Medicine Hat Media

“Get too Beguiled and you’ll be Eating… Crow”

Today we have something a little different for you. This story was submitted by David Walks-as-Bear, Author of Shamus Ghillie U.S. Secret Service In Medicine Hat.

Yes, indeed, the Crow Moon. For the Shawnee, this time arrives when the cawing of crows signals the beginning of the end of papoonwi (winter). And, indeed, early March is the time of ‘wakening’… when the Earth Mother first begins to stir, eh. Like a slowly waking beautiful woman, she gradually rouses; the days begin to warm, and the ground begins to thaw. Um-hmm, and like the lovely languid sleeper, she murmurs in the coo of budded awakening, too. Yep, but as any guy knows… who’s ever gotten too close to one who is first arousing… appearances can be deceiving. Get too beguiled and that sweet and gentle subtleness may just get’chu a pillow or… a huge wad of snow… whipped smack-dab… into your goofily naive face.

You know, some of the more northern Indians know this time of the year as the Crust Moon. That’s because it’s the time when the snow cover becomes crystallized and is thus ‘crusted’ from thawing by day and freezing by night. Sure, and to some of the early white Catholic settlers, it was known as the Lenten Moon. That’s because it arrived with the Catholic observance of Lent. But, for the Shawnee, this has always been the time of the Crow Moon.

No, no, no! – I don’t mean that it’s named for those pesky Indians from out west, neither. Nah, those Crows… are more precisely called the Absároke, a name possibly given to them by their neighboring tribe, the Hidatsa. It means “Children of the Large-Beaked Bird”. Yeah, and this long-ago bird is probably extinct nowadays because nobody’s seen one in like 5 or 6 centuries, eh. But, it was originally said to be a big, black, fork-tailed bird, most resembling the blue jay or magpie. So, the closest thing to something like that was well…probably the common crow – who knows? Hence, this moniker stuck for the Absároke. Um-hmm, and while these Indians also go by the handles of “Sparrow Hawk” and “Bird People”, they’re often just known as plain old…“Crow”. So, nope, I don’t mean them. I’m referring to the actual old nemesis of the straw-stuffed dummy who ‘hangs out’ in the corn fields and who once did a ‘Yellow Brick Road’ trip with a lily-livered kitty, a sardine can of a tin man, a ‘my prettied’ chick named Dorothy, and her little dog, too. Yes’sir, I’m talking about – the genus Corvus, in the family Corvidae – the standard model #302 bird called… the crow.

As with most wildlife, the Creator has taught American Indians to pay attention to the crow. They carry many meanings to us, and there are Crow Societies in numerous Indian cultures. But, for sure, we all look to them for sign. In early spring, when the wetness of the melting conee (snow) and heated soil spurs the earthworm, they wiggle upward, and their casts (droppings) appear on the exposed ground. Ooo boy, and man, but this brings on the return of the robin wiski-lothas (birds). Yep, they’re coming back from the south early enough… to get the worm. Their appearance is thus a telltale sign of spring. You’bet’cha, and the skotidoquasas (crows) which have been congregating all winter, well; they break-up at this time, too. Yeah, they singly head out to look for honeys and hunks to hook-up with. Uh-huh, and just like two-legged guys and chicks trying to connect at a noisy bar; voices have to be elevated to make the link. So, this makes for a lot of noisy cawing for these birds at this time of year, eh. Oh yeah, and if two-legged guys have a dozen pick-up lines for the chicks, then the old crow won’t be outdone – uh-uh. Yes’sir, they make a number of clicks, rattles and bell-like sounds. But scientists figure that the black feathered ones have some 23 variations of their ‘caw’ call alone; each one means something specific like maybe “What’s your sign?” or “Come here often?” So, they can be especially noisy in the early spring. To a traditional Indian, they, like the returning robin, are a sign of the Earth Mother’s early awakening. But like the beautiful sleeping woman… it ain’t always as sweet as it seems… hmm.

This raucous ruckus lasts until the crows eventually find a significant other, make like lovebirds, and settle down to build a home. But, if a bunch of ducks is a flock, then there’s a reason why you call a crowd of crows… a ‘murder’, eh. Yeah, these same lovey-dovey crows will occasionally raid the springtime robins’ nests to eat their new eggs, thus destroying the red breasts’ family. Heck, they sometimes even take over the nest for their own homestead. So… see what I mean? The scene’s not always as delectably tender and gentle as it looks, is it? Yes’um, and winter can be just as mesmeric when it comes to appearances being deceiving. Just when we think that spring is right around the corner… WHAM! – we get a foot of snow and are plunged deeply into frigid temperatures… just like that. So there you go. Early spring can be just as illusionary in regard to the black birds’ portent of winter’s last sigh or… that of beautiful awakening woman, too. Um-hmm, get too lulled in either case… and that sweet and gentle subtleness may just get’chu a pillow, or… a huge wad of snow… whipped smack-dab into your goofily naive face.

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