One of Tom’s chores irritates him. It’s what crows that fly over his yard do.
He gets a clever idea — he will find a way to keep the crows away.
His mom thinks it’s a good idea. Doing it turns out to be complicated.
Tom Loring wandered around looking for some of the shiny things that usually littered his back yard. For some reason, the local crows seemed to love searching out things like bottle tops, small marbles, pieces of plastic, old ballpoint pens, coins, candy wrappers… anything small enough for them to pick up and fly off with in their beaks. Then, it appeared to Tom, they’d fly directly to his back yard and drop them so they were scattered haphazardly all over the lawn and flower beds. Like they were doing it on purpose.
Coins were the one item that he wanted to find. The rest he’d collect in a plastic bag, and then he’d dump it, bag and all, in the trashcan. That way he could tell his mom how he’d cleaned up the yard. He knew, as most thirteen-year-old boys know, that performing unrequested tasks helped raise his good points versus bad points quotient with her. That, he also knew, she considered an important measure when he asked her permission to do something. Like going to Collier Park to play some sort of pick-up game with his friends.
Today was a bust, coin-finding wise. He dug around in the contents of the plastic bag just in case he’d accidently dropped in a coin, but the search proved fruitless. So he walked to the other side of the garage and deposited his bag in the trashcan. He went into the house and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Hi, Tommy.” She grinned.
“Mom!” Tom whined. “Please don’t call me Tommy. You said you’d call me Tom from now on since I’m thirteen years old and a teenager.” He was sure, because of the way she grinned, that she’d done it on purpose.
“Alright, alright. If I forget, just remind me. Politely, please.”
“Okay, I will.”
“What have you been up to this morning?”
“I picked up all the junk the crows dropped in our back yard and threw it away. In the trashcan.”
“Well, thank you, Tom. I’m glad you did that. Did you find any coins today?” She knew what Tom liked to find during one of his collection passes in the yard.
“No. Not one. Not even a Canadian penny.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Would you like a snack? There’s a slice of pizza left from last night’s dinner. Is that okay?”
Tom nodded. “Sure! Thanks, Mom.”
“I’ll heat it up for you.”
Tom thought back to just before school let out. There had been about two weeks when each day several Canadian coins would be dropped into the yard by the crows. That excited Tom until he discovered that they wouldn’t take them at the drugstore where he went to buy candy. He went to the bank and they wouldn’t exchange them for U.S. coins.
“You’d have to go the currency exchange at the airport,” his dad had told him. “Next time your grandma comes to visit you can bring them with you when we go to pick her up. No guarantees, though. They might not exchange coins either.”
“Aww, that’s unfair,” Tom had complained. Then he’d gotten a great idea, and had asked his dad, “How about if we go to Canada on vacation this summer?”
His dad had rubbed his chin and grinned the way he did when he thought about something. Then he’d replied, “That’s a good idea. We could drive to Vancouver and see the sights. You could bring your stash of Canadian coins with you and spend them at a store there.”
Tom thought, ‘If we do go to Canada that wouldn’t be until sometime near the end of summer, in August, when Dad has his vacation. That’s a real long time from now.’
‘Now’ was at the end of July, and school had been out for a little over a month. Tom decided it would be fun to go to Collier Park today and shoot some baskets with his friends. Even better, if there were enough guys for two teams they could play flag football.
His mom gave Tom a plate with his snack, a narrow slice of pizza with a cored and quartered apple.
She continued talking about the crows. “I just do not understand why those silly birds drop things in our yard. Mrs. Moller says they don’t drop anything in her yard, even though it’s right next door. Maybe you could think up a clever way to keep the crows from dropping things in our yard.”
“Yeah. Those dumb crows must think our back yard is their trashcan.” Tom took a bite of pizza, and while chewing thought about how to stop the crows.
“How about we put a big net up in the air across our entire back yard?”
“Hmm. Let’s think about that. It would be difficult to put up such a large net, don’t you think? It would have to be held up at the corners, several places along each side, and in the middle so it wouldn’t sag. You could see how it would work using the sheet on your bed and I think you’ll see what I mean. After it’s up the crows might still drop things and they’d end up on the net. It would be very difficult to get what the crows would drop onto the net.”
“Yeah. A net isn’t such a great idea. How about we scare them away? When they come to our yard we could have a sensor like on our burglar alarm, and when it senses the crows it blasts an air horn or something loud.”
“Well,” his mom said, “that would have good and bad side effects. The good side effect is, since they come in the afternoon, then no one would be asleep to be wakened by the noise. The bad side effect is that our neighbors would hear the air horn over and over again, and they’d probably end up calling the police who’d come banging on our front door to have your air horn shut down permanently.”
Tom laughed. “I can just see old Mrs. Neirbaum coming to our front door carrying a pitchfork and yelling for my head.”
“Yes, I hadn’t thought about that. You’d be better off having the police come after you.”
Tom had a flash of inspiration. He was nothing if not devious. He suppressed a grin, knowing that if he did grin his mom would want to know what was funny.
“Mom, I remember Dad saying how when they have a project at work and can’t figure out how to do something they have a brain freeze or something like that, and everyone tells their ideas and they come up with a solution. Maybe I should do something like that.”
“It’s called brainstorming. That’s a very good idea, Tom. Who will you get to be on your team?”
“Let me think. Jeff, Charlie, Stan, and Manuel.” The four friends he’d named all lived within a block or two from Tom’s house.
“Five of you. That’s a good number because there can’t be a tie. If you were voting on an idea with an even number of members on the brainstorming team there could be a tie vote.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Tom said. “I’m glad you told me.”
“You can have your brainstorming meeting here, sitting around the kitchen table.”
“Hmm. No, I think I want to have the meetings outside. If we’re inside it’ll be like sitting in a class at school. It’s summer and it’s nice outside.”
“You can meet in our back yard. That way you and your friends will be right where the crows are dropping things.”
“Maybe. But having a table to sit around would be a good idea. Maybe we could meet at Collier Park. There are picnic tables there. We could sit around a picnic table and that way if we wanted to write or draw the ideas we come up with it would be easy. I could bring some paper and pens.”
“That’s a good idea. When do you want to have your brainstorming meeting?”
“I don’t know. Tomorrow, or maybe even this afternoon after lunch. I could go around and talk to the guys now and see when they are able to go to the park.”
“Well, you let me know, okay?”
“Yeah, I will. Thanks for the ideas about brainstorming, Mom!”
“Be sure you’re back by twelve o’clock for lunch.”
“I will be. See you later.”
Tom waited until he had left the house and walked halfway to Jeff’s house, two blocks away. Then he grinned and started to laugh. He’d got what he wanted, an okay to go to Collier Park this afternoon. He and his friends could play basketball or, if he could round up enough guys, flag football.
It turned out that when he’d talked to Jeff, Charlie, Stan, and Manuel, his best friends, they’d all said they could go to Collier Park to play flag football in the afternoon, and then afterwards the four of them would do the brainstorming thing and see if they could come up with a few ideas for getting rid of the crows.
He’d talked to five other friends who lived nearby and they wanted to go to the park to play flag football, too.
His morning task was complete, and it was time for lunch. He headed home.
He sat down at the kitchen table across from his mom.
“Okay, I have my brainstorm team set up. We’re going to meet this afternoon where the picnic tables are in Collier Park and come up with ideas for getting rid of the crows.”
“I hope you guys can come up with some good ideas. When do you think you’ll be home?”
“I don’t know for sure. It depends on how long it takes us. Maybe… an hour and a half?”
“Okay, that sounds fine,” she said.
He finished his sandwich and put the plate and his glass in the dishwasher. “I’ll see you later. If you need to get ahold of me, call Charlie’s cell number. It’s in the address book next to the phone. It’s in there by his last name, Klein. Of course, if I had my own cellphone….” He grinned and ran out the back door before his mom could respond.
Tom, Charlie, Jeff, Manuel, and Stan were on one team; Glenn, Jake, Larry, Ron, and William were on the other. Glenn had brought his football and enough flags for his team; Manuel had brought flags for his team. There were two flags for each guy, which they wore pushed into the waistband of their pants at the side of each hip. It wasn’t regulation, but that’s the way they played flag football.
The field didn’t have yard line markers every five yards, just end and center line markers. That’s because they played on a soccer field; fortunately, the park department made the soccer fields 100 yards long; this also wasn’t regulation, but that allowed multiple use of the fields.
Jeff brought sixteen bright red tent posts and two tape measures with him, as usual. After each game Jeff would collect them and take them home.
One team used a tape measure and pushed the red tent posts into the ground as ten yard markers along the sideline on one side; the other team did the same along the sideline on other side. They were accurate enough for the kind of pickup games they played. Of course, they didn’t need to place markers at the end lines and the center line — which for football was the 50 yard line — they were already chalked onto the field for soccer.
First downs were based on crossing the next ten-yard line; they would visually sight when those were crossed by sighting along the yard markers from one sideline across to the other. They didn’t have goalposts, so they counted a touchdown as seven points and skipped point after touchdown kicks; there were no field goal kicks, either. After scoring a touchdown the opposing team would start on their twenty yard line.
Tom’s team lost the game, forty-nine to thirty-five. But they didn’t care. They had a lot of fun, and that’s what counted.
When they were finished Tom made an excuse for staying behind with Charlie, Jeff, Manuel, and Stan. He talked to Glenn, Jake, Larry, Ron, and William. “We’re working on an extra credit project for the sophomore Biology class we’re taking in the fall. You want to give us a hand?” he asked.
The other five guys didn’t see that Tom held his right hand behind him with his fingers crossed. That turned his lie about the ‘class’ into a little fib, something he considered okay even if his mom wouldn’t have. But, of course, she’d never know anyway.
In any case, the other five guys didn’t care about an extra credit project. Who in their right mind would want to do homework for a class they wouldn’t take until the next school year? Not them. Their conclusion was unanimous: Homework? And during the summer? Were those guy totally nuts, or what? Instead, they decided that they should split so they wouldn’t get dragged into what would be something absolutely totally boring. They said their goodbyes and left Collier park and soon were out of sight.
Tom handed each of his four best friends a pad of paper and a pen, and they sat around a picnic table.
