Beacon Benchmark: Crows make for terrible poetry

[Note: Beacon Benchmark columns are an occasional way for the B Square Beacon’s writer to give readers some regular behind-the-scenes insight into this website, which aims to serve some of the news and information needs of Bloomington, Indiana.]

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Crows fly over the Monroe County courthouse dome on Nov. 24, 2019, but do not stop to roost. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

What if news reporters had to write their copy in rhymed couplets? Here’s what that might look like:

Hoagy is a fish I know
‘top the courthouse in Monroe.
Flying high, flying low,
who wants to join him? It’s a crow!
He longs to be just like the fish,
that is the crow’s most fervent wish,
but if the crow should find a home
upon the courthouse splendid dome
there would sound a falcon’s cry
to scare the crow back to the sky!
‘Cause crows are sloppy, they don’t care,
they drop their poop most everywhere.

A bit of useful background for locals who don’t keep up on every last detail of news: Since around this time last year, “Hoagy” has been the official nickname of the courthouse weather vane fish. If anyone wants to grumble about that, bear in mind that a vote was held, so it was democratic.

Here’s the story behind the poem in a little more detail.

Crows are aren’t good for the county courthouse grounds, because they leave their droppings everywhere if they roost there. According to the courthouse maintenance supervisor, Jerry Appleberry, “The bird droppings cover everything from landscaping to cars, parking meters, and all over the building. Not good for people’s health.”

One low-tech tactic is to clap 2×4 boards together to startle the crows away. I’ve seen guys doing this in the very early morning, but I guess I thought maybe they were just horsing around. Nope.

A different, higher tech solution is periodically to broadcast the sounds of predatory birds, or crows in distress. The county deploys Bird-X acoustic devices on a seasonal basis. According to Appleberry, “Yes, the Bird-X really does help keep the birds away, but the clapping of the wood does the best for keeping them away.”

Why do I think this is newsworthy? It’s because the Bird-X sounds are something anybody in the downtown will hear at all times of the day and maybe wonder about. I can hear the Bird-X sounds from my apartment about a half block off the courthouse square.

When I first heard the Bird-X sounds, I thought there was, in fact, a bird in some kind of distress. I was stirred to walk the half block from my place to the square to see what I could see. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d discovered a bird flopping around on the ground—I’m not a trained wildlife specialist. So I was glad I didn’t see anything.

Still, it was enough for me to make a general inquiry at the county. And that led me to Appleberry, who gave me the basic background on the crow situation.

This time around, I didn’t have time to write up an in-depth piece on the county courthouse groundskeeping activities or what the budget is for those activities. Even with way more resources, I’m not sure that’s the kind of topic that I would choose to make a priority.

But the next time the topic of the groundskeeping budget comes up at the county council or with the county commissioners, I will know what part of the budget is spent on and I will have the contact information for a guy (Appleberry) who can probably offer insight.

A story about crows is maybe an odd way to mark the rough one-year anniversary of the move to my place just off the courthouse square in downtown Bloomington. What makes it fitting and proper is the story’s tie to the physical location of the courthouse square. It’s the “square” in this publication’s name.

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