“So, why was the crow mad?” Emma asked.
“Hmm?” I looked over the top of my menu, my daughter’s question barely registering. Fish tacos or quinoa salad tonight? Both good, healthy choices.
“Mom…” Emma said with a huff. “You know… The Mad Crow?”
“Oh, right…” I set down my menu. Fish Tacos… Definitely. “I forget the story. Something to do with a crow dive bombing customers. Ask Aunt Chrissie.” I gave my sister, Christine, a sideways glance, which she returned with one of her patented eye rolls.
“You’ve heard the story a million times, Bobbie.” Christine turned to Emma with a smile. “This building used to be the village roadhouse. In the 1800s, when the railroad came through Stonebridge, the roadhouse was a busy place. And there was this crow, nesting in a nearby tree, that attacked patrons.”
“There’s much more to it than that.” Nate, Christine’s husband, joined the conversation. He was Stonebridge born and bred, and loved nothing more than the village’s old yarns.
Emma rested her elbows on the table, leaning forward, ready for one of Uncle Nate’s tales.
“Well, you see,” Nate said. “The Innkeeper, Maisie Miller, was a kind soul, and she loved that old crow.”
“Even though it attacked her customers?” Emma asked.
“Yep.” Nate nodded, warming to his story. “The crow only wanted to protect her nest. Maisie understood that. She would leave little gifts for the crow—pieces of corn, wool and twine… And the crow left gifts for Maisie, too—buttons, necklaces, handkerchiefs—all stolen from patrons.”
“So cool.” Emma laughed.
“Yes, but the townsfolk didn’t quite agree. They wanted that crow captured. Maisie protested, but what could she do?”
“What, indeed?” Christine deadpanned, an eye-roll aimed at her husband this time. Her affectionate smile was impossible to miss, though.
Nate placed his hand on Christine’s and continued. “One day, word spread of a train robbery. The bandit was headed to Stonebridge. You can imagine the frenzy. Villagers were taking up arms, waiting for the train to arrive.”
“Seems kind of dumb for the bandit to stay on the train.” Emma said.
“You might think so. But when he threw his mask and stocking cap off the train, he looked like any other passenger. No one knew who he was.”
Our server appeared, and Nate paused as we placed our orders.
“Cheddar-ale soup,” I said with a smile. So much for fish tacos and quinoa salad. I patted my stomach. Tomorrow…
“What happened?” Emma asked. “And what does this have to do with the crow?”
Nate held up his finger. “I’m glad you asked.” With a wiggle of his brows, he continued. “When the passengers disembarked, they headed straight to the old roadhouse for a pint of ale and a bowl of its famous cheddar soup. You can imagine the chaos at the station as armed villagers sought the bandit—to no avail. It’s amazing no one was shot.”
“And?” Emma was rapt. And though I’d heard the story many times, I couldn’t help leaning forward, hanging on every word.
“As the weary passengers entered the roadhouse, the crow dove from the tree.” Nate’s hand swooped across the table. “Everyone ducked, of course, shielding themselves. The crow only attached one passenger, though. She pecked at the poor man’s head and face until he dropped his satchel, its contents spilling on the ground.”
“Ohhh.” Emma clapped her hands. “The unmasked bandit.”
“Yep,” Nate said. “And the townspeople never complained about the mad crow again.”