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April 15, 2024

Birds of a Feather

By Mel Trent

Once upon a time, there was a bird named Crow. He had a friend named Raven, and the two of them spent their free time, which is to say all their time, playing tricks and joking around. Now, you have probably heard about these two, and you may picture two black birds who look almost like twins. They were actually fairly close cousins, which explains the family resemblance.

Anyway, a very long time ago, both Crow and Raven had pure white feathers. There are a lot of stories about how Crow and Raven came to have black feathers. One says that Crow flew too close to the sun and was burned, which is why his feathers are iridescent as well. One says that Raven mouthed off to Creator and Creator zapped him, turning his feathers black. Raven never denied that story, though he never exactly admitted it either, and Creator, naturally, is tight-lipped about the whole incident.

This story happened long ago when Crow and Raven were both still white, and Crow was still single. Crow, who was a few years older than Raven, liked to get drunk and go cow tipping. Crow thought this was an absolute riot, although the cows didn't think much of it. Raven, for his part, was more amused by Crow's stupidity than by teetering bovines. It's probably safe to say that Raven was just a bit smarter than his cousin, or perhaps it's only that Crow lacked quite a few inhibitions, especially when it came to cow tipping.

One Saturday night, Crow and Raven went down to a bar called the Jubilee. They drank and goofed around playing pool and darts until Raven accidentally ended up using Hog's rather ample posterior as a dart board. Fortunately, Raven's aim was off a bit, and no one was seriously harmed. Crow and Raven were kicked out of the Jubilee and had to find something else to do.

"Let's go cow tipping!" Crow said. He fluffed up his wings and hopped around excitedly.

"I saw Squirrel stowing away more acorns today," Raven said. "Let's go mess with him instead."

"Cow tipping! Tipping cows! Tippy toppy moo-moo!"

Raven just shook his head and followed Crow to the cow pasture. There was no telling Crow what to do when Crow was drunk.

It just so happened that that night, Bull decided to patrol the pasture. His harem was complaining about the tipping, and because the culprits were so sneaky and small, the girls could never give an accurate description. Bull was well aware of Crow's and Raven's prankster reputations and figured it had to be the two of them. So Bull disguised himself as one of his girls and roamed around the field, waiting for Crow and Raven to show up.

It wasn't a very long wait. Bull heard Crow giggling and Raven trying to keep Crow quiet. The cows lowed nervously, and Bull moved into position. Crow and Raven crept up from behind.

"Damn that's a big heifer," Crow said.

"Shh!" said Raven, and then he noticed that the cow wasn't a cow. He tugged at Crow's wing.

"Um, not that one. Maybe over there."

"Hee hee! This one's too big to pass up!"

Maybe that one over there, then."

Crow was not to be dissuaded. "Help me push!" he whispered.

Ohgodimgonnadie, Raven thought.

As soon as Crow began to push, Bull snorted and kicked. Crow went flying quite some distance and landed squarely in a patch of cow patty. Raven was not quite so lucky. Bull caught his wings as he tried to fly away and beat Raven until he was black and blue.

"That'll teach 'em," Bull said and went back to his barn where Bessie and Daisy, his two best girls, were waiting for him.

The next morning, Crow pulled himself out of the cow patty. He was hung over and smelled like shit, but he was otherwise okay. He lurched down to the river and tried to wash himself off. He washed and washed and splashed and splashed until the smell went away, but no matter how much he washed and splashed, he couldn't get his feathers clean. He flopped around in the dirt and grass and rubbed against stones and trees, and still, his feathers were stained black. As evening fell, he resigned himself to his new look and suddenly remembered something.

"Raven!" he screeched and flew back to the field as fast as he could.

He looked and looked, calling out Raven's name and even asking the cows if they had seen Raven, but Raven was not to be found. Dejected at the loss of his cousin, he lay down in the middle of the field and wept. "Oh, Creator! Please, let Raven be okay. It's all my fault. I swear, if you let him be okay, I'll never go cow tipping ever again!"

His plea was in vain. According to the oath he swore, he could go cow tipping again, but for several days, all he did was sulk.

One night, a strange bird approached him. "Hey, Crow," the stranger said.

Crow cocked his head and blinked at the stranger. The voice sounded just like Raven. In fact, the bird looked a lot like Raven, except this bird was all black. "Who are you? What do you want? Can't you see I'm in mourning? Bull killed my cousin the other day, and it's all my fault. Leave me alone."

The strange black bird laughed.

"It's not funny, you bastard! It really was my fault! And I really did care for him! I know I wasn't always very considerate, but I loved him. I should have been a better example for him. He was so smart and so clever! I miss him so much."

"Really? Crow, I didn't know you cared! Hey, I love you, too, man!"

Crow blinked and shook his head. "Raven?"

"Duh, who'd you think it was?"

"But ... but ... but how?"

"Bull beat me up pretty bad. I got all bruised, so now my feathers are black. I'm still a little tender, but I'm not dead."

"You bastard. You shoulda told me."

"Nah. That was pretty amusing to watch you get all emotional."

Crow grinned. "Bastard. I'll get you back for that."

"Yeah, I'm sure you will. So what do you wanna do tonight?"

"Eh ... I'm kinda tired, actually."

"But look! We're black now. No one's gonna see us in the dark."

Crow laughed, and the two tricksters flew off into the night.

-- Mel Trent

Originally appeared 2009-06-22

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-10-16
Image(s) are public domain.
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