Two American Crows on a Railroad Track

Princella Talley
4 min readNov 28, 2021
Photo by narubono on Unsplash

Fall weather inspired me to take a new route on my daily walk. En route, I saw an old railroad track and decided to walk the tracks instead. Yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I did, and I found myself having the same fun I’d had as a child, tiptoeing on the rails, and hopping on the tracks — until a man walking in my direction distracted me.

He wore blue jeans and a white T-shirt with a black jacket tied around his waist as if he’d walked out of a 90’s movie. His version of playing on the railroad tracks was picking up rocks and throwing them into the woods.

He stopped throwing rocks when he spotted me, and I halted my childish fun, growing tense as he came closer. We stared silently as the distance lessened between us, and when we could no longer avoid each other, he spoke as he walked past me.

“Hey, how’s it going?” he asked awkwardly.

“Fine, how are you?” was my monotone reply.

He quickly responded, “Pretty good.”

And that’s where our forced conversation ended. Off we went in two separate directions until we could no longer hear the off-beat rhythm created by our footsteps. But in the stillness, I heard a rustling sound that made me jump before I quickly spun around to see what was happening.

At that moment, I realized I was in flight or fight mode, afraid of the possibility that the stranger who passed by might attack me. But it wasn’t him. The sound was coming from two crows in the tree foliage.

Crows and humans have much in common, especially when it comes to metacognition and social skills. Like humans, crows can remember faces for years.

But the human brain is tricky when it comes to facial recognition because our brains fear uncertainty, and uncertain feelings can surface in our perceptions of other people. If you pictured the man I encountered on the railroad tracks, you saw a man that your mind associates with someone sketchy or dangerous. It’s possible that you envisioned him as…

Princella Talley