Beetles have reeked havoc on the pines that grow on the ridges around our house. Each time I venture out in the woods I find another dead one has been brought down by a recent wind.

Once I reached the top of the ridge I saw the top of a pine had come down, leaving a jagged snag sticking up in the sky. I figured if any crows did come-maybe they'd land on the snag. I set the caller off to the side of the snag and settled down near the top portion of the pine that had come down.

I must admit as I sat there with the caller making all sorts of racket I felt pretty silly. Mostly I was mad at myself, for waiting till the last minute to try and get some good photos for The Week Of The Crow.

I had been sitting there stewing a good 15 minutes when I begin to hear something. About the time I heard it-I begin to see the crows-they were EVERYWHERE! It was like a whole tribe of crows had come to investigate what I was doing; they just kept speeding over the trees like clouds moving in a thunderstorm; and a few even darted down to where I was like lightning bolts coming to ground but gone before you know it.

I got so shook up and excited that I totally forgot about my camera and I didn't even realize I had laid down on the ground-completely on my back-till I remembered it.

As I laid there on my back I felt like I was in an old fairy tale-you know something like Tipper and the Crows-where Tipper finds herself in dire straits for not being a good little girl and then in the end a friendly murder of crows help her come out the other side of her woes victorious in the end.

I still didn't get any good photos-but I did get a good video. I only wish you could have experienced it first hand like I did. Maybe you can pretend you're lying on a high mountain ridge with leaves and sticks poking your skin while pine needles tickle your ears. (don't forget to stop the player in the top right of this page before you start the video)

So how did you like it? It was so very neat-I'm still excited about it! Of course I walked home feeling so proud of myself-I couldn't wait to brag to Steve and The Deer Hunter that I got the crows to come. The Deer Hunter was waiting for me on the back deck-I didn't have to tell him-he'd been watching the crows boil through the sky over the ridge.

I told The Deer Hunter the Crows didn't recognize me-that's why I was successful. He laughed at me. I'm convinced they come because they knew I wasn't Steve or maybe they just knew I needed them.

Tipper

p.s. Richard Moore left a link on yesterday's post about crows being able to recognize human faces-go here to read it. And be sure to drop back by tomorrow for more crow!

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Crow Family

My life in appalachia - Crow Families
The way Crows interact with each other fascinates me. They have a tight family unit-and within that unit each Crow has a job to do.

One of the Crows from the unit acts as a guard or sentry-watching the perimeter while the rest of the family eats. If need be-the guard sends out a warning call to the rest of the family. I don't know if it's true-but someone told me-if the guard doesn't do his duty-the rest of the crows gang up on him and take him out of the family unit-if you know what I mean.

Pap says when Crows raise their young-they meet in large groups to teach the young birds how to fly-and other things. He said if you ever get a chance to see or hear this process-it is amazing.

One time my Uncle Henry was deerhunting-as he sat in his stand, he watched a group of Crows perform a very peculiar routine. He said it was the oddest thing he had ever seen-the Crows almost seemed to be performing a military formation-flying in and out-landing all in a row-turning one at a time before taking off for the next maneuver.

Even though Crows are my favorite bird-I've never really seen them do much of anything except fly through the pastures-and eat roadkill on the road where I live...until this past weekend. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about my encounter with a murder of Crows.

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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A Craziness Of Crows

 Murder of crows

A CRAZINESS OF CROWS 

Written by Jim Casada (Copyright 2011)

When Tipper told me she planned a series of blogs on crows and asked if I might be interested in contributing, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” Crows and their close brethren, ravens, have always fascinated me. In the seventh grade, under the tutelage of a masterful teacher, Mrs. Mildred Wood, who could absolutely make Edgar Allen Poe come alive, I memorized “The Raven.” Then there was Grandpa Joe, who detested “those thievin’ scoundrels.”  That was back when crows were notorious for raiding corn crops and gardens rather than their modern-day preferences for gourmet road kill. 

Older readers will almost certainly recall a time when crows were considered worrisome indeed for farmers and were, along with owls and hawks, shot or at least shot at, on sight. Such doin’s are mostly illegal today, although many states do have a crow hunting season. During my boyhood though, you had to answer to adults in no uncertain fashion if you had a gun in hand and failed to shoot (or at least shoot at) crows and raptors if they were within range. Every hawk was a “chicken hawk,” owls were just generally considered no good, and crows were deemed the worst of the avian lot.

