Ravens rule the roost in Watson

Dear Uma In the 20 or so years we’ve known each other, I don’t think I’ve ever written and phoned you as often as I have since I…

Dear Uma

In the 20 or so years we’ve known each other, I don’t think I’ve ever written and phoned you as often as I have since I moved to Watson Lake.

I’m compelled to; writing it down makes it more real.

You don’t believe a lot of what I’ve been describing. I know you don’t.

When we talk on the phone I can hear that tone you get when you think I’m being too dramatic. It’s hard to imagine that living in a little town in the North could be so full of daily events, insights, epiphanies and things that make your jaw drop.

Who knew there was so much going on in a place that has maybe 800 people?

Pete wanted to get some cupboards built in his workshop.

He has plans to fill the looming darkness of winter with a new hobby — making little wooden things that involve a great many little tools and little pieces of wood and stuff that apparently demands a lot of big cupboards.

Don’t have a clue what he intends to do with the results, but he’s quite excited about getting to it. The new job starts next week; he’ll be gone for three weeks, and then home for two.

It’s a new experience for us, this dividing our life between being together and then being apart on a regular basis. Not having come up with a new hobby, and not likely to, I’m divided between apprehension about being alone here and pleasure about being alone here.

We’ve learned to not only listen to gossip, but to actively seek it in some circumstances and finding a carpenter to do this job was one of those times.

No one we talked to had a bad thing to say about Dave, (and trust me, that in itself is extremely rare here — usually the opposite is true. There is a huge enthusiasm for trashing one another while at the same time the trasher appears to maintain an excellent relationship with the trashee) except that he was always really busy and hard to nail down.

Sorry about the pun; my brain is softening and decaying a bit in the cold.

I know, I know, I’ve gone on at great lengths about the cold, and I will again because they tell me that this is mild compared to what’s coming.

My heart quails.

I never really understood that expression until now; I can visualize my heart as a small bird, shivering and terrified in my chilling chest.

Dave came over to talk about the job and we invited him in for coffee.

He’s a tall, skinny fellow; face almost covered with graying long beard, and a quiet, almost shy manner.

We sat in our trailer kitchen talking. I have mentioned, haven’t I, that we live in a trailer?

All talk, by the way, is about things local. All of it.

There is radio, satellite TV and the internet (none of which compensate for a daily newspaper), but it seems people here don’t pay a lot of attention to the affairs of the world, though Coronation Street is discussed often. 

Anyway, the chat turned to ravens.

These birds are like nothing we’ve known.

First off, they are HUGE, and if there’s a way to distinguish male from female, we’ve not found it. They’re all black, seem the same size and have an extensive vocabulary, a fearless and bold approach to life, and a twisted, intricate sense of humour.

They remind me of some people I know.

Since moving here, and into our trailer, we’ve spent lots of time watching them, and hearing stories about their exploits.

One fellow who delivers freight to businesses around town had a pallet of bags of dog food, tightly wrapped in heavy plastic, in the back of his cube van.

Intending to deliver it the next morning he left it in the back of the vehicle overnight.

The door was accidentally left open — just the tiniest bit — but enough that a gang of ravens (actually, the plural is an “unkindness,” but here they are commonly referred to as gangs) got inside and demolished the bags.

What they didn’t eat, they spread all over the floor of the van.

The businessman (his name is Buster; you’ll be hearing more about this guy) was furious mainly because the birds ripped open every bag, though they obviously couldn’t eat it all.

I’ve spent more time than I probably should wondering what he thought would have been more reasonable: open one bag at a time and finish it off before opening another? Taking some back to the nest in smaller bags for later — the bird equivalent of a doggy bag?

Noticing the door was ajar and closing it?

We related this incident to Dave and he smiled nicely, though I’m certain he’d already heard it, probably often. Not that telling local tales over and over causes them to lose their shine – quite the opposite, in fact.

Dave took a swallow of coffee through his beard and said

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing; you don’t want to have a bath with them. When they get wet, they shit.”

Pete and I sat up straighter and looked at one another with that eyebrows-going-up expression that we wear a lot these days. 

One of us had to ask, and I’m faster.

“How was it you came to be bathing with ravens, Dave?”

“I was in the bathtub,” he looked at me like I was maybe a bit slow, “and one came in to see what I was doing. They’re curious, you know, like cats.

“Pretty soon, the other two came in and they all started fooling around in the water and shitting all over the place. I was dirtier than I was when I got in the tub. Well, I’m going to get going and see if I can rustle up the boards I’ll need to get started here.”

He set down his cup with an air of finality.

Things had been explained, and it was time to go.

“No!” I leaped up “Uh, have another cup of coffee. Pete wants to talk about boards for a fence, don’t you, Pete?”

I shot Pete a look of entreaty, but he was ahead of me, pouring more coffee into Dave’s mug.

“So, Dave,” I said, when he’d sugared his brew and indications were he was going to be around for a little while longer, “how did it come about that you had three ravens living with you?”

“Well, one time my wife, Jeannie, and I were coming back from Fort Nelson and we stopped at a café to have something to eat and there was a guy in the restaurant who was telling the waitress he had three young ravens and he was going to sell them to someone down south.”

“You bought them?” Pete asked “How much did you pay for three ravens?”

Dave looked a bit taken aback. “Hell no, we didn’t buy them. He had no business robbing the nest and taking those babies. We stole them out of his car when we left.”

He looked at our rapt faces and warmed to the story.


“We had to feed them dog food from a teaspoon, they were so young. They didn’t know how to fly yet, so every day we would take them outside for awhile so they could practice.

“The wild ravens would come and visit and talk to them. Pretty soon they could fly to the top of the fence, and then they could get into the trees”.

“Did they stay around?” I asked.

“Yeah, for awhile. Gradually they just went away.”

He got up to go, leaving us with another bit of valuable knowledge about local wildlife.

Talk back soon, OK?

Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read