Hunting Crows in Harlan Saskatchewan

Written by Harold McNeill on September 2nd, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965

Crow attacks child

Photo (Web):  As most realize, crows are one of the smartest birds on the earth. They work hard to protect each other and would never hesitate to attack someone who has either hurt one of their own or is damaging their property.  Such was the fate of my cousin Stanley and I as we went about trying to destroy one of their nests.

Link to Next Post: Link to Movie
Link to Last Post:  Snakes
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1949

“You better check those limbs carefully Stan or one is going to break and you’re gonna take one helluva fall.” I commented, as Stan and I climbed another ten feet up the dead poplar. A pile of dead brush and rocks circled the tree about twenty feet below.

Stan was as agile as a monkey when he climbed but went way to fast, never taking time to test the limbs to see if they would hold his weight. He was a real dare devil, probably a trait he inherited from his bronco busting, bull riding, steer roping, rodeo dad, Tart.

“Ah, don’t be chicken shit Harold; we can easily reach the nest.” Stan retorted as he looked down at me slowly picking my way up the tree.

The dare was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I grabbed the next dead branch and continued to climb more quickly.  At least I knew they had not broken when Stan went up.

Crows NestsBy now the crows were in full rage, swooping in like dive bombers attacking a carrier. You could tell those black bombers were warning us not climbing higher and if they got lucky perhaps they could knock us from the tree. Sometimes on a dive they came so close they would touch our clothes or head on the way by. On one expedition one had actually drawn blood after hitting my head.

The closer we got to the nest the more nasty they became. Their aggressive actions confirmed the nest was filled with eggs. That was our goal – reach those eggs and toss them to the ground some 25 feet below. We were two young boys on a mission – a mission as important to us as a military squad infiltrating enemy lines and destroying gun emplacement high on a mountain.

Suddenly there was a loud ‘crack’ above my head and a split second later Stan went hurtling past, missing me by fractions of an inch. This was followed by a loud ‘ker-thump’ as he hit the bottom. A cloud of fine prairie dust and small branches rose at the base of the tree then settled back on top of Stan.

For a few seconds I hung there twenty feet above the earth, paralyzed with fear. Stan did not move a muscle and I feared he might have been killed or badly injured. As the crows continued to dive at me I quickly climbed down to check on Stan.

Filled with a mix of fear and anger, I thought: “Stan, you stupid ass, I told you to test those limbs.” He was about as good at taking directions as my baby sister.  It was strange how a day could start so well and then end up as a complete disaster.

Over the past three weeks Stan and I often wandered off hunting crows’ nests that dotted the dead poplar in the area. Now understand – we didn’t dislike crows. On the contrary, we rather liked them. They had guts but just like magpies, gophers, coyotes, rabbits and everything else that disturbed man’s belief in his right to control the environment, they were considered pests.

While other bird, rodent and reptile ‘pests’ would scramble to keep their distance, crows would always put up a terrific fight in defence of their territory and nests. You had to admire a ‘pest’ that put up a good fight.

Gophers, on the other hand, were the most docile of the lot. They would just give up.  You could drown them out of their burrows, shoot them or chase them with the dog and they would just turn tail and run. Think what twenty or thirty gophers could do if they decided to take a stand and attack like the crows. Man, we would have been the ones on the run as there were virtually tens of thousands of those little buggars running around the farm. The only thing that outnumbered them were snakes and those bloody ‘garter’ snakes lived in every available hollow, nook and cranny.  I shall have more to say about them later.

For their part magpies created a noisy fuss just like crows, but they only did so from a safe distance. Walk toward them and they would fly back to another limb in order to maintain that distance. Sneaky bastards! As for coyotes and rabbits they just tried to float under the radar.

Now, please, don’t think to badly of us. We were two young boys growing up at a time when most farm families hunted gophers, rabbits, coyotes and wolves for the small bounty the government placed on their heads.  At one time we could even get a few cents for a ‘crow’s foot’.  It was not bad pocket money for a couple of enterprizing kids. Of course we didn’t get any money for breaking crow’s eggs – we just did that just for sport! Nasty – eh?

What made the whole adventure even more exciting was the fact that one day when Uncle Warren had caught  found us high up in a rotten tree. He called us down and read the riot act about climbing those dead poplars. We held off for a couple of days then went sneaking off on a new search. Uncle Warren could not be everywhere at once. We knew we would get ‘holly hell’ if he ever found out but we would worry about that if it every happened.

Now Stan was lying at the bottom of a tree and for all I knew he might be dead. When I got to the bottom, I brushed some of the dust off and noticed he had missed all the big rocks, landing instead on a pile of smaller broken and rotting limbs. When he spiraled in like a fighter in flames, his fall appeared to have had been cushioned by the limbs.

After a few minutes he started to move and was trying hard to catch his breath. I guessed he had had the wind knocked out of him.  After a few minutes he sat up and slowly started to breath normally.  I checked his back and although he had a couple of nasty red spots that would soon turn black and blue, along with a few scratches, he seemed to be otherwise uninjured.

Meanwhile twenty or thirty crows were sitting in the tree cawing (laughing) their heads off.

“Assholes!” I shouted: “We will return and then you’ll be sorry!” Stan laughed, but winced as he did. I hoped he had not broken a rib or two but even at that we should be able to cover things for a few days until he was healed. We were good at thinking up excuses for why things happened.

On the way home we made a pack never to tell his step-dad or mom and also agreed we better not tell Betty or Louise. Those two idiots would probably tattle on us, not that we ever did anything to them!

I have kept the pack until this day even though my childhood tree climbing, crow baiting, snake catching, gopher hunting, horseback riding and world of pretend buddy, has long since passed away. It was an unforgettable time of boyhood adventure.

Harold McNeill
Cold Lake, 2008

Link to Next Post: Link to Movie
Link to Last Post:  Snakes
Link to Family Stories Index


(Visited 279 times, 1 visits today)

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment



  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]