The Mon

Back in February 2012, the town of California, Pennsylvania was invaded by crows. It just so happens I was visiting that month. Odds are I would have never heard of California, Pennsylvania, let alone gone there had I not been doing some research on rivers near Pittsburgh. I was initially attracted to the Monongahela River simply because of its name. But after a few Google searches I learned that the Monongahela has a colorful history that includes a disappearing warship. I had to see it myself.

In 1956 a B-52 bomber making a routine flight from Nevada to Pennsylvania crash landed in the river. The crew of six initially survived the impact, but two men later succumbed to exposure and drowned. No trace of the bomber was ever found.

One morning I visited a cafe on Third Street in California. From across the room I read a newspaper headline. It said, “Crow Invasion Frustrates Local Residents.” I found a copy of the paper, plugged the afflicted neighborhood into my Garmin, and went to witness the infestation. Not every day you get to see such a thing.

The place was riddled with large, black birds. But to be honest, it’s not the crows I remember the most. Instead, it’s a young boy, maybe seven, who stood by himself before a large murder perched on a wooden fence. The boy faced them, and from where I sat in my car, he seemed to be antagonizing them too. He’d yell something out, do a mocking sort of dance, look around to see if anyone was watching, then do it all over again. In response, the parcel cawed and gurgled only to be chided incessantly by the punk kid. After maybe fifteen minutes, the boy broke the pattern. He bent down and grabbed a branch. Big as a ruler, thick as a broomstick.

The boy held the stick at his groin and made like he was relieving himself on the horde. He’d take aim, work the arc and exaggerate the shake. The whole nine-yards. Seemed that this was the last straw. One at a time the crows leapt from the fence and proceeded to dive-bomb the boy. Their onslaught obviously surprised him and he fell to his stomach, covering his head as they swooped his body. He may have been screaming but all I heard was the cheering crows, egging on their pals. A few unloaded a large amount of shit on his back. The boy wasn’t harmed, not at all. And before too long it was over.

I am sure their minute-long attack seemed like forever to him. When it was over, the boy got up and wiped his puffy face. He looked around and went home. Not a hint of the murder remained. Only the story, and probably a lie, that the boy would tell his mother.


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