Once there was a young crow named Bravo. She lived with her parents, her brother and her two sisters in a cozy nest. Crow nests in Bravo’s world are built atop large beasts called haystacks. The creatures look like giant heaps of hay but are actually gentle beings that roam the land looking for fresh grass in which to graze.
Living in a nest atop a haystack is wonderful. The crows get ever-changing scenery combined with the comfort of home. The haystacks are so big and strange-looking that they protect their crows from less friendly animals.
Haystacks love their crow companions very much. The crows keep them company as they wander. The crows also clean and comb the haystack’s straw-like fur. A haystack without a crow is a tangled mess indeed.
Bravo’s family lived on a haystack named Lichen. Bravo loved the feeling of the nest gently swaying as Lichen wandered the hillsides.
As the young crows grew bigger, the nest seemed to grow smaller. Bravo’s parents had taken to leaving on long foraging trips to find food for their hungry children. Bravo knew it would soon be time for her to move out, but she was nervous about leaving her family and the comfort of Lichen.
Before she could be on her own, she would need to learn to fly. One day while her parents were out gathering food, she thought she’d give flying a try. She stepped out of the nest onto Lichen’s back. She stre-e-e-e-etched her wings as a warm up, jostling her brother and sisters. They gave her irritated looks but soon caught on and started stretching their own wings. Four young crows stretching their wings in one nest was too much. A jostle from her sister and Bravo was tossed out of the nest. She slid down Lichen’s side and landed on the soft grass next to him.
Lichen sniffed her and gave her a little lick. He lay down beside her to keep her company and protect her. Her brother and sisters peered over the top of Lichen to see what all of the fuss was about.
Bravo rested a bit, then started flapping again. She leapt into the air and flew several feet before landing in the soft grass. After a few more tries, she was able to fly as high as Lichen, and landed on his back. Lichen heaved a big sigh of relief. Her siblings did not look so relieved. They just blinked at her and started flapping again.
Bravo’s brother tried next. For his first flight, he glided gracefully down to the ground. A few hops and a skip, then he took off, landing on a small bush. The sisters tried next, and both landed with a small thump in the grass. By this time, Lichen was pacing in circles with worry.
The young crows hopped back together to have a rest in Lichen’s shade. They said their goodbyes and then each flew off in a different direction; except Bravo. She didn’t want to leave Lichen and she didn’t want to leave her parents without saying goodbye. She flew up to the nest and waited for her parents to return. They arrived home just as the sun was setting. The three crows greeted each other with joy. The parents knew their other children must have flown in their absence, and were glad to at least get to say goodbye to Bravo. One last cuddle and Bravo flew off into the setting sun to find her own home.
As the sun dipped over the horizon, Bravo landed in a small grove of trees. She chose for her bed a high branch with soft fir boughs surrounding her, put her beak under her wing, and fell asleep. When she woke in the morning, she was cold and stiff. She was lonely, too. Bravo looked around for something to eat. She found a few berries on a nearby bush, and a couple of nuts that a squirrel had carelessly buried under the fir tree.
“Now to find a home,” she thought.
Bravo took off towards the sky. She circled higher and higher. Flying was so wonderful! She could see her whole world down below her. She headed towards the west so that the sun was behind her. She flew most of the morning without seeing another creature. In the early afternoon, she spotted a herd of haystacks below her. Bravo flew lower to take a look. There were a dozen adult haystacks, each with a nest on top of them. Bravo recognized some of the crow families. Her own family had crossed paths with them before.
Bravo flew on. She needed to find a haystack that didn’t have a crow. She turned and flew east, with the sun on her back. Bravo flew over fields, hills, forests, and marshes. She saw no signs of haystacks or crows. She flew on until her attention was caught by a shimmer of light. Flying down to take a closer look, she saw it was a lake. Bravo landed lightly on the sandy bank and got a drink of water. It had been a long day.
As she finished drinking, she heard a rustling and grunting followed by the sound of a muffled cry. Bravo followed the sound to the entrance of a nearby thicket. The thicket was a mass of vines, brambles, and small trees. The whimpering and rustling started again, this time followed by a long, mournful howl.
“Such a sad sound!” thought Bravo. “I must find out who is making it.”
She took a few steps into the thicket and came face to face with an eye; a very sad, tearful eye. Bravo looked more closely and saw that the eye belonged to a face, and the face had tangles of thick straw-like fur all entwined with brambles and twigs.
It’s a haystack! she thought. “Poor beastie, you are stuck. I will get you out.”
Bravo set to work untangling the haystack. She used her feet to comb through the mats and get at the vines. She used her beak to cut the vines and pull the brambles and twigs out of its fur. It took hours just to uncover the haystack’s face. She took a break from untangling and sat down in front of the beast. It whimpered a little, then sniffed her. She fussed over his face fur, and when she reached up to remove a piece of twig from its forehead, the haystack licked her.
Bravo worked into the night to release the haystack. The full moon shone brightly overhead. The beastie was free before the moon set. The haystack, filled with joy, let out a howl of relief. It ran circles on the banks of the lake. Bravo flew in circles over the haystack to join the celebration.
When they were both exhausted, the haystack collapsed in a happy heap in the grass, and Bravo settled in on top of him. They slept until daybreak. When she awoke, Bravo stretched her wings and flew down next to the face of the haystack. In all of the struggle, she hadn’t noticed how small the haystack was. Why, he was just a pup. She wondered why he wasn’t with his herd.
The young haystack opened his eyes and when he saw Bravo, he stood up, ran in circles around her, ran into the grasses, threw himself down on the grass and rolled around on his back. When he was finished with that, he ran over to her and licked her face.
Bravo felt her heart burst with happiness. She had never been greeted with such warmth and enthusiasm. She flew above him to check him over. He still had a lot of twigs and thorns in his fur, but he looked OK otherwise. She decided to call him Twig. He was now her haystack and she was his crow. They would keep each other company as Twig roamed over the hillsides and Bravo soared above him. Bravo was sure they would have many wonderful adventures together.