“Okay, I’ve told you about the stupid crows picking up shiny things and dropping them in my back yard. I want to figure out a way to make them stop. I talked to my mom about it this morning and she said I should do what my dad calls brainstorming. That’s where people sit around and come up with lots of different ways to solve a problem. To do it I need you guys because it’s better to do this with a bunch of smart people than trying to do it alone or with just one or two others. My problem is, how can I get rid of the crows? I got a couple ideas but Mom told me they wouldn’t work.
“One would be to put a net over the back yard. It would be hard to install and wouldn’t solve the problem because the crows would still drop things and they’d fall onto the net and it would be very hard to get them off the net.
“The other would be to get some sort of sensor like on a burglar alarm that could tell when the crows were flying over our yard and set off an air horn or siren or something like that. Trouble is, it would be loud and the neighbors would object and maybe call the police.
“So, what can I do to get rid of those damn crows? That’s my question.
“Now, the way brainstorming works is that if you have an idea tell us what it is, and I’ll write it down. It’s a good idea if you write it down, too, especially if it’s complicated. Oh, yeah, and don’t all talk at once. Just one at a time. If you have questions or comments about an idea, wait until that person talking is finished telling us his idea.
“Okay, someone want to get started with an idea about how I can get rid of the crows?”
“I’ve been thinking,” Jeff said. “Ya know, crows are really smart birds. Not as smart as parrots, but maybe next in line. If you’re wondering how I know, there was a show on Animal Planet or PBS called ‘Birdbrains’ or something like that. So, anyway, crows can get frightened of things. And they can learn about things that are frightening and the places where those things are. Then they spread the word, in crow talk I guess, to stay away. So, you need to find something that will scare the crows and do it regularly whenever crows come around, and then they’ll stay away.”
“Oh…kay,” Tom said. “Anyone know something that might scare the crows?”
The boys sat there thinking for a minute or so.
Finally, Charlie looked up. “Yeah,” he said, “but it’s just a maybe. I mean, I’ve never tried it myself, so I don’t know if it would work or not. But I think it’s easy, and probably cheap — almost free, in fact — but it depends on one thing.”
“What’s that one thing?” Tom asked.
“Do the crows ever land in any of the trees in your back yard?”
“Yeah, lots of times, including sometimes after they drop something in the yard.”
“Good. Then what I’m thinking might work. Or it might not. You’d have to experiment to see if it’ll do what you want.”
“So enough talking about it! Tell us what it is, Charlie!” Tom growled, but he was grinning to show he wasn’t really upset.
“Any of you ever hear about tipping cows?” Charlie asked.
Stan started laughing. “Yeah,” he said after he finally was able to speak. “You go out into a pasture where there are cows resting. Maybe you’ve heard, cows are supposed to rest standing up. Anyway, supposedly if you slowly walk up to a cow that’s just standing there resting, and it’s not paying any attention to you, then you and a couple other guys can push on its side and tip it over. This story is probably crap, but some guys at school claim they’ve done it, but that’s probably crap too. But the idea might work with crows. You wouldn’t be tipping the crows over, but you’d be blasting them off a branch and scaring the shit out of ‘em.”
“So Stan, exactly how would I go about actually doing this idea of blasting crows off a branch?” Tom asked.
Stan shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“I know how it could work,” Charlie said. “You find a thin branch where crows land regularly. When they’re away you take some real strong fishing line, your dad probably has some he’d donate to test this idea, and you tie it to the end of that tree branch, run it straight down to an eye bolt that’s shoved into the ground, so it’s gotta be a really long bolt to stay in place, and you’ll need at least two of ‘em so you’ll have to get your dad to buy them for you. Anyway, then run the fishing line over to where you’re going to be hiding, that’ll be like a hunting blind, that’s a place hunters hide from deer and other animals and for you it’s for hiding from crows, then you feed the fishing line through the second eye bolt that you put where you’re hiding. You have someone pull the branch down so it’s lowered a lot, and you pull the line so it’s tight and you’re holding the branch down. You wrap your end of the fishing line around something like a piece of wood so the branch will stay down, but so it’ll still be easy to unwrap the fishing line so you can let it go all at once. We’d have to figure out how to do that.
“Anyway, so a crow comes along and sits on the branch. He sits there sort of cautious like, and pretty soon he calms down, thinking that everything is okay. You wait a bit, then let go of your end of the line. The branch whips up and the crow is blasted off the branch and it flies away. I don’t know crows real well but I’ve read about them. When something like this happens to a crow he flies to wherever his crow buddies are and tells them that he had the shit scared out of him when the branch he was on popped up and blasted him off, and he’s glad he’s still alive to tell about it.
“That’s what you do a few times, maybe switching to another branch or another tree each time. Pretty soon the crows in your neighborhood know your back yard is a dangerous place for them and they’ll just stay away, period. Story finished, problem solved.”
After grinning at how Charlie told the story with so many words and so much repetition, Tom sat thinking about that for a few seconds. “I like it! It’s easy and no problem if it doesn’t work. Can you help me set it up, Charlie?”
“Hey, I want to help too,” Manuel said.
Jeff and Stan added, “Me too!” at exactly the same time. Then they looked at each other and laughed.
“I have an idea,” Jeff said. “I have a parakeet. It loves suet birdseed. So, maybe you could put some near the end of a small tree branch. It comes in balls with a string that you can use to tie around the branch. That would attract the crows and it would be easier to pull down a smaller branch than a big one.”
“What’s gonna stop other birds from coming and eating the suet stuff?” Stan asked.
“The crows will. Assuming they like to eat it like my parakeet does, when they’re around they’ll scare the other birds away. Crows are mean that way, and territorial. They are the bullies of the bird world.”
Tom thought Charlie’s plan combined with Jeff’s suet birdseed idea was great, and he said so. The whole idea about tipping crows was very funny, and that was a cool name to call it. The first thing Tom had to do would be get a lot of strong fishing line, then eye bolts, even though he wasn’t too sure what they were or where to get them. He’d have to get his dad to help and probably go to the hardware store. Then they’d have to go to a pet store for the suet birdseed. He hoped his dad would pay for everything, but if not he had some money saved from his allowance.
“Any other ideas?” Tom asked.
“I read about something that scares birds,” Jeff said. “Maybe it would work for crows. You take some old CDs and hang them from the branches of a tree so they’re loose and rotate in the wind. You can use strips of aluminum foil or even lids off soup cans, but the brighter the better so they’ll reflect the sunlight.”
“Good one, Jeff. Any other ideas?” Tom asked.
Manuel looked across the table. “Hey, Tom, I just thought of another idea. I saw some lights at that new Peruvian restaurant on Bonanza; you know the one?”
“Nope, never been there,” Tom replied.
“Anyway, we went to the opening. My dad’s from Peru and they have really good Peruvian food there. They had these small, really bright spotlights that blinked on and off. Some had colored lights, but the regular ones, the white ones, were a lot brighter. You don’t know when the crows are going to come in the afternoon, so you can just set these out and have the blink from then until it’s dark.”
“Thing is,” Tom replied, “I don’t know if bright lights would scare them when it’s sunny, even if the lights are blinking.”
“You’d have to test it to find out,” Manuel said.
“Anyone have any other ideas?” Tom asked.
Charlie raised his hand. “Lemme go back to something you said, Tom, the sound thing your folks said no to. Why not have the calls of a bird, like a hawk or an eagle? That’s not as loud as an air horn, but all you want is the crows to hear it.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Stan said. “You can probably download some bird calls from the internet and not have to pay for them. Just Google ‘hawk calls’ or something like that. I read somewhere that the cries of a crow that’s in trouble is even better. Then just set up your computer with the speaker pointing out your bedroom window and set a start and end time and let it rip. You can try a bunch of different calls and see which work the best.”
Tom grinned. “Even better, I can use my laptop and put it in the laundry room and hook up a speaker and put it outside. That way it won’t bother me or my folks. That’d be easy to do.
“So now I’ve got four ideas that’ll be easy to try. The tipping crows thing using suet… what was that stuff, Jeff?”
“Yeah. So, to do the tipping crows I’ll need my dad to buy the fishing line and the eyehooks, and the suet birdseed. And I’ll need your help to set it up and test it. The other three I can do by myself.”
“I’ll help,” Manuel said. Stan, Charlie, and Jeff all agreed that they’d help, too. Tom thought it was because they liked the idea of tipping the crows off tree branches. It would be a game, something like the one where you try to pound on a gopher’s head when it pokes its head out of a hole.
“I’ll need my folk’s okay to do all of them, but I think they’ll be okay with most of them. The one with the CDs and aluminum foil hanging in the tree my mom probably wouldn’t like because of how it’d make our back yard look.”
“She’ll be okay with putting the suet birdseed in the tree?” Stan asked.
“Yeah, she won’t be able to see it. It’ll look like it’s just part of the tree, right Jeff?”
“Yup. Unless you’re right there looking for it you wouldn’t see it at all.”
“Thanks, guys,” Tom said. “This oughta do it. I’m gonna write up all of the suggestions and talk to my folks about them tonight after dinner.”
“Can we get a copy of what you write up?” Jeff asked.
“Sure. I’ll email it to each of you after I talk to my folks so I can include their comments.” Tom laughed. “Comments more like their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each suggestion.”
“Sounds like my folks,” Jeff commented.
Each of the other guys nodded in agreement.
“Tell you what,” Tom said, “instead of emailing the write up, how about you guys come over to my house tomorrow morning after breakfast and we can talk about the results of my telling my folks?”
“That works for me,” Charlie said.
“Me too,” Manuel said.
Jeff and Stan added, “Me too!” at exactly the same time, just like they did before. Everyone burst out laughing.
“Time to head home,” Manuel said. “Don’ wanna be late for dinner.”
“Thanks, guys. You’ve been a huge help. You all had really great ideas. Now it’s my job to sell them to my folks. That’s what my dad says all the time: ‘you’ve got to sell your ideas otherwise they don’t mean a thing.’ I’ve gotta sell him on each of the ideas. Of course, my mom makes the final decisions. Or at least she thinks she does. I’m not sure about that, but I know I sure don’t get to make any final decisions.”
The guys were in agreement with that. They didn’t get to make any final decisions, either.
