At first, the black-feathered bird seemed to be waiting patiently by the curb for a passing car. But an observant driver quickly noticed something was awry.
These crows around Paxton always seem to be so smart, stepping or flying aside when needed to stay out of harm’s way. This crow, however, didn’t move. Not at all. It sat there curbside like it wanted help but didn’t know who to ask, or want to ask.
I stopped. I parked. I got out of my car and walked a few feet to this bird, which still sat there, alone. It seemed something was wrong, and I didn’t want to see this poor animal get hit by an unobservant driver.
It flapped its wings a few times, getting just out of reach, before walking to the middle of the brick street it had earlier seemed to be avoiding.
A car was coming.
"This bird won’t die today," I said aloud to no one listening except this bird.
Near miss. Thank god.
I called my girlfriend, hoping she knew what to do. She came out of my nearby house and wondered what to do herself. I then called the police, who responded but couldn’t help, advising to call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources instead. Another person had already called out of concern and was told the same thing, the responding officer noted.
A neighbor pulled up a minute later, my girlfriend and I still left with no solution in trying to save this bird’s life.
"It’s got West Nile," the man said confidently. "They get it all the time. It’ll die. You’ve just got to wait."
Another neighbor then came out of her home and said the bird had been there since 9 a.m. — about seven hours earlier. She said she called the cops but got the same answer as I did.
I tried calling IDNR, animal control, the local animal shelter, the local health department and the university emergency vet clinic, among others. Only the emergency vet clinic was open, saying they would gladly accept the animal if it were brought there.
My girlfriend went into action, using a longsleeve shirt to trap the bird as it struggled to retain flight once again. After gently corralling it, she held it in her hands. It didn’t fight her. It seemed comfortable to be in the arms of someone who it knew cared, finally.
After putting the crow into an open cardboard box and rushing it to the emergency vet clinic, the crow suddenly — and unexplainably — died.
Just a bit earlier, my girlfriend named the crow "Brandon Lee," a tribute to the late actor who starred in "The Crow" in the 1990s. She would later find out this crow died exactly 24 years after the movie debuted in theaters.
As much as both of us fell in love with our crow, we made the decision to have it tested for West Nile, as advised for any dead bird found around here these days. We froze it and dropped it off at the local health department, and the bird was then sent to a state lab.
"Negative," the health department said 10 days later.
So, there was no West Nile found in this bird. And the cause of death remains undetermined.
That, some might say, means there’s no "news story." But I disagree. A lovely bird’s final moments were spent in the arms of love.
Will Brumleve is editor of the Ford County Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.