So, the crows came and were a nuisance because of how they liked to pick the trash and the noisy process every evening leading up to their overnight resting in trees. And, worst of all, the droppings, which is the polite way to refer to bird poop. A treeful of crows produces gobs of it. Not a pretty sight on your sidewalk or on your car. Think of the dangers that suddenly arise if you want to go on an after dinner stroll in certain neighborhoods.
What to do? You can’t fine those crows for littering, or for public indecency.You can’t evict them. You can’t put them in jail for loitering. Such a nuisance… except that somehow, they managed, as comedian Steve Martin had done about three decades earlier, to bring Terre Haute to the attention of the media in bigger, “cooler” cities across the nation.
On January 20, 2010, Matt Bartosik of Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Chicago, reported on the problem. You’ll find the brief story on their website. It includes a picture with crows in the foreground, and a background unrecognizable as Terre Haute. The caption claims “…people are afraid to leave their homes.” Exaggeration? Sure. An implication that we folk down in Terre Haute are a cowardly bunch? Probably. But, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Let’s take pride in that fact. Better yet, let’s get going on a branding opportunity. A city flag perhaps? A burst of fireworks under silhouettes of scattering crows. And a defiant motto: Don’t crap on me!
On August 14, 2010, WDRB in Louisville reported on the efforts of Terre Haute’s Crow Response Committee. Its chairman John Hancewicz was quoted as saying the first year of trying to manage the crows was “managed chaos,” but the start of a longer-term solution. We were news in Louisville: home of the slugger and the greatest two minutes in racing.
Terre Haute’s Crow Patrol really hit the big time in October 2011 with a front-page feature story by Dave Barry in The New York Times. New York, New York! If you can make it there you’ll make it anywhere. Barry’s article was picked up by the Seattle Times and critiqued as an example of good writing on the website for the Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Seattle: birthplace of Starbucks and grunge. Harvard: prestigious bastion of higher education with multiple U.S. presidents in the ranks of its alumni.
On February 6, 2012 the Chicago Post Tribune reported on the Terre Haute Crow Patrol’s plan to use fishing wire as a deterrent on roofs and in trees. With all the gang shootings, school closings and Illinois political corruption, they made room for Terre Haute’s fight against crows.
There are other examples, in publications large and small.
Now, as Barry himself mentions in his article, Terre Haute isn’t the only city in the nation with a crow problem. But, people, our little city on the banks of the Wabash is the one he wrote about. Let’s take pride in that fact. Better yet, let’s get going on a branding opportunity. A city flag perhaps? A burst of fireworks under silhouettes of scattering crows. And a defiant motto: Don’t crap on me!
Lucinda Berry was born in Terre Haute, got a B.A. in English from Indiana State University, studied in Oxford, England, and worked in Shimonoseki, Japan and traveled a good deal in Asia, got an M.A. in Linguistics from Indiana University, and eventually ended up back in Terre Haute. Her favorite place in Terre Haute is the Swope Art Museum. If she happened to be there when a fire broke out, she would rush to save Jack Levine’s “A Joy Forever.”