Watching the Crows,” by John Townsend Trowbridge, is a poem about the constant battle between farmer and crow, with a splendid engraving by Winslow Homer. Trowbridge was one of the founding editors of Our Young Folks. [Note: This image has been digitally “de-aged,” though I made every effort to keep the artist’s work unaltered.]
“Watching the Crows,” by J. T. Trowbridge (from Our Young Folks, June 1868; pp. 355-356)
Watching the Crows
“Watching the Crows,” by Winslow Homer, July 1868

Caw, caw!”—You don’t say so!—“Caw, caw!”—What, once more?

Seems to me I ’ve heard that observation before,

And I wish you would some time begin to talk sense.

Come, I ’ve sat here about long enough on the fence,

And I ’d like you to tell me in confidence what

Are your present intentions regarding this lot?

Why don’t you do something? or else go away?

Caw, caw!”—Does that mean that they ’ll go or they ’ll stay?

While I ’m watching to learn what they ’re up to, I see

That for similar reasons they ’re just watching me!

That ’s right! Now be brave, and I ’ll show you some fun!

Just light within twenty-nine yards of my gun!

I ’ve hunted and hunted you all round the lot,

Now you must come here, if you want to be shot!

Caw, caw!”—There they go again! Is n’t it strange

How they always contrive to keep just out of range?

The scamps have been shot at so often, they know

To a rod just how far the old shot-gun will throw.

Now I ’ve thought how I ’ll serve ’em to-morrow: I ’ll play

The game old Jack Haskell played with ’em one day.

His snares would n’t catch ’em, his traps would n’t spring,

And, in spite of the very best guns he could bring

To bear on the subject, the powder he spent,

And the terriblest scarecrows his wits could invent—

Loud-clattering windmills and fluttering flags,

Straw-stuffed old codgers rigged out in his rags,

And looking quite lifelike in tail-coat and cap,

Twine stretched round the cornfield, suggesting a trap,—

Spite of all,—and he did all that ever a man did,—

They pulled his corn almost before it was planted!

Then he built him an ambush right out in the field,

Where a man could lie down at his ease, quite concealed;

But though he kept watch in it, day after day,

And the thieves would light on it when he was away,

And tear up the corn all around it, not once

Did a crow, young or old, show himself such a dunce

As to come within hail while the old man was there;

For they are the cunningest fools, I declare!

p. 356

And, seeing him enter, they reasoned, no doubt,

That he must be in there until he came out!

Then, one morning, says he to young Jack, “Now I bet

I ’ve got an idee that ’ll do for ’em yet!

Go with me down into the corn-lot to-day;

Then, when I ’m well placed in the ambush, I ’ll stay,

While you shoulder your gun and march back to the barn;

For there ’s this leetle notion crows never could larn:

They can’t count, as I ’ll show ye!” And show him he did!

Young Haskell went home while old Haskell lay hid.

And the crows’ education had been so neglected,—

They were so poor in figures,—they never suspected,

If two had come down, and one only went back,

Then one must remain! So, no sooner was Jack

Out of sight, than again to the field they came flocking

As thick as three rats in a little boy’s stocking.

They darkened the air, and they blackened the ground;

They came in a cloud to the windmill, and drowned

It ’s loudest clack-clack with a louder caw-caw!

They lit on the tail-coat, and laughed at the straw.

“By time!” says old Jack, “now I ’ve got ye!” Bang! bang!

Blazed his short double-shooter right into the gang!

Then, picking the dead crows up out of the dirt, he

Was pleased to perceive that he ’d killed about thirty!

Now that ’s just the way I ’ll astonish the rascals!

I ’ll set up an ambush, like old Mr. Haskell’s;

Then see if I don’t get a shot! Yes, I ’ll borrow

Another boy somewhere and try ’em to-morrow!

Caw, caw!”—You ’re as knowing a bird as I know;

But there are things a little too deep for a crow!

Just add one to one now, and what ’s the amount?

You ’re mighty ’cute creeturs, but, then, you can’t count!

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