1961: THE YEAR OF THE CROW
“I was born by the river in a little tent. Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since”. So, goes the well-known Sam Cooke refrain. As for me, I was born down on South Street in my grandma’s house, but “just like the river I’ve been running ever since.”
I was born under the sign of the crow or like some folks say, “I was marked by a crow”. At the moment of my birth, a crow crew thrice as he flew over Gramp’s house. The old folks say that if a crow flies over your house and crows three times, somebody is going to die. Well, I can personally attest to the veracity of that claim because, it is my understanding that somebody died that day. On the other hand, somebody was born on that day as well. Fortunately, I was one of the “born” ones.
I remember being born. I was ushered into the world by my Aunt Vulla, or as most folks knew her, “Ms. Flossie”. She was a midwife, who’d ushered many babes into existence. Her born name was Verlin. However, I only discovered that fact within the last 10 years or so. I don’t even think many of her children or grandchildren knew of that name. My grandma—her sister—told my siblings and I to call her “Aunt Verlin”, but what came out of our mouths was, “Aint Vulla”. That’s the best we could do at that time, and so it stuck.
She brought me forth from the darkness of the womb into the bright light of the world. She wrapped me in swaddling clothes and laid me in front of the fireplace for warmth. She had the utmost confidence that I wasn’t capable of rolling over yet and so wouldn’t be becoming just another log on the fire. As I lay there, I didn’t cry but I crew. I crew like the crow that crew at my birth. I was marked by the crow I tell you.
Aint Vulla laughed raucously at hearing my crowing. “That boy marked by the crow!”, she exclaimed between hoots. Gramp laughed as well. I don’t think Mom found it too funny because, she didn’t laugh. “Well, we know one of two things gonna be true ‘bout that boy”, Aint Vulla added. “What’s that Vulla?”, Gramp asked. “Well you know them crows is the smartest birds there is, but they is also known to be tricksters. So, he either gonna be a damn genius or he gonna be a STANADO!” They both laughed until they cried—sopping up tears with the ends of their aprons—only to bust out laughing anew.
What they didn’t know was, I was listening and when I heard how hard they laughed about me possibly becoming either a “Stanado” or a genius, I made it up in my mind—right then and there—that I would be a “Stanado” when I grew up because it sounded much more interesting.
NEXT WEEK, I’LL TELL YA SOME MORE ABOUT THE CROWS—HOW THEY ARE TRICKSTERS AND ALL