When Tom got home he spent about an hour entering everything they’d discussed at the meeting into a Word document. He had two sections, one with the suggestions he thought would be tough to get an okay to try, and one with the other suggestions. He didn’t describe them that way, though.
After dinner Tom told his folks about how he got together with his four best friends to do some brainstorming to figure out how to get rid of their crows. He described all the suggestions, saving the two plans that he figured would work the best for last.
“So,” Tom’s dad said, “Let’s talk about the ideas.
“First, the idea to hang CDs and strips of aluminum foil on the trees in the back yard is a definite no-go, and I’m positive your mother wouldn’t allow that solution to be implemented. Right, Lynda?”
“Right! We definitely don’t need our trees decorated with used CDs and strips of aluminum foil, not to mention the difficulty of installing those things in the trees,” she said. “Cross that one off.”
Mr. Loring continued. “Second, I’m not so sure about whether the sound of a hawk or an eagle coming from a speaker near the ground would scare away a crow. Crows would be used to hawks and eagles coming at them from above, not from near the ground. Let’s cross that idea off the list.
“Third, the blinking bright light idea sounds very expensive. Let’s cross that one off the list, too.
“Fourth. We’re left with the tipping crows idea. But Tom, it’s not something you could do on your own, even with your friends helping. I’d have to be involved, at least in the purchasing side of things. You’d need a large roll of fishing line, some suet birdseed, and the eyebolts. By the way, I know what eyebolts are. We’d have to figure out how to put together a blind where you could hide from the crows.”
“So we can do it? The tipping crows plan?” Tom asked.
“Sure. I’ll be the backer and you and your friends can get everything set up.”
“What’s a backer?” Tom asked.
“A backer is the money man. The person or bank or whatever that provides the financing.”
“Excuse me, I have something to add here,” Tom’s mom announced. “Someone other than Tom and his friends will have to do the climbing into the trees. They are too young to be climbing up a ladder to attach a suet birdseed ball to a branch and to tie some fishing line around the branch. I’m sure the parents of Tom’s friends would agree with me on this.” When she used that tone of voice, there was no arguing with her. None at all.
“I guess that’ll be part of my contribution, too,” Tom’s dad said.
Tom realized that meant Charlie’s plan was a go! Tom wanted to get up and dance around the kitchen, but decided that wouldn’t be such a great idea. Too much enthusiasm could be a deal killer. He’d discovered that a couple time in the recent past.
“When can we get started?” he asked his dad.
“Well, tomorrow is Saturday and I’ll be home from work. That sounds like a good day to get started. What you need is to come up with a more detailed plan showing where it’s going to be located, how everything is going to be connected together, what the blind is going to look like, and how you’re going to be able to control the fishing line and also release it when you want to tip a crow off the branch where it’s sitting.”
“Maybe we could begin by designing the blind,” Tom said. “Charlie seems to know something about them. Then we’d know what we need to build it.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Then maybe you and I and Charlie can go shopping for the things we need tomorrow morning,”
“Charlie would come with us?” Tom asked.
“Since it was his plan, don’t you think he should come along?”
Tom thought about it for maybe two seconds. “Sure! I’ll talk to him tomorrow and invite him to go with us. Then his mom can call Mom and make sure it’s all okay. Mom, will it be okay that I tell Charlie his mom can call you?”
“Yes, that will be fine.”
“And can the other guys come too? They volunteered to help and agreed to come over tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, that also will be fine.”
Tom’s mother added, “Make sure it’s okay with their mothers, and if they need to talk about it they can phone me.”
The next morning Tom and Charlie, Manuel, Jeff, and Stan sat down at the kitchen table with Mr. Loring, Tom’s dad.
“Guys,” Mr. Loring said, “before you start work on a project you need a detailed plan. The plan for your tipping crows mechanism would include a drawing that shows how the suet birdseed and the fishing line are going to be attached to a branch; how the fishing line will be strung through something below the branch, over to the blind, and inside the blind; how the fishing line can be controlled from inside the blind so a branch can be pulled down from there; how the fishing line can be released quickly so the branch will whip up and so you don’t lose the end of the fishing line; and what the blind is going to look like and how it’s going to be constructed.”
The five boys agreed that a detailed plan was necessary. They hadn’t realized how much had to be figured out to make the idea of tipping crows actually work.
Stan got started by saying he’d talked to his dad the night before and they came up with an idea for the blind. “My dad works for Costa Appliance. They sell big appliances like stoves, ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers, and all those things come in large boxes. The store usually throws the boxes in the trash to be recycled. He thinks the box from a stove would work for the crow blind and it’d be free. If it’s stood on an end it would be tall enough for one or two of us to easily get into it. We could cut out a small window that would let us see the branch that’s tied down and where we can wait for a crow to land. What do you think?”
“Could the crow see us through the window?” Jeff asked.
“My dad said we should make the window just big enough that we could see out,” Stan said. “We wouldn’t have to sit with our faces close to the window. We would be able to see a crow when it landed on the branch. He thinks the crows would just ignore the box even though it’s sort of big; the color is sort of like the ground. To hide it better I thought we could pile branches on top.”
“How big would it be,” Mr. Loring asked.
Stan had notes he’d taken with the details and a drawing of the box. “My dad measured one of them and it’s 48 inches wide by 36 inches deep by 40 inches high. He said there’s lots of packing material inside that we probably wouldn’t need and he wouldn’t bother giving us. The bottom has four flaps like any box that can be taped shut. The top is open and is 48 inches by 36 inches. It comes with a cover that fits over the open end and is six inches deep. We could set it up so it’s 40 inches tall and 48 inches wide and 36 inches front to back. That’s big enough for two of us to be inside at one time. We couldn’t stand up, but we could sit down side-by-side.”
“Where would the window go?” Charlie asked Stan.
“My dad said we’d have to figure that out after we set it up. It depends of where the box — that’s the blind — would be, where the branch would be, and where the person in the box would be sitting.”
“I think that’s a great design for our blind,” Tom said, then he grinned. “We can call it a crow-blind.”
The other boys agreed, and so did Mr. Loring.
“Charlie, you said we’d need some eye bolts. What are they and how will we use them?” Tom asked.
“They’re like a screw with a small donut shape at the top that the fishing line would go through. We can screw them into a piece of wood that can be pounded into the ground, sort of like tent stakes when we go camping.”
“So, it’s more like an eye screw than an eye bolt?” Mr. Loring asked.
Charlie nodded. “Yeah, like a screw that you’d drive into a piece of wood with the screwdriver attachment of an electric drill.”
“I’m sure the hardware store has a variety of eye screws that we can select from,” Mr. Loring said.
“Now, how do we hold the fishing line when we’re inside the blind without having to hold onto it all the time?” Manuel asked. He mimicked wrapping the fishing line around his right hand. “And how do we keep the fishing line from accidentally coming loose at the wrong time?”
“We could use a thin stick, like the paint stirrer sticks my dad has in our garage,” Jeff said. Make a couple turns around the stick and put one of those big black springy clips that has shiny levers, you know the kind I mean? Mrs. Willington uses them at school to hold stacks of papers together. Then when we want to release the branch, open the clip and wham! The crow is flying through the air when it wasn’t expecting to!” He grinned. “Just think what’ll be going through that crow’s mind when it discovers it’s suddenly flying through the air.” The boys started laughing, and even Mr. Loring joined in. The mental image of a crow being catapulted into the sky was very funny.
“I’m thinking a flat painter stick isn’t going to let you release the line very smoothly. I have an idea that I think will be better than using paint stirrer sticks,” Mr. Loring said. “Tom, you remember that fishing pole and reel your granddad gave you for Christmas a few years ago?”
“Yeah. I was ten years old when he gave that to me.”
“Do you still have it?”
“That fishing pole is made in three pieces that connect together. Using only the bottom piece which is where the fishing reel attaches, we could use it for the fishing line that’s going to be in the blind. The reel has a quick-release button that will let the branch pop up almost instantly. The reel can be used to lower the branch to the point you want it for a crow to land, and low enough that releasing the branch will pop it up instantly and eject the crow. The lower part of the pole is easy to hold, and has a rubberized cap on the end that you can press into the chair where you’re sitting, or into your abs if you’d rather hold it that way. Since you’ll be using the viewer, Charlie can use the reel.”
“Yeah… wow, that’s a great idea, Dad! I know exactly what you mean and that’s exactly how we want it to work. We’ll be able to pull down the branch, and then release the line when we want to tip a crow right off into the air.”
“Is there anything we’ve missed?” Manuel asked.
Tom looked at his notes. “I don’t think so. How about it, you guys?”
None of the five boys could think of anything they’d forgotten about.
“I thought about what we have to have first, and that’s the box for the blind,” Tom said. “We really can’t get started on anything else without it.”
“Stan, when can your dad get one of those stove boxes for us?” Mr. Loring asked.
“He can drive his pickup truck to the store and get one today. He said there are three or four out in the storage yard and the store really doesn’t want them. If we want I can call him now and let him know and he’ll go pick out the best one and bring it here to Tom’s house. It’ll be easy for him to deliver it.”
“Dad, I say Stan should call his dad now and ask him to get it,” Tom suggested.
“I agree,” Mr. Loring said. “Stan, you can use the phone in our kitchen to call your dad.”
“That’s okay, Mr. Loring, I have a cellphone and I’ll call him right now.” He pulled the smartphone out of his pocket and called his house.
Tom gave a look at his dad with his left eyebrow raised, his head tipped to the right, and a big grin. Mr. Loring got the drift: Tom wanted his own cellphone.
Stan finished the call to his dad. “He’ll be here in about an hour and a half. He has a couple things to finish for my mom first.”
“That will give us time to go on a shopping expedition to get the rest of the parts that we need to accomplish this job,” Mr. Loring said.
Mr. Loring drove them to the downtown shopping area. They went to a sporting goods store that had a large fishing supplies section and picked up some single-filament nylon fishing line. They went to a pet store and bought a package of suet birdseed balls. They went to a hardware store and bought four wooden stakes, each a foot and a half long; a half-dozen eye lag screws and an accessory for Mr. Loring’s electric drill that would let him drill them into the tops of the wooden stakes.
When they got back they collected and sorted all the things Tom’s dad had bought for them. They decided to pick the tree and the branches that would work best for their project.
