Appalachia Crows

Uncle Joe’s Pet Crow

Pet crow
Today’s Crow Story was written by Kenneth Roper


Uncle Joe’s Pet Crow

When I was just a young boy of about 10 or 11, along with a 2nd cousin, I used to ride my new bicycle on an old paved road close to my house. One of my older brothers had moved out and was working in the big city and he bought me a Columbia bike. Boy that thing was fast, but it took me a few days and lots of scrapes to master the ride.

The highway department had made a better road along about ’55 and left an old portion that was hardly used. Not many folks owned a car then, including us, so that made a great ¼ mile of sheer joy for our pleasure rides.

About halfway down this road was a little trail leading across a wooden bridge to my great uncle’s house. His name was Uncle Joe Matheson and he lived by himself, mostly except for his pet Crow. So when we were riding by and saw him in the yard or on his porch we’d hollar at him and he’d usually invite us over. If you met him walking beside the road you had to stay clear of his cane. We all had learned that lesson, cause he was a bit ornery anyway, being in his late 80’s.

My mama and daddy didn’t want me around him much cause they knew he drank and made his own whisky and to beat it all he taught his pet crow to drink too, and to do tricks.

One day in particular we were riding by and saw Uncle Joe sitting on the porch. One of us hollared at him and he motioned us over. Well, to 11 year old boys he didn’t seem so crazy, so here we went, down the trail and across the footlog bridge up to his place. We got off our bikes and sat on the edge of the porch in case we needed to run. But Uncle Joe treated us really nice and asked us if we’d like to see his pet crow. We nodded with excitement!

Uncle Joe got up and opened the screen door and went inside. He came back out carrying a saucer and a jug of his corn whisky. He poured the saucer nearly half full and went back inside. When the door opened again he started muttering in a low voice and I saw his pet come out from under a chair,walk through the doorway, and start drinking that stuff. Lordy, that stuff was strong, you could smell it several feet away. After the crow had drunk enough, those little beady eyes just froze for a couple of minutes, then he waddled toward the end of the porch and jumped. He sailed a few feet then started climbing almost straight up till he got 150 feet or more. And if I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes I wouldn’t tell it. That ole crow folded his wings and here he come, like a black rock a falling from the sky. When he got within 20 feet from the ground he opened his wings and sailed down thru the valley. We thought that was awesome!

Uncle Joe had a one gallon paint bucket on the porch and he told us he never had to buy any clothes pins. The crow combed the neighborhood and anything left unguarded that he could carry went in that bucket. We looked in the bucket and saw a pocket knife, some jewelry and a bunch of clothes pins too.

A few weeks later we were riding by and had another friend with us. We wanted to show him what my uncle had at his house. When we got to the house, Uncle Joe was near his corn field with his shovel. We asked him if we could see the crow do some tricks. Old Joe looked up at us and said “Sorry, boys no more tricks. He forgot to open his wings this morning.”

Earlier this past week, I met an 83 year old guy who knew my uncle Joe many years ago and he told me many interesting things but no one ever knew how he was able to tame a crow.


Kenneth’s story was one of my inspirations for The Week of the Crow. When I asked him if he would write it out for me, he hesitated a little-telling me he wasn’t a writer. I think he did a fine job don’t you? I’m glad he wrote it down for us-but I’m even happier he put the story on paper for his daughters. Kenneth had never shared the crow story with them-but now he has-and even better he’s ensured future generations of his family will know it as well.

There’s still more crow to go-so drop back by tomorrow.




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  • Reply
    October 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Awesomely entertaining story – and a slice of real life ! It’s always fascinating to read little bits of ‘history’ like this.
    I had a grandpa who chewed tobacco – not sure if I ever saw him without other than at mealtimes. As young lads we always went without shoes in the summertime. You had to be careful around him because when you weren’t looking, he’d plant a large shot of warm sticky tobacco juice all over your bare foot, and go on as though nothing had happened !
    Enjoyed your more recent crow posts too.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I think Mr. Roper did a great job telling that story!
    How very interesting to have a pet crow, but one that drinks corn liquor, too?! So cool!!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I love stories like this one!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2011 at 11:22 am

    What a great story! Kenneth is my great uncle. My grandfather was his oldest brother. One of the things I miss most about my grandpa was his storytelling. I love this story and it makes me think of my appalachain family with love.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Tipper, thank you for asking Uncle Kenneth to share his story. He is a wonderful man and dearly loved. When he talks, I can hear my Pal-pa speaking. He was a tremendous story-teller too. I love reading your blogs (and the reader comments). You have done a special thing, bringing so many people together to enjoy the postings!