Once I learned about collective nouns, one of my two favorites immediately became a “murder of crows” (or ravens). As an aside, my other favorite, and Lord a-mercy is it apt in today’s political climate, is a “congress of baboons.” While crows may not actually “murder” with regularity, they will rob eggs from the nests of songbirds and ground-nesting game birds such as quail, grouse, and even turkeys. Although they have to be given full marks for their intelligence, crows are also loud-mouthed bullies. Anyone who has spent much time outdoors has seen them “deviling” other birds, notably hawks and owls, and once one of these black rascals starts fussing it seems every crow for miles around wants to get in on the harassment.

Crows love to devil turkeys, especially gobblers, during the mating season. Maybe that’s because the call of a crow will often make a wild turkey gobble, but more likely it’s just pure meanness. Whatever the cause, years ago I had experience with these black boogers which momentarily had me believing a hunter’s time warp had somehow placed me squarely in the middle of Alfred Hitchcock’s frightening terrifying thriller, “The Birds.”

While hunting turkeys in the Low Country of South Carolina, I struck a bird (that’s turkey hunter talk for getting one to respond to my calling). The lovesick old gobbler starting working my way on slow-paced turkey time, no doubt wondering why that seductive hen heard (my calling) wasn’t coming to him like she was supposed to do. After he gobbled three or four times, the tom turkey got the attention of crows. The closer to me he got and the more he gobbled, the bigger ruckus the crows raised. They were wound up tight as an eight-day clock, and so was the old tom. His normal wariness forgotten, that longbeard was convinced that my plaintive calling held promise of a romantic rendezvous of woodland delight.

The turkey with his one-track mind set on love pretty well ignored the crows, never mind the fact that they were dive bombing him, making enough noise to rival a whole host of tone-deaf singers auditioning for the Tower of Babel Oratorio Chorus, and darting in and out of the open pine forest like a band of black banshees. Old tom turkey may have paid no heed, but I sure did. Under the best of circumstances I lose all semblance of calm as a turkey nears shooting range, and for those of you who don’t hunt them, let me assure you that a big tom strutting through the spring woods looks like a runaway black Volkswagen beetle with the doors open. When he gobbles, the earth shakes, or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, something shakes.

This time, though, it was worse. I could see the turkey long before he came within gun range, and the cacophony produced by well over a hundred crows was like date night in the insane asylum.

Still, the gobbler came on steadily; somehow I didn’t become a complete basket of nerves, and when the majestic lord of the big woods was within 35 yards I squeezed the trigger. The longbeard began flopping in a way which will be familiar to anyone who has ever chopped off a chicken’s head (that’s likely lots of Blind Pig folks), and I excitedly raced from my set-up spot to lay hold of my trophy. 

What I hadn’t counted on was the reaction of the crows. My shotgun blast did not spook them in any way. In fact, when the turkey began to flop, they went berserk. Evidently they somehow thought they were responsible for the turkey’s death. Worse still, they began to dive bomb me as well, flying within inches of my head. Only when I jerked off my camouflage headnet and cap and began waving my arms and yelling did the raging rapscallions finally decide they had urgent business elsewhere. That experience, while not a murder of crows, certainly must be reckoned one to justify the title of this tale. It was a craziness of crows, and honesty forces me to admit that for a brief time sheer, abject, almost wet-your-britches fear was a close companion of mine.

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I hope you enjoyed Jim's story as much as I did!-Jim Casada is a full-time freelance writer who has written, edited, or contributed to close to 100 books. His articles have appeared in most of the major regional and national hunting magazines. He is Editor at Large for Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine. He considers this the strangest of all his experiences in the sport. You can learn more about Jim or sign up to get his free monthly e-newsletter at www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.

Drop back by tomorrow for more crow as The Week of the Crow continues.

Tipper

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Week Of The Crow

Crow 
Today's post begins my Week Of The Crow Series. The photo above was submitted by Mamabug-photographer extraordinaire. Mamabug takes fantastic photos of all sorts of things-be sure to jump over to her site and look around-its a true feast for the eyes.

A few interesting tidbits about my favorite bird the crow:

  • Crows can be found throughout the world-just about everywhere except Antarctica
  • Since crows are scavengers and predators-they eat just about anything-finding road kill especially tasty
  • Crows have very interesting and complex family units
  • A large group of crows is called a Murder of Crows

After reading all that-kinda makes me wonder why I like crows-but I do. Be sure and drop back by tomorrow for a great crow story.

Tipper

p.s. THANK YOU to all the folks who came out to see the Blind Pig Gang yesterday at the WCU Heritage Day! You made us feel like Rock Stars-and I so enjoyed talking to each of you-some of you for the very first time-but hopefully not the last!

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