“This big tree is best,” Tom said. “The crows land on it a lot more than on any of the other trees.”
“Which branches do they like best?” Manuel asked.
“They seem to like the lower branches. It’s probably because they stick out straight and farther than branches that are higher up; those are mostly vertical. On the lower branches the crows would be out of range of the blue jays ‘cuz they like to divebomb crows, and of hawks that might be flying around looking for crows to eat. They’re hidden by all of the other branches and leaves above the branch where they’re sitting.”
“Okay,” Charlie said, “let’s pick branches that you’ll be able to see when you’re in the crow-hunting blind.” They all laughed at the name Charlie used for the blind.
“That means we need to figure out where to put the crow-hunting blind,” Jeff said.
“I’m sure my mom won’t be happy if it’s right in the middle of the yard. We could put it at the back end of the garage. That’s on the other side of the tree that the crows land in the most. It’s also easy to get to the lower branches without my having to climb up too far.”
“Without having your dad climb up too far,” Stan commented.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” Tom groused.
“If you were about a foot taller you could reach up and grab a couple of those lower branches yourself,” Manuel said.
“Hey, I have an idea for you,” Jeff said. “If you have a hoe or a rake in your garage you can use it to pull down a branch and we can tie the fishing line and tie the suet birdseed on it, then you can let it back up slowly. Then you pound one of those stakes in the ground and your dad can screw in the eye screw thingy and we’re good to go. That way your dad won’t have to climb a ladder to do it.”
“That is a great idea, Jeff,” Tom said. Let’s figure out where to put the crow-blind so we can see those three or four branches from inside.”
“That’s a good idea,” Stan said. “We need to figure out how to set up the crow-blind anyway.”
So they set to work. The first step was to take Tom’s dad’s packing tape dispenser and set up the box, which was on the driveway next to the back yard. They set up the box, folded the four bottom flaps so they met in the center, and with Jeff and Stan holding each end so the flaps met tightly and were even with the side of the box, Charlie helped Tom guide the tape across where the flaps met and to the other end of the box. He’s started and ended the tape so it wrapped around the edges and was taped to each of the sides by about six inches.
Jeff and Stan were able to let go, and again with Charlie’s assistance Tom taped everything several more times, including along the two edges where the flaps met the sides.
The large double-wall corrugated box was reinforced with 4 inch square braces in each corner from the top to the bottom. Transporting the heavy box took a boy at each corner to lift the box. Since it was hard to see where they were going, Tom had to guide them. Finally, it had been moved to the back wall of the garage at the corner where someone inside would have a clear view of the tree once a window was cut into the box.
The next problem was how to position the box. The open end had to be on the side so Tom could easily crawl into and out of the crow-blind.
“The open end has to be at the back, away from where the window will be pointing at the tree,” Manuel said. “That way you can walk along the back of the garage from the other side, and get into the crow-blind without the crows seeing you.”
“You’re right,” Tom said. “The open end is 48 inches by 40 inches and it’s 36 inches deep from the open end to the bottom that we just taped shut. So, which way do we position the box?”
“What do you mean?” Jeff asked.
“I mean, does it stand up 48 inches tall and 40 inches wide, or 40 inches tall and 48 inches wide?” Tom clarified.
“You can figure out which way is going to be most comfortable,” Charlie said. “You’re gonna be inside it for a long time, maybe. You can’t be all scrunched up ‘cuz your neck and back will ache and you’ll get cramps and have to get out and stretch and when you do the crows might see you. So maybe 48 inches tall would work best.”
“You’re right,” Tom said. “If we lay it down with the 48 inches side down, then it’s only 40 inches tall. That’s not gonna work. Let’s put it down so the 40 inch side is on the ground.”
“Only thing,” Jeff said, “only one person will fit inside positioned that way. 40 inches is only three feet and four inches wide.”
Tom nodded. “I sort of figured I’d be the one in there all the time, anyway. So, no problemo.”
“That’s no problema with an ‘a’ at the end,” Manuel said, correcting Tom’s Spanish.
“Yeah, you’re right, sorry,” Tom replied.
“You probably should have some sort of mat or plastic cloth on the ground under it,” Stan said. “It’s going to get wet from the ground and the box will start to fall apart.”
“My dad’s got some tarps in the garage,” Tom said. “Lemme go in and ask him if I can use one or two for under the box, and one to put over the box to cover it in case it rains.”
“Hey, that’s a great idea,” Stan said.
Tom went in the house and told his dad what he needed. Mr. Loring came out and found three heavy plastic tarps in the garage and gave them to Tom. They were huge, more than big enough to not only protect the bottom of the box from the dirt but to also provide a sort of plastic patio extending about six feet starting from the open end of the box.
They stood looking at their handiwork.
“Wow, that looks great,” Tom said. “Now let’s try it out.”
“Tom,” his father said, “I think when you’re not using the box you’ll need to close the box with the cover to keep animals and spiders out. So, I suggest you store the cover of the box in a handy location where you can get it. Perhaps in the garage against the wall near the side door.”
“Okay! That’s a good idea,” Tom said. “Where’s the cover?”
“It’s next to the driveway where the box was left by my dad,” Stan told Tom.
“Okay,” Tom responded, “we’ll get it later when we’re finished. Now, let’s try it out!”
“Okay, Tom. Go on and get in!” Charlie commanded, with a big grin.
Tom stooped and walked in. “It’s not tall enough for me to stand up inside. I could kneel or squat, sort of sitting on my legs, but either of those would be real uncomfortable after a while. I could sit down with my legs crossed in front of me, but then I wouldn’t be near enough to a window in the back of the crow-blind to see out. I think I’ll need a stool, or even better a chair with a back that’s not too tall to fit in the box, to sit on when I’m in the crow-blind.
“The other thing is I think we’ll have to put the window near the top edge of the crow-blind. We’ll have to plan really carefully about exactly where to put it so we can see the crows on the branches.”
“Is there room for two of us to be inside at the same time?” Charlie asked.
“Maybe, if we’re using stools or chairs. Trouble is, I don’t think that we have anything we could use. I’ll have to ask my dad.”
“We have some old kitchen chairs you could use,” Manuel said. “My mom didn’t like them because the seat was too narrow and the back was too short. She and my dad are sort of large people, and they needed a wider seat.” He snickered. “They’re perfect for kids. The chairs have a padded seat so they’d be comfortable for sitting a long time while you wait for the crows.”
“Man, that’s great!” Tom said. “Can you ask your folks if we could borrow two of them?”
“Sure,” Manuel replied. “I’ll talk to them tonight when I get home and send you a text.”
“Thanks! Anybody else want to get inside and see what it’s like?”
All four of the boys took Tom up on his offer, and said they thought it would be a great crow-blind.
“The problem I see,” Charlie said, “is figuring out where to put the window and how big it should be. If it’s too big the crows might see who’s inside; I think crows have very good eyesight. If the window’s too small, you might not be able to see the branches you want to watch.”
“Cutting the window smaller would be better,” Jeff said. “You can always make it bigger.”
“I suppose I oughta talk to my dad and see if he has any ideas,” Tom said.
“I have an idea,” Stan said. “I went to the planetarium a while back. In their store they had this thing for looking over tall people in front of you when you were watching a parade. I thought it was pretty clever. It’s probably simple enough to make one if you have some empty cereal boxes and two mirrors. Thing is, the one they had magnified, so if you wanted it to magnify you’d have to have a mirror that did that. Anyway, the way it would work is you’d cut a hole in the roof of the crow-blind and put the viewer thing through the hole and you could move it around so you could point it at a branch where a crow is sitting.”
“Probably easier just to go to the planetarium and buy one,” Tom said. “If it’s not too expensive. I could ask my dad to get it for me. Do you know how much it was?”
“I’m not sure, but I think it was around ten dollars.”
“That’s not much. I’ll talk to my dad,” Tom said. “If he doesn’t want to pay for it, I have enough saved up from my allowance so I can buy it.”
Mr. Loring knew exactly what Tom and Stan were talking about, and since it was still fairly early in the afternoon he agreed to drive the boys to the planetarium.
When they arrived they went directly to the store. There were three different models of the viewers available. The least expensive was rather flimsy, and Tom’s dad said it wouldn’t last very long. There was a similar but better constructed model that was a little more expensive.
Then there was a third model that, after Tom saw it, he wanted because it would be perfect for watching for crows. It was made sort of like a periscope on a submarine. The optics and mirrors were definitely better. But most important, instead of being square in cross-section it was round. It was designed so it could be inserted through a round hole in the top of the crow-blind, and it could be rotated both horizontally and the part that would be aimed at a crow could be tipped over about a thirty-degree angle. The problem, of course, was the price. It was $39.99.
“Okay, let’s get this one,” Mr. Loring said, pointing the one Tom really wanted but was afraid to ask because of the cost. He was stunned.
“Really,” his dad said. “As long as you’re going to all this trouble to scare off the crows you should have the best accessories that will make sure you’re successful. Besides, after you’ve scared off all of the crows you can use it when you go to a parade and need to look over the top of the crowd standing in front of you and blocking your view.”
“Wow! Thanks, Dad,” Tom responded. He was amazed and delighted. So were Charlie, Stan, and Manuel. Stan especially was all grins because he was the one who had suggested this kind of device for viewing from the crow-blind.
On their way home, Tom thought of two important questions to ask his dad.
“Dad, how can we cut a neat round hole in the top of the box?”
“I have a jigsaw that will do the job in a couple minutes.”
“Since the viewer is shaped like a long, skinny, rounded-off block letter S, how can we get it through the hole?”
“The top and bottom of the viewer can be removed, which means it can be pushed through a round hole in the top of the box,” Mr. Loring replied.
“Uh… I have a question, Mr. Loring,” Charlie said.
“What’s your question, Charlie?” he asked.
“The vertical tube on the viewer is pretty long. How do we keep it from sliding down so all of the vertical part ends up inside the crow-blind?”
“There are two rings that are made of soft plastic. One ring is put on before the viewer is pushed down through the hole, then the other ring is put on from the inside. The rings are screwed together and there’s a clamp on one of the rings. The one on the inside that can be tightened so the vertical tube won’t slide down after it’s mounted; that’s the ring you’d put inside. Then you release the clamp if you want to change how far up or down the viewer is positioned.”
