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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Emotional · #2318296
A scene from the life of a crow, told in his own words, sort of. A story with a moral.
1,998 words

Jimmy Red Corn

Far below him, shining as if it might be an emerald ribbon crawling across the mountains, lay the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. Everything down there belongs to me, the crow thought as he flew higher, except that special patch of corn grandpa told me about.

         His mouth watered. He yearned for another kernel of that corn. He'd tasted it once, but that blue-eyed girl guarding the corn with a double-barreled shotgun had shot two of his tail feathers off, before he had gotten crop-full. A couple of his flight feathers had fallen off later.

          That blue-eyed girl can sure sing; I don't know if it's her voice, or the taste of Jimmy Red corn, I am bound by.

         Two months it had been, before he could fly high up here like he was doing now. But that corn . . . lord have mercy! There was, in that girl's patch of corn, for those crows who might prefer white corn, rows and rows of Hickory Cane. He loved Hickory Cane; the stalks sometimes grew twelve feet tall, and its succulent kernels glistened like well-polished river pearls when a crow pecked aside the outer shuck. The juice from the pecking might squirt the offending crow right in the eye, if it wasn't quick enough to dodge it. A crow could lose itself in its foliage. Along with the Hickory Cane, for the true connoisseur, there was Jimmy Red corn.

         Jimmy Red corn was his grandpa's favorite corn. His grandpa lived over yonder, on the Cornpone Holler fork of Turkey Creek, Kentucky, in an abandoned bluebird house he had pecked at for three months to make the entrance large enough for him to enter it.

         Sometimes, when he flew over there on a Saturday, there grandpa would be, laid back on his front porch, warbling one of those bluegrass instrumentals he was wont to warble and sipping on an outsized thimbleful of fermented Jimmy Red corn. Grandpa wasn't a regular drinker of corn liquor, but every now and again on a Saturday, he might take himself a sip or two.

Over Yonder . . .

Flapping his wings, he flew over yonder and below him toward Cornpone Holler. Sometimes, on a Saturday visit, he thought his grandpa was full of bull, or as full of bull as a grandpa already full of Jimmy Red corn could get. At other times, he believed every word grandpa said, such as that story grandpa had told him of flying all the way to Nashville, Tennessee to listen to Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.

         According to grandpa, Nashville was where he had learned to warble to sound like a fiddle in three different chords, and to change instruments so fast he could make a person cry as they listened to the sad banjo of grandpa's voice warbling out his version of Wildwood Flower.

          Around and about the honky-tonks down there close to Nashville, it was said that grandpa could make the tears fall faster when he switched to sounding like a mandolin right in the middle of a verse. Grandpa got himself a name of being the best warbler in the state of Tennessee. The crows up here in Kentucky got big heads because of him.

         I believe every word of that story. Maybe grandpa will warble Wildwood Flower for me today.

         He couldn't wait to hear his grandpa tell that story about the Jimmy Red corn and that pretty, blue-eyed girl. Flapping his wings to the left, he entered a downdraft and began a long glide toward the perch on the front of his grandpa's porch. His mouth watered once more, as he thought about that Jimmy Red corn, and he could almost hear that blue-eyed girl singing again.

          Pretty crow, pretty crow, won't you come on over and get yourself some corn? Pretty crow, pretty crow?

Cornpone Holler

I couldn't get that blue-eyed girl, nor that field full of Jimmy Red corn out of my head as I approached grandpa's house and alighted on the perch. Grandpa didn't appear, so I cawed for him. Directly, he came out of the house and greeted me.

         "Howdy son, what are you up to today?"

         "Grandpa, I was hoping you would tell me that story about the Jimmy Red corn and that blue-eyed girl again."

         "I reckon I will, son. I never did tell you the whole story; I left out the parts about my grandpappy."


"Let's see now, this is April of 1972, the story began in the late spring of 1967. You see, son, I used to have a grandpappy too. My grandpappy lived over on Blue Willow Branch of Cornpone Holler. That's where the story began, and likely where the story will end. Wait a minute son, let me go in the house and pour myself another thimbleful of Jimmy Red. I'll be back directly."

         I sat there on the perch and waited. Grandpa came out, jumped onto the perch beside me, and handed me an oversized thimble full of parched Jimmy Red corn. Then he began to tell me the story of Jimmy Red.

         The smell of that parched Jimmy Red corn was stuck in the bottom of that thimble at first; then it came crawling up toward me. When I got a whiff of it, I could not wait for grandpa to finish the story; every now and again as he talked, I pecked a kernel of Jimmy Red corn from the thimble and swallowed it.

          Yum! Yum!

         Grandpa paused as he watched me swallow that first kernel I had pecked out of the thimble, then he spoke. "As I was saying, youngster, I used to have a grandpappy.

         "One day when I was over on Blue Willow Branch of Cornpone Holler, down there in the bottomland before you reach grandpappy's house, I came upon grandma. She was just sitting there, on a big rock beside Blue Willow Branch, and she was making the awfullest sounds. I flew over there to her.

