By: Christina J. Johns

When I was a child, one of my very favorite things to do was to get up early in the morning and take a delicate cup and saucer out of my mother's china cabinet. I would then go outside and proceed to curtsy and shake hands and have an ever-so-delightful conversation with each and every Azalea and Camilla bush that surrounded our house.

Now, since I was the baby of the family everyone thought this was very endearing for a while. Then they just thought it was a little strange. Finally, when I suppose I was much too old to be carrying on conversations with shrubs, I finally realized that if I didn't curtsy and talk out loud everyone in the family would just think I loved flowers and stop giving me grief over it..

Well, I still live in a house surrounded by plants. But now, I can talk out loud to them and I suppose I could even curtsy to them if I wanted. I don't talk out loud to all of them, mind you, just the ones that seem to need a special helping hand. Fortunately I'm married to someone who also cannot wait to get out in the yard every morning and see what miracle of a new bloom or bud or blossom has come into being during the night.

Now, you can imagine if we take this kind of interest in our plants, what kind of interest we must have in animals. In fact, one of the things I like most about where we live in Tallahassee is watching the antics of the changing cast of characters in our neighborhood bird social system.

We have some old standards like the cardinals, the chipping sparrows and the blue jays, and some frequent guests like the Pilleated woodpecker, the red bellied woodpecker, and the occasional red headed woodpecker. This season we also have two eastern bluebirds and two Eastern King birds, which I'd never seen before And, there's the Roufous-sided Towhee. Is that a great name or what?

The brown thrasher has moved in for the summer and if he behaves like he did last summer, is sure to chase all the others away when he and his mate have a nest to protect. He loathes and harasses our cats and I'm not too sure he's all that fond of us. But, my favorites are the crows. There's just something wonderfully brash and vaguely ill tempered about the crows that I love.

They used to come early in the morning and chum around the neighborhood striding down the street like a bunch of guys out for a beer.

One morning, I watched three of them near the side of the street in front of our house. One of them caught a frog by the leg and started to walk over to show the other two. Suddenly, just before he got there, the frog jumped right out of his mouth and went down the sewer drain. The crow just stood there, dumbfounded, staring in the drain. The other two, noticing something was up, walked over. The three of them then stood there around the drain, craning their necks to look into it, raising their heads to look at each other and all the time cackling away in conversation.

What happened?

He went down this hole?


A frog.

Where'd he go?

Down this hole.

Down this hole?

Down this hole.

The frog went down this hole?

The frog.

Where is he?

Down this hole.

I don't see anything.

Well he went down there.

I don't see anything either.

You sure he went down this hole?

I'm sure he went down this hole.

But where'd he go?

Down this hole.

What's this hole for anyway?

I don't know. You see anything?

I don't see anything.



Why'd you let him go anyway.

I didn't let him go.

Well he went down this hole didn't he?

Finally the two who hadn't caught the frog, completely lost interest in this "who's on first" conversation and walked off down the street together. The would-be predator lingered for one final perplexed look down the sewer drain, and then he gave up and followed his buddies.

We don't see the crows much anymore. Maybe they figured if their breakfast was going to jump down a hole every morning, they'd just as soon live somewhere else.

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