The Tale of Old Mr. Crow by Arthur Scott Bailey
V. A Great Disappointment
After Farmer Green came so near shooting him, Mr. Crow lost his taste for corn for a whole year. He was afraid it would never come back to him. And he worried so much that he grew quite thin and his feathers began to look rusty. His friends were somewhat alarmed about his health, many of them saying that if they were in Mr. Crow's place they would be careful.
Now, strange as it may seem, that was exactly Mr. Crow's trouble. He was too careful! He was always on the lookout for a gun, or a trap. And being constantly on guard was bad for his nerves.
Luckily, a winter spent in the South did a great deal to improve Mr. Crow's health, as well as his state of mind. When he came back to Pleasant Valley the following March he told his cousin Jasper Jay that he really felt he would be able to eat corn again.
As the spring lengthened, that feeling grew upon Mr. Crow. And when planting-time arrived the black rascal had his old look again.
It was a very solemn look--unless you regarded him closely. But it was a very sly, knowing look if you took the pains to stare boldly into his eye.
Farmer Green would have liked to do that, because then he might have caught old Mr. Crow. As it happened, he did catch sight of Mr. Crow the very first day he began to plant his corn.
"I declare--there's that old crow again!" he exclaimed. "He's come back to bother me once more. But maybe I'm smarter than he thinks!"
Mr. Crow knew better than to come too near the men who were working in the cornfield. He just sat on the fence on the further side of the road and watched them for a while. And he was getting hungrier every minute. But he had no chance to scratch up any corn that day.
The next day, however, the men had moved further down the field. Mr. Crow had been waiting for that. He flew to the edge of the ploughed ground, which they had planted the afternoon before, and dug up a kernel of corn.
He didn't stop to look at it. He knew it was corn--just by the feeling of it. And it was inside his mouth in a twinkling.
And in another twinkling it was outside again--for Mr. Crow did not like the taste at all.
"That's a bad one!" he remarked. And then he tried another kernel--and another--and another. But they were all like the first one.
Thereupon, Mr. Crow paused and looked at the corn. And he saw at once that there was something wrong. The kernels were gray, instead of a golden yellow. He pecked at one of them and found that the gray coating hid something black and sticky.
That was tar, though Mr. Crow did not know it. And the gray covering was wood-ashes, in which Farmer Green had rolled the corn after dipping it in tar. The tar made the corn taste bad. And the wood-ashes kept it from sticking to one's fingers.
"This is a great disappointment," said Mr. Crow very solemnly. "Of all the mean tricks that Farmer Green has played on me, this is by far the meanest. It would serve him right if I went away and never caught a single grasshopper or cutworm all summer."
But there were two reasons that prevented Mr. Crow's leaving Pleasant Valley. He liked his old home. And he liked grasshoppers and cutworms, too. So he stayed until October. And the strange part of it was that he never once discovered that Farmer Green had planted tarred corn only in a border around the field. Inside that border the corn was of the good, old yellow kind that Mr. Crow liked.
And so, for once, Farmer Green out-witted old Mr. Crow.
By the end of the summer his corn had grown so tall and borne so many big ears that Farmer Green took some of it to the county fair. And everybody who saw it there said that it was the finest corn that ever was seen in those parts.