         "Grandma, what's the matter?

         "Between the sniffling and the wailing, Grandma spoke."

         "Sonny boy, it's your grandpa. Three days ago this morning, your grandpa went out to find us some corn and a few sumac berries for the next morning's breakfast. He never came home, Sonny boy. When he left the other morning, he mentioned this bottomland along Blue Willow Branch, that's the reason I am here now. But I can't find him, Sonny boy."

         "Grandma, I'll take you home, then I'll look for him."

Scared Crow

"After I took grandma home, I flew back over to the bottomland along Blue Willow Branch. I figured the place to start looking for grandpappy was along that creek. Son, it was nigh on to the falling of darkness before I alit on a sumac tree that was growing in a stand of black raspberry canes. Still, there was enough light to see the pepper-holed leaves of the sumac and the red foliage of the raspberry canes."

          Red foliage?

         "What'd you do then, Grandpa?"

         "Well, because I was hungry by that time, I ran my beak through a bead of what appeared to be raspberry juice. I set myself to swallow it, then I realized it tasted like blood. You never saw a crow spit so fast.

         "Blood was scattered all over among the raspberry canes and sumac berries. I jumped down into the undergrowth beneath the raspberries for a closer look. What I saw down there sent tendrils of uneasiness through my forehead, and along the back of my neck, goosefesh quivered.

         "There was a lot of blood down there, son, and there was the white tail feather of a crow." Grandpappy had a tail feather just like that one.

          "I got out of that patch of raspberries as quick as I could, went over to grandma's and spent the night. Of course, I did not mention what I had found to my grandma.

         "Right after daylight the next morning, I was back in that raspberry patch. Worry had a secure grip upon me, son. I sat there among the raspberry canes for a while; I didn't want to go down there and see that white tail feather again, but I had to do it."

          A voice crawled up out of the raspberry canes as I sat there, but I am not going to tell you about that. The voice was singing in my mind.

          Pretty Crow, pretty crow, won't you come on over and pay for your corn? Pretty crow, pretty crow?

         My bones shivered.


"Having no other option, I jumped down into that nightmare. The blood was still there, as was the tail feather. Son, I was one cuss word away from getting mad."

          In my mind the words of the song I had heard yesterday mocked me as I was hearing it again.

          Pretty crow, pretty crow, won't you come on over and pay for your corn? Pretty crow, pretty crow?


"I hopped over to the edge of the raspberry patch, a new warble forming in my mind." Contrary to human scientists' erroneous opinions, we crows did not evolve this warbling ability; it is a gift from God.

         "Hunkered down in a depression in the fescue grass of the bottomland, I commenced to warble her song. Then I crawled to another, what I thought to be, safe spot and warbled it again. My distrust in the nature of shotguns, and the memory of the white tail feather in the raspberry patch crawled beside me.

         "I warbled again. Pretty crow, pretty crow, won't you come on over and pay for your corn?

         "Kaboom! The sound of the shotgun blast almost tore my ears off. Dirt and slivers of grass pelted me. Hunkering down into the hole the pellets had made, I warbled again.


The Jimmy Red Cornfield

"Hold on a minute, son. I'll run in the house and replenish our thimbles before the last part of this story."

         "Aw, Grandpa!"

         Grandpa came back, sipping on his thimble, and handed me a thimbleful of parched Jimmy Red corn.

         Leaning back against his house on his wingtips, grandpa took a sip of Jimmy Red and commenced, once more, to relate the tale.

         "Son, the sound of that second shot from the shotgun was still hanging in the air when I lit out for that raspberry patch. I halfway flew and halfway ran, then dove into the undergrowth beneath the raspberries. My breath was coming in gasps, as if the ghost of grandpappy had been riding on my tail feathers.

         "I crawled to the far edge of that patch of raspberries, clawed myself out a crow hole and settled in.

         "Outside, I heard the crunch of raspberry canes as they were stepped on. A face appeared in the hole where I had entered the raspberry patch, the face of the blue-eyed girl.

         "A voice wafted toward me as I watched.

         "Pretty crow, pretty crow, you'd better come on out and pay for your corn. Pretty crow, pretty crow."

         "Oh, she was pretty, but the song she was singing was ugly. She sang that song again, and the menace in her voice was even uglier."


"My patience outlasted her and she left. I followed her to her house. There, on the edge of a field of Jimmy Red corn, I found grandpappy.

         "He sure did look peaceful, standing there on top of a scarecrow's head, his mouth stretched open and biting down on a kernel of Jimmy Red corn.

         "The only thing was, he was glass-eyed and stuffed full of cotton.

         "Son, I want you to promise me that you will never harvest corn you did not plant; there is no future in a life such as that."

         "I promise, Grandpa."

         "Come over here to Cornpone Holler any time you want to, son. I'll teach you how to warble to sound like a harmonica, and I have some Jimmy Red corn seeds I'll to loan you."

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