Long Creek, S.C. June 6, 2004
"It's gonna rain," said David.
"Clever observation," I thought silently. It is June in the Southeastern United States, the Humidity is at least a couple of hundred, and the sky has been lumpy overcast rain clouds for days. Now some cluck comes from up in the tree top over us and David predicts rain with more conviction that anyone who has ever been on the local evening news.
I'm thinking about David's remarks yesterday morning as I sit here and listen to it rain on the metal roof above me. Oddly enough, David and I were looking at putting a metal roof on an old house that came into my possession years ago when I decided to help a marvelous elderly lady who had helped me once. Everyone called her Miss High. She was 90 when I bought her house, for too much probably, so she could move into an assisted living facility. The church ladies had decided she needed to do this because she was 90. When they came to move her out, the church ladies couldn't lift or tote anything themselves so Miss High did all the heavy lifting and carried her own furniture out to the van herself. She was only ninety, after all. I watched this and wondered exactly who it was that should be getting help. I also wondered how long she would live after she got stuck in a "home"?
Lois was her first name. She taught at the Long Creek Acadamy, which was founded around the end of World War II by a Baptist preacher to help educate children who needed to learn what he thought they needed to learn and not much else. When she and another teacher at the acadamy wanted to live in their own house and move out of the dormatory, they built this house for them. It wouldn't pass any code ever created but it used to keep the rain out. The men who built the house were being taught carpentry at the Academy so they could earn a living now that they were back from the war. Some of them did not have all their legs. By the time all of them were officially educated in their new trade, some of them did not have all their fingers either. I don't think Miss High's house was built by men who had made the honor roll in the house building class at the school. Particularly, I think they had slept through the foundation building part. If you could see the house you would understand. Lois lived to be 93 and passed away living out her days amongst a "bunch of snowball heads" as she used to call them. She didn't like old people...didn't consider herself one of them.
Long Creek was in the path of a total solar eclipse one day, and I walked down to her house and told her about it just as it started. We got her out a lawn chair and I made her a pin hole projector out of a piece of cardboard so she could watch the eclipse. I'd never seen her happier. She liked new ideas. I remember watching her as I walked away, sitting in her chair moving the cardboard, with the pinhole we punched in it, up and down to focus the crescent of the sun. She was sitting there when it got very dark as the shadow of the moon passed over us. One of those crystaline moments in my life is the sight of hundreds of crescent sun projections shing up from the ground under the huge oak trees in the yard right before it got darkest. The patches of light where the sun could get through the leaves of the tree had been focussed on the ground as the tree itself became hundreds of pinhole projectors. There were light crescents every where I stepped. Wow, I thought, I'm walking on the sun. Hundreds of suns, actually.
"A Rain Crow," said David. It had made a sound like a turkey "gulp" only raspier and softer. "When the Rain Crow calls it is gonna' rain soon." It was up in the projector oak tree high over our heads. I got my small binoculars out of the car and tried to find it. I had heard the name Rain Crow before but I didn't make the connection right away. It was a yellow billed cuckoo. I have watched them many times from inside my house. They stay high in the trees and eat mostly catapillars. Tent worms are high on the delicacy list if you are a yellow billed cuckoo. You also have no evolved defenses against flying into large panes of glass, either, if you are a yellow billed cuckoo. I, once, picked up the dead one that had just been claimed by my new house and wondered what to do. It was a beautiful bird...majestic and regal looking only a few minutes before. They sit up proud on tree limbs, holding their head up and chest out. They are big for birds that live in trees, about 12 inches from tip to tail...a pleasant buff brown on the back with a white chest that looks more like the ermine fur of a King's robe than feathers. I felt responsible for killing this creature and wondered what to do, short of boarding up the windows. I wound up cutting down the few small cherrie trees around the house that had tent catapillars in them. Now I rarely see a rain crow but I hear them all the time in the dense woods around the house. I have not held a dead one in my hand since I got rid of the attractive source of food next to the house and that is worth the loss of viewing this magnificent bird.
David was right, it's raining. Or I guess the rain crow was right. I'm glad I showed Miss High the eclipse. Tomorrow morning the planet Venus will pass in front of the sun. This was a tremendously important astronomical event the last few times it happened. It let astronomers determine several measurements that we take for granted today and caused all kinds of problems between astronomers and preachers. The preachers of the day were all stuck on what they called "Truth" and didn't have much use for what scientists call "fact". This is a proud tradition that is carried on today. You want to know what I think? Of course you don't, but I'm going to tell you anyway...I think that humankind will wipe out the Rain Crow and Humankind well before the rain crow evolves defenses against large panes of glass. I think Miss High would have liked to see the sillouette of Venus pass before the sun. I will get up tomorrow morning and try to see it myself but I don't think I will be successful. According to the Rain Crow, it's gonna' be raining.
Here's a place to find out more about the Rain Crow.
I liked this picture and the site is interesting. There are several good shots taken around Cumberland Falls.