“That’s really cool!” Charlie said.
“Yeah, Dad, that’s excellent!” Tom added. “Why’d they make it with the rings and the clamp? You wouldn’t use that to look over someone’s head at a parade.”
“The box it comes in shows it being used with a stand so you don’t have to hold it while you’re watching a parade or concert or whatever. The rings are needed to attach it to a stand, which costs extra, and the set of two rings costs extra. I bought the rings, but not the stand. The rings were $7.99 plus tax. The stand was $119.99 plus tax.”
“Why would anyone want the stand without the rings?” Jeff asked.
“I have no idea, unless they make some other kind of viewing equipment that’s used with the stand by itself,” Mr. Loring said.
When they got home Mr. Loring told Tom that he had to decide where to cut the hole in the top of the box. He had a suggestion.
“Find where you’re going to sit, then position your head where you want to look through the viewer at the branches and crows. I’ll loan you my awl, that’s a tool sort of like a screwdriver but it has a sharp point. Use that to punch a hole in the top of the box, from the inside, where you want the center of the viewer to be, and that will be the center for where I’ll cut the round hole for the viewer.”
“Okay. Manuel said he thinks he could loan me two chairs to use that his mom doesn’t like. Right, Manuel?”
“If it’s okay to use your phone, Mr. Loring,” Manuel said, “I’ll call my mom right now and find out if it’s okay. Then maybe you can come over to pick them up. And you can drop me off so I’ll be home in plenty of time before dinner.”
“Sure, you can use our phone, Manuel,” Tom’s dad said. “So you don’t have a cellphone?” He turned and looked at Tom and smirked.
“Yeah, I do, but I forgot to put it on the charger last night when I went to bed and there wasn’t enough time to charge it this morning before coming here to meet up with Tom and the guys.” Manuel walked up to the back door and into the house.
Tom turned to his dad then grinned and raised his left eyebrow. ‘That’ll teach you not to smirk about me wanting my own smartphone!’ he thought.
Manuel returned in a few minutes. “The two chairs are yours, Tom. Mr. Loring, my mom said if you like them you can have the whole set of six.” He grinned. “She would really like you to take all of them, but I told her you only have room for two. I didn’t tell her what it’s for, though. So, you can come over to my house right now and get them, if you want.”
Tom’s dad told his mom where they were going and why before they left.
“That’s interesting,” she said. I’ll come along and look at the chairs. I was thinking the kids need side chairs in their bedrooms for when they have friends over. Maybe we will want all of them. And I can finally meet Mrs. Arguela after talking to her on the phone so often.”
Tom wasn’t happy about the turn of events. He could see his mom and Manuel’s mom gabbing for a half hour or longer, delaying when they would be back to finish adding the viewer to the crow-blind.
So Tom, three of his friends, his sister Connie, and his parents got into their SUV and left for Manuel’s house.
The chairs were perfect, two for the crow-blind and two each for Tom’s bedroom and for his sister’s bedroom. His mom sat down to gab with Manuel’s mom in the living room. His dad sat down and talked with Manuel’s dad while they sort-of watched some pro tennis match on TV in the family room. The boys walked upstairs, following Manuel to his bedroom.
“Sorry that it’s a little messy,” Manuel said.
“Dude, this isn’t messy at all!” Jeff said. “This is cleaner than my bedroom has ever been.”
They all chuckled at that comment.
“And where do you think it’s messy?” Charlie asked.
“My desk,” Manuel replied.
Charlie turned to Jeff and Tom. “This, my friends, is the bedroom of a neat freak!” he said.
“Man, you’re not kidding,” Jeff said. “Manuel, if my mom ever saw your bedroom I’d never live it down. She’d have me cleaning everything and organizing things and putting things away and there’d be daily bedroom checks to make sure it was always neat and clean. And you even make your bed! You’re setting a bad example for teenage boys!”
They all burst out laughing.
“So, do your folks make you keep it this way, or is this your idea?” Charlie asked.
“I prefer to have a neat and clean bedroom and everything I put away is organized. That way if I want something I know it’ll be where it should be and I’ll be able to find it in a couple seconds. Usually my desk is cleaned off and the stuff that’s on it now is put away.”
“I like it the way it is. It looks like your desk is actually used,” Tom said.
“That comment, Jeff, was provided by the other neat freak in the room, Mr. Thomas Loring,” Charlie said.
Tom looked at Manuel and shrugged his shoulders. Manuel grinned. This was one episode of an ongoing discussion between them and their group of friends.
They talked about becoming sophomores when the next school year started, what classes they would be taking, what sports Jeff and Manuel were going to try out for, how short summer always seemed to be, their favorite new video games, their favorite TV shows, their favorite books, whether they read printed books or on a Kindle or the Kindle app, how they got along with their siblings, whether the Warriors would win the NBA championship again next year, their favorite ice cream stores and flavors, the best hamburger places in town — in other words, the sorts of things teenage boys talked about. Except girls. Tom had been paying attention to that, expecting it to be brought into the conversation. But it hadn’t been brought up or even hinted at. He wondered if any of his friends were also gay. ‘Probably not,’ he thought; then he took a deep breath and let it out.
Manuel looked at him. “What’s the big sigh about, Tom?”
“I’m wondering whether my mom and your mom will ever finish talking so we can get those chairs home and get the hole cut and the viewer installed.”
“A good way to get them going is for us to go downstairs and, as a group, stand there looking at the two mothers,” Manuel said. “That’s the voice of experience, and it works.” He grinned.
“Let’s do it,” Jeff said. “Is it okay if your folks drop me off at home? I don’t want you to feel like I’m abandoning you if you need me to help.”
“We don’t have very much more to do,” Tom said. “Just try out the chairs, decide where to put the hole for the viewer, and install it. We don’t even have to finish it today.”
“Okay. I want to be sure to be home before dinner so I can take a shower first,” Jeff said.
“Charlie, can you stick around at my house for a while so you and I can test the chairs?” Tom asked.
“Sure. No problem. My folks won’t be home until later. They took my little brother and sisters downtown to buy clothes. They said they would probably eat downtown, too.”
“Then what would you do for dinner?” Manuel asked.
“I can cook,” Charlie said. “I’m almost as good a cook as my mom, and a lot better than my dad.”
“How about having dinner with us?” Tom asked. “I’m sure my mom would say it’s okay.”
“I’m good for that or for going home and cooking something for myself.”
“Maybe you can help my mom with dinner. What do they call that kind of person in a restaurant?” Tom asked.
“A prep cook,” Charlie replied.
“Today I’m learning more about you guys than I ever knew,” Jeff said. “That’s cool.”
“I agree,” Manuel added.
“Well, we’d better go downstairs,” Tom said. “I want to get home so we can finish up with the crow-blind before it gets dark.”
Their plan worked because Tom’s mom saw them and smiled.
“I think we’d better get back with those chairs before Tom and his friends each pick up one or two of them and walk to our house.”
Both mothers laughed.
“We need to get together more often,” Maria Arguela said.
“I agree. Tom will be totally occupied with his crow removal system on Monday. Maybe we can go downtown, wander around the new stores that opened recently and have lunch. I can pick you up.”
“That’s a great idea. I’ll call you this evening and we’ll set it up.”
“Uh… Mom, what are Connie and I going to do for lunch on Monday?”
“You know where the bread, lunchmeat, cheese, mayonnaise, and lettuce are, don’t you?”
“You can make sandwiches for you and Connie.”
“But the guys will be over to see the crow trap! What about them?”
“Tell them to come over after they’ve had their lunches at home. The crows don’t come until early afternoon, anyway. Now, go collect your dad and tell him we’re ready to leave, okay?”
Mr. Loring dropped Jeff off at his house then continued home. Jeff had said he and his folks were going to his grandmother’s house the next day, so he couldn’t join them. He said he’d bike to Tom’s house Monday afternoon. Manuel had to go to some sort of church fair Sunday, so he couldn’t be there the next day either, but would come Monday afternoon. Tom decided he’d call Stan and see if he could come over, and if not, tell him about coming Monday after he’d had his lunch.
Charlie, on the other hand, was available both days.
“Mom, can Charlie stay for dinner? His folks took his brother and sisters shopping for clothes and they’ll have dinner downtown, so he’d be on his own if he went home.”
“Certainly. We’d be pleased to have you join us for dinner, Charlie. Is there anything you’re allergic to or that you don’t like?”
“I don’t like liver and other innards, but I’m okay with anything else. Even Brussels sprouts.” He looked at Tom and grinned. Among his friends, Tom was well known as a vocal Brussels sprouts hater.
“We aren’t going to have either. Though… I could go to the store and buy some Brussels sprouts. I’m almost sure I saw them in the produce department the last time I went shopping.”
“No! No! No!” Tom shouted, grabbing his throat with his right hand and sticking out his tongue making gagging sounds.
Charlie started laughing, then Tom did, too.
“Alright! Alright! Alright!” Mrs. Loring responded, mimicking what Tom had said and the way he had said it. “No Brussels sprouts. I was planning to make meatloaf and have mashed potatoes, green beans, and a salad. Is that okay with the two of you?”
“Yes, sounds great,” Charlie said. “I love meatloaf.”
“What’s for dessert?” Tom asked.
“There are at least two different kinds of ice cream in the freezer,” she replied.
“Sounds good, Mom.”
Mr. Loring walked into the kitchen. “Thanks for the help getting the chairs out of the car and into the garage, Tom. So now you can clean all six of them before you get back to the setting up the viewer in the box.”
“But I didn’t know that you were taking them out of the car,” Tom protested. “I was asking Mom if Charlie could stay for dinner.”
“Tom’s right, Rob,” Mrs. Loring said.
“So can I clean two of the chairs and put them in the crow-blind? Then Charlie and I will figure out where the viewer should be installed and poke a hole in the top of the box from the inside. Then I can clean the other chairs and you and Charlie can cut the hole in the top of the crow-blind. By then I’ll be finished with the chairs and I’ll help install the viewer and screw it into the box.”
Tom’s dad agreed. “Alright, let’s get started.”
Even though the chairs had been stored in the Arguela’s garage, the only thing that had to be cleaned was some dust. Perhaps it was because the chairs had been stacked together. It took Tom about ten minutes to carefully clean the dust off all six chairs, then he brought two to where Charlie was waiting by the crow-blind.
