(And Other Birds that Scare Me)
My sister and I used to play at our local park all the time as kids. I’m from one of those out-doors-y, spend time in the sunshine type families, so it was a given that my parents – who used to tromp around in Floridian swamps for fun – took us to play at the park at every opportunity. We loved the park; it had everything kids need to have fun: a playground, trees, grassy hills. It also had a lake, and the lake happened to be home to a crazy number of ducks…and geese.
Those geese, those mother fuckin’ geese, were the fuel of my nightmares. They would see my sister and I feeding the ducks from the other side of the lake and would advance upon us like a freaking armada. One second, that flock of feathered freaks would be at the other side of the lake, and the next they would be charging onto the shore, eyes alight with hunger and violence, toothy bills open in battle squawks.
What else could we do against such abject thirst for blood (or bread, as it were), but flee in terror?
So geese, geese scare me, but they were just the first in a bizarre list of my avian enemies. (Yep, this gets weirder and more ridiculous.)
My preschool was pretty bomb and had a petting zoo to complement all the regular awesome parts of a preschool (you know, swing sets and sandboxes and the like). I both loved and dreaded the days we went to the petting zoo. Loved, because of the chicks and mini-ponies and fluffy bun-buns, and dreaded, because of the turkey.
Turkeys are awful creatures. If you’ve never seen a turkey up close, don’t. Their wrinkly, veiny heads have convinced me that they’re (hostile) aliens, they’re huge, and they’re mean. They don’t even taste that great (sue me, you know you don’t eat turkey outside of Thanksgiving dinner and leftovers).
Now, that turkey at my preschool was particularly gross and big (that beast of a bird towered over my four-year-old self) and mean. I swear it used to wait for me – for me in particular. It lurked around the corner of the barn eyeing me maliciously, braced for the exact moment when I separated just enough from my class of miniature people.
Then it sprinted after me full force, exuding killing intent, and I, at four years old, could do nothing but run circles around the barn or hide or cower in fear until rescued by a teacher.
So, fuck you, turkeys. This is why we eat you.
And finally, crows. Crows are the bird I learned to fear – or at least to view with cautious apprehension – as an adult, after I moved to Japan.
I had heard rumors that the crows in Japan were pretty mean and I had read manga (you mean you hadn’t already figured out how big of a nerd I am?) with little side plots involving the helpless female lead being attacked by vicious crows and had, of course, assumed they were all grossly exaggerated for dramatic effect.
But then it happened to me. Twice.
The first time I really experienced the darker side of crows, I was visiting Hokkaido with a friend for the Snow Festival (which is awesome, by the way). There was an itty bitty shrine near the inn we were staying at that we walked over to one afternoon to check out, thinking we’d get some nice pictures of a cute local shine.
We didn’t even make it through the gate.
We were chased off by a crow.
I don’t want to stoop to the level of a big-eyed, big-haired, can’t-stand-up-for-herself-against-a-silly-bird Japanese comic book character, but when Japanese crows mean business, you’d better fucking listen, because my friend I were dive-bombed and squawked at all the way down to the next street.
Needless to say, the Hokkaido Crow Incident (hereafter referred to as HCI) taught me to be wary of future run-ins with crows in Japan, so I managed to do a pretty good job of avoiding them until I moved the countryside, where they were everywhere.
I was never actually attacked again, but I did have a couple of close calls and one terribly mentally scarring encounter.
I was walking to the bus stop one morning before work, following the same little country road I always took, with the river on one side and rice fields on the other. Even rural Japan can be pretty suburban (as was the case with the town I lived in) so I rarely saw “wildlife” beyond little frogs or songbirds (and bugs), but on this particular morning, there was a big, fat crow waiting directly in front of me.
Now, I had hardly forgotten the lesson I learned during the HCI, but on this day, I was overcome with a momentary spark of bravery and decided that I wouldn’t cross the road to get away from the crow. I would keep walking forward and the crow would get out of MY way.
My confidence quickly ebbed as we entered into a stare-down. The crow didn’t back off, didn’t back down, didn’t even take a step back. Instead, it fluffed its feathers, hunkered down, and raised its wings in a blatant display of ferocity, and I was the one who felt their confidence waver, but I was determined and kept walking forward, committed to my demonstration of bravery.
This crow gave zero fucks, and instead of finally flying off, bent down and picked up the half-eaten corpse of the dove it had been tearing to shreds as if to prove to me that no, in fact, it didn’t give the tiniest fuck that I was a grown-ass human being and that it saw right through my show of false confidence.
I crossed the road and dashed past it, crow cackles echoing in my head.
So fuck you, birds! You win this round.