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    October 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

    I agree, Ken is a very good writer. I could have kept reading on and on. I could imagine every detail he wrote. Bravo to him for keeping this story going for the future.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’d like to THANK YOU for letting
    me tell my story about the simple
    life when I was a kid. And THANKS
    to all those generous Commenters
    who brought me joy.
    Finally to my daughters for their
    unconditional Love, a story you can tweek a little and tell to our

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    September 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Ken is always fun to read … and impressive at his art. Now, about the crow: I suspect cirrhosis of the liver would have been the conclusion of an autopsy, beyond the effect of the sudden impact.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I enjoyed that story! My great uncle used to have a pet crow when I was little. It talked. All it said was, “Hey Bob! Hey Bob!” My uncle’s name was Bob. I used to think it was the coolest thing ever!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    What a story! I loved it-and, yes, Ken is a wonderful writer & storyteller. He paints such a vivid picture of days gone by. The truth rings with every word. Can’t wait to hear the goat story!

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I enjoyed Ken’s story so much. I could just imagine that crow soaring drunk in the air and all the treasures he had picked up and the frozen beady eyes! Thanks Ken for sharing with us. I will remember this one for sure.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Roper- Daniels
    September 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I appreciate you being such a great freind and encouraging him to write that story for your blog. I’m going to make sure he writes many more for our family to have. That’s priceless.
    And to my Daddy,
    You are just as good a story writer as you are a story teller (just missing all of the animation and character you add in person). You are far more talented than you give yourself credit for. I’m so glad you shared that with us. I love the story and I love you! Let’s plan another get together with our whole “Blind Pig” extended family!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    September 30, 2011 at 11:49 am

    A very fine job, indeed. Thanks Ken for sharing this story.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Well, clearly Kenneth IS a writer, he just didn’t know it! Thanks for the great story, even though it had a sad ending. I guess drinking and flying isn’t any wiser than drinking and driving.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

    What a wonderful tale! I laughed all through it until poor Mr. Crow forgot to open his parachute! But then, he must have been mighty soused and probably didn’t know what hit him! Thanks for such a great story.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    September 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Ken, that was great! Thanks Tipper for getting him to write it down. You are so right. If we don’t write them down they disappear forever. I also agree with Don and Jim–we need the goat story next!!

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ahh Kenneth, you claim you are not a writer… Could have fooled me! At least give yourself credit for being one great story-teller. While I found humor in the tale, I also thought it was sad. Poor Uncle Joe must have been so lonely living there alone with his pet. I can just see him sitting on the porch waiting for some bike-riding kids to have a conversation with. Thank God you visited and listened to his stories that are surely great memories now.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Ken, I enjoyed your story very much! Very funny, and I can just see Uncle Joe being ornery and swinging his cane.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 30, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Ken–What a fine tale, and I can just see that crow indulging in tanglefoot, except in this case I guess it was tanglewing. In case I’m confusing someone, tanglefoot is a synonym for golden moonbeam, peartin’ juice, tongue looser, squeezin’s, and more.
    Your conclusion, pithy and directly to the point, is just perfect–one a seasoned scribe can only envy.
    My brother is right. If you only could have heard Ken relate, in his special, understated fashion, the story of a big fire, a goat, and what happened when the two were introduced to one another, you’d know that he has the fine old mountain mastery of telling a tale. I get to laughing every time I think about Ken’s incindiary activities and the poor goat that got caught up in the middle of the whole mess. Maybe Tipper can get him to tell the tale one of these days.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 30, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Enjoyed this Ken so very much…
    I thought I was goin’ to fall offn’ my chair laughing, when your Uncle said, “He forgot to open his wings!” Reckon the old crow passed out?…ha
    The days when kids could ride their bikes on country roads without fear are about gone, those were the good old days…
    I had an elderly, (90’s) ornery, cane wielding Granpa and your story reminded me of him. He died when I was young, we stayed out of his way as well..He never understood us kids wantin to watch him walk and tell his stories! You were lucky to have that old Uncle even if your folks were wary…ha
    Thanks so much Ken…Please tell us another story from your heart and life experiences…
    Thanks Tipper for encouraging Kenneth…I know his family will treasure this story…

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    September 30, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Of course, a great story of rural life…and the south. Thank you, Mr. Roper. A fine read.
    My papaw used to tell me that if you split a crow’s tongue, you could teach it to talk (probably liquored up), but it would only tell you lies.
    Tipper, although there are many commendable things that can be said about your efforts, I think stories like this are the best. They help revive the story-telling tradition of the mountains, when folks didn’t have television and what not to cloud their minds, and lies and truth fit snugly in the same bed.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I very much enjoyed the story Ken! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 8:09 am

    This is a good, funny story. Really enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I am no writer but, I know what I enjoy reading (I’m very picky and won’t read just anything). The writer has to snag me right off the bat or I’ll lay it down. Ken, sir, you are quite a writer in my opinion. If you have more I’ll read it.
    Thank you Tipper for your part in this!

  • Reply
    September 30, 2011 at 7:30 am

    What a great story! My dad had a pet crow named Abercrombie when I was a kid. I thought he was the only one!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 30, 2011 at 5:26 am

    Great job, Ken!!
    Folks, I have to tell you that you’re missing one of life’s sublime pleasures if you don’t have the privilege of listening to Ken tell a story. My favorite is the one about the goat that got “heated up a little.”

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