“I cleaned all of the chairs. I measured them; each one is fourteen inches wide. Here are two we’ll use.”
“Okay, let’s put them inside,” Charlie said.
They found that with the two chairs inside and pushed so each was pressed against a side of the box, there was a twelve inch gap between them. That made it easy to get in and out.
Tom slipped inside and sat in the chair on the left. Then Charlie slipped in and sat in the chair on the right.
“If I sit here,” Tom said, “the hole should be right about here so the bottom part of the viewer is positioned about here.” He positioned his hand so directly in front of his eyes.
“Here’s the viewer. I removed the top; it’s held on by four screws. The bottom’s held on the same way. I figured it was better to leave the bottom part on because that’s what you’ll be looking through.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. Trouble is, when I hold it in front of me the bottom of the viewer is down around my belly button.”
“To me, it looks like it’s even lower than that,” Charlie said with a suggestive grin.
Tom smirked. “I don’t think so. But what can we do to know that the hole will be in the right position?”
“Why don’t we make a shorter version of the viewer,” Charlie said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we have the whole tube and the viewing part at the bottom. Together they’re thirty-one inches. I measured them while you were cleaning the chairs. If you sit there and hold your left hand in a C shape where you want the lower part of the viewer to be in front of your eyes, I’ll use the tape measure your dad gave me to measure from the bottom of your hand to the top of the box. Then we can take some cardboard, like from a cereal box, roll it the same diameter as the viewer, cut it so it’s the measurement I made. Then we can roll it up the same diameter as the viewer. Both the top and bottom parts of the view are the same size. We’ll push the cardboard version of the viewer into the top piece, you hold it in front of you with your right hand, then make sure it’s lined up right in front of your eyes, and then you push it against the top of the box. Your dad gave me a level, so I’ll make sure it’s straight up and down, then I’ll use a pen and draw around where it’s pressed against the top of the box. We’ll take a ruler and draw an X across the circle, and where the two lines cross that’s where you punch the hole with the awl to guide your dad when he cuts the hole in the box from the top.”
“That’s amazing! You, Charlie Klein, are a genius. Let’s do it.”
So they did. Tom checked and rechecked where they’d drawn the circle and where the X crossed but without punching the hole.
Tom turned in his chair so he was facing Charlie. “Damn, that was so clever. How did you figure that out?”
Charlie shrugged his shoulders. “I want to be an engineer. This is sort of an engineering problem. It’s really a simple problem.”
“I don’t think your solution to the problem is simple. I said it before, and I’ll repeat it: it is really clever. You are really clever.” Tom smiled and looked, really looked, at Charlie. “You’re really cute, ya know?”
“Really? You think I’m cute?”
“Thanks. I don’t think I’m cute, but I’m glad you think I’m cute.” He smiled. “You’re the one who’s cute, Tom.” Charlie put his left hand on Tom’s right shoulder. Then he took a deep breath because he’d decided to do something that might was daring. And risky. He was risking their friendship. But, like his uncle from the UK said, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’
“I like you, Tom. I really like you.”
“You mean, like-like me?”
“Yeah. That’s a lot more than just liking you. If you know what I mean.”
Now Tom took a deep breath, and then he decided to do something that would be more than risky. It could be dangerous. But, fuck it, it was worth a try. He leaned over and put his right hand on the back of Charlie’s head, then kissed him. On his lips. Then pulled back.
Charlie’s voice was sort of husky sounding. “Don’t stop!” And he leaned closer to Tom and they kissed again. It was a long kiss. Lips at first, then with tongues, too.
When they pulled back they were both out of breath and breathing heavily.
“Oh my god!” Charlie said. “This means you’re….”
“I’m gay,” Tom interrupted.
Charlie smiled. “Oh, yeah! Fan-fucking-tastic! Me, too. Gay.”
“I love you, Charlie.”
“I love you, Tom.”
Then they heard Tom’s dad. “Hey, you guys, what are you doing?”
At first Tom was freaked, the kind of freak when thought his dad had caught them kissing. Then he realized that couldn’t be it.
“We’re in the crow-blind, Dad,” he called out. “Charlie figured out how to locate where the hole for the viewer should be.”
Mr. Loring walked up to the open side of the box, bent over, and looked inside. So Tom and Charlie explained how they located where the top should be cut for the viewer. In detail. With questions when Mr. Loring lost either the context or the sequence of the explanation. Finally he caught on when Tom demonstrated with the model of the viewer that Charlie had designed and made.
“How old are you, Charlie?”
“Most second-year university engineering students couldn’t improve on what you designed. And many wouldn’t come up with as clever a solution. So, let me get my awl and you two can poke the hole through the top of the box so I’ll have a guide for cutting out the hole for the viewer.”
The whole process of pushing the awl through the top of the heavy double-wall corrugated box proved to be much more difficult than they anticipated. Part of the problem was Tom was in an awkward position, and pressing the awl upward was more difficult than if he’d been pushing it down from the outside of the box. But it eventually was pushed and prodded through and Tom’s dad drew a similar circle using the actual viewer and used his jigsaw to cut the hole.
The hole was a bit smaller than the viewer, so some adjustments using a rasp were necessary.
Next they had to screw the two plastic rings together. Mr. Loring realized that the viewer didn’t have to be present when the rings were put together around the hole, one on the top and the other underneath. However, aligning the holes in the rings for the screws was complicated. Using a different awl that was thinner solved the problem of alignment. But then holes had to be drilled through the corrugated box using a drill because the rings were held together using machine screws, the kind with a flat end, instead of sheet metal screws, the kind with a pointed end. Then there was a washer that had to be put on each screw before inserting it through a hole in the top ring and another washer that had to be pushed on each screw where it went through the ring inside the box and held in place as a nut was screwed on and eventually tightened. The washers were needed to prevent the screws on the top ring and the nuts on the bottom ring from pushing through the rubber-like plastic by over-tightening. There were six holes in each ring and thus six screws, twelve washers, and six nuts to be applied.
Once all that was finished the viewer was pushed up through the hole from the inside of the box, positioned so Tom would be able to see through the viewing part of the device, and clamped in place. Then the part of the viewer that would be pointed at the branches and, hopefully, at crows as well, had to be screwed back onto the top of the viewer.
All in all, it took over two hours to complete the assembly and installation.
That gave Mrs. Loring time to finish cooking their dinner, and she called them no more than five minutes after the two boys and Mr. Loring were finished.
The three of them talked about the great success and clever solutions that had been used to assemble the viewer in the crow-blind. The only comment that anyone made about any difficulty during what they did was when Tom complained that the palms of his hands were sore from trying to push the awl through the thick corrugated box. He showed that he even had a bruise in his palm of his right hand.
The three of them complimented Mrs. Loring for the excellent meal. Charlie demonstrated his sincerity by asking her for her meatloaf recipe.
“Mom, is it okay if Charlie spends the night? We’re going to be finishing the crow-blind and setting up everything for our first live run tomorrow, and he’ll have to be here to help with that,” Tom said.
“I don’t see why not. We’ll need his mother’s approval, of course.”
Mrs. Loring asked Charlie if he had to phone his parents. He said he’d done so earlier, using his smartphone. Since Tom and Charlie were sitting next to each other on one side of the kitchen table, Charlie bumped his knee into Tom’s knee to further confirm that he’d made a point about cellphones for Tom’s benefit and his parent’s as well.
“Here’s a pad and pencil. Write down your home phone number and I’ll call your mother when we’re finished with dessert and talk to her to make sure it’s okay for you to stay over.”
“Okay,” Charlie said as he wrote down the number and handed it to Mrs. Loring.
After they were finished with dessert, vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, both boys started yawning. The yawns were partially real, and the yawns were partially fake. Tom and Charlie were tired, but they wanted to get into bed, together, as soon as possible, for other reasons. They had some mutual exploration of various body parts to perform on each other, and that could only be done in bed with the lights off and the door closed. But they had to wait until Tom’s mom called Charlie’s mom.
Mrs. Loring phoned Mrs. Klein and spent almost a half hour chatting while their sons sat in the family room sort of watching TV but mostly checking to see if their mothers had finished and had confirmed that it was okay for Charlie to stay overnight.
When she walked in she smiled. “Your mother said it was okay for you to have a sleepover with Tom tonight.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Loring,” Charlie said. That was followed by a long yawn by both boys.
“You two better get to bed or you won’t be up when the others come over in the afternoon,” she said.
They agreed without any argument.
The boys slept in the next morning. Crows appeared in the afternoon and evening, so the morning was theirs to do whatever. They decided it should be video games. Tom had an Xbox One system; Charlie had a PlayStation 4 system. Despite the difference in gaming systems, they each had many of the same games. So after breakfast they spent a leisurely morning as closely matched wannabe gamers, taking a break for lunch at one o’clock.
Finally, Tom leaned back and yawned. “It’s two o’clock. I think we’d better get outside and set up our test.”
“Yes, let’s do it!” Charlie enthused.
As they walked through the family room, Tom announced to his parents, “We’re going out to tie some suet birdseed and our fishing line to a branch.”
“You’re not going to climb up to get at any branches,” Mrs. Loring objected. “Your father will do that.”
“We don’t need Dad to help us with the branches. We….”
“Yes, you do!” she interrupted. “Didn’t you understand me? You are not to climb any ladder into that tree. No arguments!”
“But, we don’t need a ladder,” Tom protested.
Mrs. Loring started to repeat her orders, but this time it was Tom who did the interrupting. “We can do it without anyone doing any climbing,” he stated, slowly and clearly. “We can use our hoe to pull down a branch, and with one of us holding it we can tie the suet birdseed and the fishing line to the branch, then release it carefully.”
There was silence in the family room for several seconds. Then Mr. Loring chuckled. “You boys are very clever for kids your age. Who thought up using a hoe?”
“It was Jeff’s idea,” Tom replied.
“Amazing. Just amazing. I hope you two don’t mind, but I’m going to supervise. Your mother and I don’t want anyone to get hurt, so I want to see how you’re going to hold down the branch once you’ve pulled it down.”
“Oh, that’s going to be easy,” Tom said. “We have that weight set you got me, so I’m going to tie both ends of a rope around a ten-pound weight, then we’ll loop it around the branch after pulling it down. And that was my idea. Dad said he’d help.”
