My only experience with ravens had been literary in nature; seeing them in nature itself was quite extraordinary. The crow was, of course, familiar as a regular consumer of road kill along Missouri highways, but it paled in comparison of size and ingenuity to its cousin. The eponymous Raven that taunted Edgar Allan Poe and his melancholic loss of Lenore, the creator of the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Bella Bella, and Kwakiutl plucked my eyes with its ebony beak and would not let them go as it perched with three others on the twisted tree and picnic table of the campground.
Capitol Reef is one of nearly a thousand national parks in Utah, and we were preparing to have a lunch of Spaghettios after a morning of hiking and picking apricots from the groves that remained from historic Mormon orchards. My table of choice had earned that distinction due to its proximity to the car. Hauling the food, stove, drinks, utensils, and propane canisters was not strenuous, but I saw no reason to walk farther than necessary. Colette, however, had other priorities. She decided that our lunch would be better enjoyed in the shade. I am not at this point, or any other, going to say that what was to transpire was her fault, but this particular decision does seem to have a direct causal relationship.
I also can’t blame the birds. They were merely following the food as the adjective form of their species name demands. You can’t blame a wolf for wolfing down his food, a wasp for being waspish, or a raven for its ravenous behavior. So it must have been fate that brought forth the foul (fowl?) fecal rain.
As the reddish-orange sauce sizzled at the edges of the aluminum pan, the avian sentries squawked and cawed in the branches above. I passed the first serving of Chef Boyardee’s cuisine to Evan, and quickly turned to the rest of the family sized can that was rapidly burning around the edges. What happened next is a little unclear, but suffice it to say that there was now an additional ingredient that Chef B had never intended to include. A soupcon of green and white raven poo was swirly through Evan’s dish like oil in a rain puddle, beautiful to look at, but horrifying in it implications.
Ravens, as is their nature, are not precise animals, and the seasoning was not entirely accurate in its application. In addition to being in Evan’s food it was also liberally ladled on to his hair and shoulders. During the cleaning process splatter was discovered on the oven mitt, grocery bag, and the box for our new propane stove.
Thanks to the raven and its trickery, for nearly half an hour, instead enjoying a meal amongst the glorious iron tinged rock formations and the bountiful groves of Capitol Reef, I was suppressing my gag reflex while expunging poo from Evan’s hair. The raven, along with eastern gray squirrel (It’s a long story), is the focus of a blood feud, and as such is subject to equal justice. The problem is that I don’t have the time or resources to find a tree overhanging a raven eating its lunch.