He always gave the hens a wide berth ever after. About a year after, he surprised us by making peculiar sounds besides "Caw, caw." It was soon recognized that he was making fun of, or imitating the hens. He soon added to his vocabulary by quacking like a duck, crowing like a rooster, mewing like a cat and barking like a dog.
We had two dogs, a big black one called Rover, and a little Scotch terrier named Fanny. There was as much difference in their barks as there was in their size, but he could imitate them so faithfully that we often looked out to see what the dogs were barking at, when lo and behold! it was none other than Mr. Dick.
But this was not all his accomplishments. He became proficient the English and Gaelic languages. Often the neighbouring women would could come in of an afternoon for a little visit and have a friendly chat. They, of course, would mostly talk in Gaelic, their mother tongue. I remember a ladder stood up against the outside of the house against a window. This was Dick's favourite perch, especially if there were visitors, and he could see them and hear them talk. On such occasions he was in his native element. He would watch them for a while, twisting his head from side to side, then he would begin, and say such a flow of gibberish as was never heard before! Then he would laugh, just as he heard them laugh. Once he got started, he would not stop until he told all he knew, just to show off. He wasn't much different from some other folks we know.
Don't think he became proficient in all these accomplishments at once. He was not that kind. It was the second or third year that he showed the great talents which he possessed. As I told you, I was but a kid, and it was my task to bring the cows from the pasture to milk. At such times father and mother would tell me to go for the cows. When anything like this was going on, Dick was not far off. It was not long before he soon caught on. "Johnny, Johnny, go after the cows; go after the cows." If you did not see him, you would swear it was a down east Yankee that was talking.
At that time farming operations were carried on principally by oxen, one man holding the plow and a boy or girl, with a long whip to drive. Dick soon mastered the whoa, haw, gee business to perfection. Now this was not all. There was not a man, beast, fowl or anything on the farm but he tried to imitate and did it so completely that any one could tell what he was saying.
Now most crows have the reputation of being dishonest. Not so Dick. He was the soul of honour. He never stole anything, but on the contrary, if he found anything and could carry it in his bill, he would call your attention to it in some way. He would drop it down handy, and when you attempted to pick it up, he would pick it up and fly a little piece away with it. He was just like a kid, would do this several times until, getting tired, you would say, "Keep it. I don't want it." He then would drop it at your feet and fly off.
My father and he were great friends. He would perch on father's shoulder when he would be working in the garden. Such a confab as they would keep up. Dick had other good qualities. Of course, he was brought up in a Presbyterian family and got the habit of going to church. He knew when Sunday came, as well as anyone. When he saw us getting ready for church, Dick would be all ready, but we soon had to stop him. He would get on the roof of the church and hold forth to the amusement of the young, and the consternation of the elders. He would say all his little pieces -- driving the teams, sending Johnny for the cows, talking Gaelic, laughing, etc. So, to put a stop to this on Sunday morning, Dick was shut up. For a short time this worked all right, but he soon figured out when Sunday came around. When Dick was wanted, he could not be found. When nearing the church (which was a mile and a half from home), we would discover him ahead of us on the fence and catch him we could not. He would laugh at us and fly away.
But, as with the rest of us, there had to be a parting. The poor fellow was cut off in his early and interesting career. I believe he ate something which he could not digest and, after a short time of suffering, he passed away, as sincerely mourned and missed as many of our human friends.
I do not think I need apologize for recording the doings and sayings
of my little black friend and chum. I consider it a wonderful bird, and
what I tell you is true in every respect. I am sure both you and I have
read many histories less wonderful and interesting than my true story of