“Does this sound okay, Mom?”
“Yes, it does. I’m glad your father is going to supervise. That way it’s less likely that either of you will get hurt. But it’s very important that you be careful.”
“Which branches do the crows like to sit on?” Charlie asked Tom.
“The lower branches that stick out so they are mostly parallel with the ground.”
“What kind of tree is it?” Charlie asked.
“A Chinese Pistache tree,” Tom replied. “The leaves turn colors in the fall and they drop off. It has tons of little berries that turn red in the fall, and the birds and squirrels like to eat them, even the ones that fall on the lawn and patio. That is a good thing, because otherwise I’d be assigned to sweep up all of the berries on the patio every day.”
“Okay, I see lots of branches that are even with the ground. Which of them are where most crows sit?”
“Let’s see,” Tom said. He began remembering the branches that the crows seemed to like the best. They stuck out so there weren’t any branches directly above them that would injure the crows if they were catapulted straight up off the branch.
“The best are these three that are here, the one on the right that’s over the patio, and the two on the other side of the tree over the lawn.”
“Is there one that you see crows on the most?” Charlie asked.
“I see them mostly on the two branches right in front of us. I say we do some tests using one of those.”
“A test sounds like a good idea,” Tom’s dad said. “How do you propose to do it?”
“We need to put something on the branch that would be like a crow. It should be the same weight and be able to stay on the branch until we tip it off. So the first thing we need to do is make a crow.”
Charlie started to laugh. “Makes me think about that really old but really funny movie, ‘Young Frankenstein’ that I saw on TV last week.” He waved his fingers in the air and moaned, “Ooooo… we’re gonna reanimate a dead croooow!”
Tom laughed. “First thing, we’ve gotta find out how much a crow weighs before we can reanimate one.” He’d seen that movie, too.
“We can Google it,” Charlie said.
“I’ll get my laptop and we can look it up,” Tom said. He went inside and a couple minutes later returned. He opened it and pressed the power button. After a few seconds everything was loaded.
“Man, that’s one fast laptop!” Charlie said. “Everything opened up almost instantly. I wish my computer was that fast.”
“It’s easy; it can be that fast every time you start your computer. Just select hibernate when you turn it off. It saves everything you were doing and loads what it saved when you turn it on.”
Charlie shook his head. “I don’t think I have hibernate when I turn mine off.”
“I’ll show you how to set it up later. Now let’s Google ‘crow’ and find out what they weigh.”
They did, and found out the typical American crow weighs 20 ounces, which is one and a quarter pounds. But a raven, which is larger, weighs about double the weight of a crow. They also found out how to identify whether they had crows or ravens coming to Tom’s back yard by the shape of the tail feathers when they are flying; a raven’s came to a point, a crow’s didn’t.
“Now we have to find out which we have here. But when we figure out how to make a crow, and it should be easy enough, we can test for both by putting one reanimated crow on the branch and tipping it off if we have crows, then putting two of them on the branch and tipping them off if we have ravens. Then later this afternoon when the crows — or ravens — fly in here we can see from their tail feathers and we’ll know which we have.”
The next task was making a crow. Or, as Mr. Loring said, a model of a crow for testing.
Tom’s sister Connie had been sitting on the patio listening to the discussion. She knew what her brother was planning to do because it also had been discussed during dinner the night before. She got up and went to her room, found what she’d looked for, worked with it for a few minutes, and returned to the patio.
“Tom, here are two model crows.” She handed them to him. “They each weigh twenty ounces,” she told him.
Tom looked at what he was holding, one in each hand. He looked at Connie. “This is amazing. How did you make these?”
“I used modeling clay and black construction paper. They don’t look much like crows, but they’re sort of shaped like a crow when it’s sitting. You can put one on a branch and it should stay there until you… what was it? Oh, yeah, until you tip it off.”
Tom grabbed his sister and hugged her. “That’s fantastic! Thank you, Connie.”
“I can make as many as you want. Until the clay runs out.” She grinned.
“Why would the clay run out?”
She giggled. “Well, some of them might decide to fly off, like real crows. Don’t you think?”
Tom loved how his sister was both smart and funny. He rolled his eyes and laughed. “We’ll try to get back as many of our model crows as we can. Once the testing is done, we’ll try it on real crows. Or ravens. Whichever.”
“No modeling clay will be harmed in the testing, and hopefully no crows will be harmed in the live application of this crow removal method,” their dad — who’d overheard their conversation — said. That made Tom laugh because he’d heard that on some TV show about dogs and at the end they said no animals had been harmed in the making of the show. Connie looked bemused, not understanding why her dad’s comment made Tom laugh.
It was time for the first test. However, it was necessary to connect the fishing line from the branch to the crow-blind. In order for it to pull down the branch the line had to be tied to the end of the branch.
“I don’t think it should come straight down because crows have very good eyesight and could see the fishing line,” Mr. Loring said.
“I read an article that said fishing line is used to keep crows and other birds from fruit trees,” Charlie said. “It said they can’t see monofilament fishing line.”
“Well, let’s try it. We’ll have to screw one of the eye lag screws into the top of a stake… hmm… I think we’ll have to pound the stake in the ground first, then screw in the eye lag screw. We wouldn’t be able to pound the stake into the ground if the eye lag screw was in the way,” Tom said.
“That’s right,” his dad agreed.
So they put one stake underneath the branch, and another about two feet from the crow-blind. They drilled a starter hole in the top of each stake, then using the accessory for screwing in the eye lag screws, they put one in the top of each stake. They drilled a hole in the center of the front of the crow-blind to run the fishing line inside to where the boys would sit, or where Tom would sit when he would be alone.
To avoid having to constantly hold the fishing pole against the pull of the branch, Charlie suggested that the hole be aligned with where the reel was when the fishing pole stood up on the floor against the front panel. “That way,” he said, “I won’t get tired holding the fishing pole steady and trying to keep from moving it which might cause the branch to move up and down.”
Mr. Loring was smiling. “You’re really good at coming up with clever designs to solve problems, Charlie.”
Charlie blushed. That made Tom laugh, and he said, “You are, you know.” That made Charlie blush even more.
Mr. Loring pulled down the branch with the garden hoe. He held it as Tom and Charlie tied the fishing line near the end of the branch. Then they tied a ball of suet birdseed onto the top of the branch with the built-in string provided for attaching it, and placed a model crow on the branch where they thought a crow would probably land and perch.
Tom’s dad slowly raised the hoe which released the branch. He threaded the other end of the fishing line through the two eye lag screws and the hole in the front of the crow-blind. Tom and Charlie got into the crow-blind. Charlie pulled in the fishing line, letting it pile up under his feet, until it was taut. He threaded the end of the fishing line into the reel the way Mr. Loring had showed him earlier, then reeled in the excess.
“You guys okay in there?” Mr. Loring shouted.
“We’re okay, Mr. Loring,” Charlie called out, “I’m going to reel in the fishing line and see if I can pull the branch down.” He turned to Tom. “Tell me when the branch is pulled down to where it was when we tied on the fishing line.”
“Dad, you don’t need to shout. We can hear you when you just talk,” Tom said.
“Okay, I got it, Tom!” his dad said.
Tom looked through the viewer until he saw the branch with the model crow ‘sitting’ on it. “Okay!” he said. “Go ahead and start reeling in and I’ll tell you when it’s in position.”
Using the handle on the reel, Charlie slowly wound the fishing line onto the reel.
After a few seconds, Tom said, “Stop! It’s ready to go.”
Charlie set the lock on the reel. “Okay, all set,” he called out. He stood the fishing pole against the inside of the front panel so the reel was next to the hole.
“How are you doing, Charlie?” Mr. Loring asked. “Is the pole standing up?”
“No problem, Mr. Loring. If it looks like it’s going to lean down I can hold it in place with two fingers. That’ll also work for Tom when he’s in here by himself.”
“I think it’s time to do a test run,” Mr. Loring said.
“Okay, get out of the way, Dad,” Tom said. “Charlie, count to five then release the branch.”
“One, two, three, four, five, bombs away!” Charlie said, then he released the lock on the fishing reel. The line raced off the reel and out of the crow-blind, through the eye lag screws and the branch whipped up. The model crow was catapulted up into the air, and then it fell on the ground.
“Oh, man, if that was a real crow it’d be surprised as all he… heck,” Tom said. “This test was a success! I love it. This is going to work totally perfect.”
Tom was the only member of the team in the crow-blind that saw what happened because he watched it through the viewer. Charlie was totally in the dark, as far as seeing what happened. But he’d seen the speed that the fishing line had been whipped off the reel, and for him that was a crowning moment.
Tom and Charlie crawled out of the crow-blind.
“The test looks like a success,” Mr. Loring said.
“That was so funny!” Connie said.
Even Mrs. Loring had come out of the house to see the first test run. “I didn’t think it would work, but I was wrong. Do that a few times to several crows and they’ll abandon our yard forever.”
“Hmm…” Connie mumbled. “Maybe the crows are happy that we have a nice tree where they can come and rest without being bothered. They gave us what you call junk but they might think those were cool things to give us.”
“I suppose it’s possible,” Mrs. Loring said, “but they need to find somewhere else because I’m sure Tom is tired of all their ‘cool things’ that he has to pick up.”
“Look!” Connie shouted. “There are some crows flying up there in the sky!”
“Let’s reset the trap and see if we can attract a crow,” Tom said. The two boys climbed back into the crow-blind. Charlie rewound the line around the reel until the line was taut, then slowly and cautiously continued to wind, pulling the branch down. When Tom said, “That’s enough,” he set the reel lock on.
It was all set and the others went into the house. Now all they had to do was a wait for a crow to land on the selected branch.
After about five minutes a crow appeared and landed on the branch. Tom watched it through the viewer. It looked around like it wasn’t interested. It just sat there for maybe fifteen seconds, then hopped up and landed next to the suet birdseed and nibbled at it.
“Now!” Tom whispered.
Charlie released the lock on the fishing line, the branch popped up, and the crow was catapulted off into the air upside down. It recovered and flew away, cawing loudly and apparently unhappily.
“Oh my god!” Tom shouted. “We tipped our first crow! It worked, Charlie, it worked!”
