Crow Woe

Once, life was pleasant in the college town of California, Pennsylvania.  Then, the crows came, and kept coming, until the town was home to thousands of the large black birds.

Now, residents wake up in the morning, look out the window, and see crows everywhere.  They hear the harsh caws of crows all night long.  They feel the oppressive presence of crows in the trees.  They walk out to their cars and find them covered with crow droppings, and when they venture outside they have to dodge falling crow bombs.  A local TV crew sent to get footage of the pests reported that the plopping of crow poop outside sounded like raindrops.  Local business owners say that the crow infestation is hurting sales.  No kidding!  Imagine what the crow infestation has done for home sales!

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds always scared the hell out of me, because the everyday phenomenon of birds in the sky became a bizarre, horrifying menace for no apparent reason.  The plague-like conditions in California, Pennsylvania sound like that.  I’m not the superstitious type, but if I lived in California I’d get the heck out of there before birds started coming down the chimney or the locusts and frogs appeared.

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The Saint In St. Valentine’s Day

Today Americans mark “Valentine’s Day” — a day for lovers throughout the land.  At one point, however, February 14 was celebrated at St. Valentine’s Day.

Who was the person who inspired a day that is a favorite of card makers, florists, jewelers, and candy companies?  When you’ve got a question about saints, you logically turn to Catholic websites like Catholic Online — whose website posting on St. Valentine, ironically, features a 1-800flowers.com banner ad that says “Wow her this Valentine’s.”

According to the website, nobody knows for sure who St. Valentine was, or even how many Valentines there were.  The authorities believe there was at least one such person, however, because archaeologists have uncovered an ancient church and catacomb dedicated to him.  The prevailing view seems to be that he was a Roman priest named Valentinus who was martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth; February the 14th was identified as the official date of his martyrdom by papal decree in 496 A.D.

Valentinus is said to have helped persecuted Christians, married couples in outlawed Christian ceremonies, and refused to renounce his faith when he was caught.  Like most early saints, he met a grisly end — he was beaten and stoned, then beheaded.  Before that happened, however, he is supposed to have cured his jailer’s daughter of blindness and then sent her a note saying “from your Valentine.”

St. Valentine is the patron saint of love, lovers, engaged couples, and happy marriages — and also of epilepsy, plague, bee keepers, fainting, travelers, and young people.  He apparently was a busy guy with broad-ranging interests before he lost his head.