They hugged, then Charlie said, “Why don’t I reset the branch for another crow?”
“Good idea,” Tom said.
Charlie reeled in the fishing line and the branch was pulled down. When it was at the right distance Tom said, “It’s okay right there.” Charlie stopped reeling and set the lock.
“Watch and see if another crow lands on the branch,” Charlie said.
“You want to swap seats and watch?”
“Nah. What I like to do is release the fishing line when you tell me it’s time.”
“You got it,” Tom said. He looked at Charlie who was grinning and seemed excited.
“Maybe another crow won’t come to this branch,” Tom said.
“We’ll see,” Charlie responded.
Tom looked through the viewer and after about a minute another crow landed on the branch.
Tom whispered, “There’s a crow.” It seemed to be cautious, glancing at the suet birdseed every so often. “It just jumped over to the suet birdseed,” he whispered. Then, “Do it!”
Charlie released the lock and the crow was tipped off the branch. Cawing like it was scolding everything that could hear it, it flew away.
“I think it was mad,” Tom said. He and Charlie laughed.
Charlie reset the branch. “I need to get out and stretch,” He said.
“Me, too,” Tom added.
So they did, and while they were standing behind the crow-blind another crow landed so they crawled back inside. The crow nibbled some of the suet birdseed. Tom whispered, “Now,” and Charlie released the lock. The crow was tipped off the branch and flew off, squawking instead of cawing.
“Yes!” they both shouted, from inside the crow-blind.
They continued tipping crows, another eleven of them. A blue jay landed and ate some suet birdseed, and a crow, cawing loudly, landed, scaring the blue jay which flew away. That crow was tipped, and it was the last because Tom’s mom called them to come in, wash their hands, and have dinner.
Because it was summer and it stayed light outside, after eating they returned to the crow-blind. A few crows arrived and were tipped. The visits seemed to be occurring less and less often.
“I think the crows are going to bed,” Charlie said.
“I guess so,” Charlie said. “I’m going to ease the fishing line out to release the branch. I don’t want to pop it up because the suet birdseed might come off. I’m not sure how long it’s going to last tied to the branch, anyway.”
They crawled out and stretched. Charlie reached over and rubbed Tom’s shoulders. Tom then did the same to Charlie.
“Let’s go see if any of the crows dropped anything,” Tom suggested. “Maybe we’ll find some quarters. The crows seem to like quarters because they drop a lot of them in our yard.”
“They used to drop them in your yard, you mean,” Charlie said. “Maybe we’ve scared them away already.”
“In a way I hope I haven’t. I like tipping crows. It’s like I’m in control of what they’re going to do, and they don’t have a clue.”
“Well, let’s go see if they’ve made you rich, Tom.”
“Made us rich,” Tom corrected.
They walked into the yard and to the lawn on the other side of the tree.
“There’s something shiny over there,” Charlie said. He walked over and picked it up. It was a bright silver washer. Tom found a bottle cap from something called Erie.
Then Charlie found a dime, then another. “Your crows are getting cheap. Dimes instead of quarters.”
“At least it’s money instead of… Ouch!” Tom yelled that last word.
“What?” Charlie asked, looking up to see what Tom was staring at.
“That damn crow dropped a nut on me, the kind of nut you put on a screw. It hurt when it hit me.” He rubbed his arm where it had hit him.
Charlie felt something wet hit his head. “Is it raining?”
“No. Look up and you’ll see there aren’t any clouds in the sky,” Tom replied.
“Wow!” Charlie said. “Take a look, there’s a whole flock of crows up there. That’s really interesting. Shit!”
“What? Why did you swear… SHIT!”
They both realized they were being dive bombed by the crows, and the bombs were crow poop. Lots of crow poop, aimed at the two boys. They turned and ran to the house, collecting more crow poop on the way. Tom pulled the back door open and they ran inside, slamming the door closed behind them.
They were in the laundry room. “Our clothes are covered in crow poop. My hair is covered with crow poop. My arms are covered by crow poop,” Charlie yelled.
“Let’s get undressed, our outer clothes and our shoes, too, ‘cause we walked through poop that was on the ground,” Tom said. They started undressing, removing their shoes first.
“Mom! Come here!” Tom shouted.
“Don’t yell…” she started to say, “…what happened to you. You’re covered with… what are you covered with?”
“Crow poop, Mom. We tipped a whole bunch of crows. They came back for revenge and pooped on us.”
“Right now you two have to take showers. Leave your clothes on the floor. Take your t-shirts off, too. I can see some of the… the poop on them, too. And your socks. Everything except your briefs. I’ll wash and dry your clothes. Charlie, you can get yours when you come over tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to run the steam-sanitize cycle on the washer to sterilize all of your clothes. Tom will give you some clothes to wear. You can return them tomorrow.”
“Okay, thanks, Mrs. Loring,” Charlie said. “Now we know what the crows did after we scared them by blasting them off the branch they were on. They held in their poop, had a strategy meeting, and then pooped it out all over us!”
Tom’s mom looked at the boys and said, “I wish I’d had a camera to take your pictures the way you looked when you ran in the back door.”
“I’m glad you didn’t!” Tom growled.
It was obvious to Tom and Charlie that she was fighting to keep from laughing at them. Finally, she couldn’t hold it in any longer, and burst out laughing. That made Tom and Charlie laugh, too.
“Go on now, take a shower, a long shower, and wash your hair, too,” she said after the laughter subsided.
When they got to the bathroom Tom used, he had an idea. “Let’s take a shower together. That way we can wash the poop out of each other’s hair and off our bodies.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “And we oughta wash our other parts, too. I figure, we really gotta make sure they’re clean, even though we probably didn’t get any crow poop down there.”
So they did, with a lot of hot water and shampoo and liquid body wash. And rubbing, and more rubbing. They discovered crow poop wasn’t easy to wash out of their hair.
When they got to the ‘other parts’ Charlie commented, “We really, really gotta do this more often!”
Tom’s response was a mumbled, “Oh, yeah! That’s for sure!”
When they finished Tom loaned Charlie some clothes and a pair of tennis shoes, and they got dressed.
“Let’s eat. I’m hungry after all that exercise,” Tom said, and he grinned.
They walked into the kitchen where the rest of the Loring family was already sitting at the table, waiting for them. They sat down.
“What’s for dinner?” Tom asked.
“Pizza. We’re waiting for the delivery guy,” his Mom replied. “I made a salad, too.”
Mr. Loring was trying to stifle a grin. “So, boys, can you explain to me what happened?”
“We tipped about a couple dozen crows. I guess it was that many; we sort of lost count. The last few were pretty far apart. I mean by time. Then there weren’t any more. We went over to the lawn looking for things the crows might have dropped. We found some stuff, and then they started to poop on us. Charlie first, probably because he has red hair. We had so much poop on us we had to take a long shower and wash our hair about three times to get it all out. What a mess!”
Connie was holding her hand over her mouth, trying to keep from laughing. Finally, she couldn’t hold it back any longer and started laughing out loud.
Tom glared at his sister, but then he was laughing, too. Then Charlie. Then Tom’s dad. Then his mom. While they were laughing at the situation, the doorbell rang and Mr. Loring went to get the pizza order. He brought it into the kitchen, two extra-large all-meat pizzas and one large garden vegetable pizza. The next half hour was spent eating pizza and salad, without much conversation.
When they finished eating Tom’s dad decided it was time to discuss what had happened.
“Why do you think the crows gathered together and pooped on you?”
“We made them mad,” Charlie offered.
“Yeah. That makes sense. They’re pretty smart for birds. Kind of like parrots,” Tom said.
“Maybe it was retribution for tipping them off the branch,” Mr. Loring suggested.
“So does that mean we have to stop tipping crows?” Tom asked.
“I suggest that you wait and see what the crows do tomorrow,” Mrs. Loring said.
“The crows won’t be back tomorrow,” Connie said, with conviction. “I read about crows online. They do things like the pooping thing when someone does something they don’t like. If a crow is killed by someone shooting it, they have a funeral with lots of crows coming to where it happened, pooping all over that area, then they don’t come back for a long time.”
Charlie grinned and poked Tom in the shoulder. “Seems like your tipping crows idea was a winner. If they stay away, they won’t be dropping things in your yard. ‘Job done, good work.’ I heard that last part from some TV show. But it fits, and it was a solution, don’t you think?”
Tom leaned back in his chair. “First, it was mostly your idea. A very good idea, in my opinion. Second, you’re right. Our job is done. And there’s nothing left to do. Until someday when the crows decide to come back. Then one or two tipped off a branch should let them know that this is still a dangerous place for them.”
“You’re half right,” Tom’s mom said. “Your job tipping crows might be done. But there is still a lot to do. If you go outside and look at the lawn you’ll see that there’s lots of crow poop on it. And there’s some on the patio and on the back steps, too. It all has to be washed off. That’s your job, Tom. Enjoy. One other thing. Your poopy tennis shoes can’t be put in the washer, so you two are going to have to wash your shoes by hand after you finish dinner.”
“Well, I have to go home,” Charlie said. “My folks have probably returned from my grandma’s house by now.” He smiled at Tom, and got up from the table. “Thanks for dinner, Mrs. Loring. I’ll take my dirty shoes home.” Then he headed for the front door, followed by Tom.
When they got to the front door, Tom grabbed Charlie’s arm. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you going to help me wash the poop off the grass and the patio?”
“Sure. But not tonight. I’ll come over tomorrow after breakfast. The others will be here after lunch, like you told them to be. We should be able to wash the poop off the lawn and patio and steps before they get here. Oh, and you’ll have to feed me lunch.” He grinned.
“What are we going to have the guys do when they get here? They were supposed to be helping us set up the crow-blind so we could start tipping crows.”
“We can tell them how successful our design was, how easy it was to set up, how well it worked, and that the crows are gone. And, like Stan said, we scared the shit out of ‘em, and that’s what they left all over us and your yard.” Charlie chuckled at his little joke.
“Okay,” Tom said. “I’ll tell my mom that when the guys get here we’re going to show them the example of tipping crows using Connie’s crow model, then go to Collier Park and play a little football. Or basketball. Or whatever.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Maybe an even better plan than tipping crows!”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Tipping Crows.
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