Grape extract may bring crows' wrath

November 30, 1999

Grapes. So now it's grapes.

Hagerstown administrators say they will try spraying downtown trees with some sort of grape extract to discourage thousands upon thousands of crows from roosting downtown at night and making the city look and smell like the inside of a chicken coop.

They say crows don't like grapes, and that the spray will make the crows "nauseous." Beautiful. Now we won't just be flooded with crow droppings, we'll be flooded with crow puke.

I've heard of Grapes of Wrath, but this is ridiculous. So who do they call to do the extermination, Ernest and Julio Gallo?


All I know is they better do something fast, because downtown is disgusting, and as if city merchants didn't have enough to worry about, no one is going to want to do their Christmas shopping downtown the way things stand now.

Plus, crows have been found to have the sort of disease that terrorized New York City a few months ago. And because the council has turned such a deaf ear to the problem, Hagerstown is just one or two sick kids away from the mother of all crow-related lawsuits. Downtown Hagerstown right now can only be considered one major health risk. More than usual, I mean.

But grapes? Who knew? I think I know the type of substance the city has in mind. Remember that grape-flavored cough syrup your parents made you swallow when you were a kid that made you twice as sick as what you were in the first place? That would do the job, I imagine.

Of course animal rights types object to killing, so the best we can hope for is to make the birds sick. Just what we need, 40 million crows standing in line in our drugstores to buy Pepto-Bismol.

I still think the best answer is a 16-gauge Remington pump. Face it, noisemakers don't work and if the Welch's treatment doesn't work either, they're going to need a Plan B. And B, to my way of thinking, stands for buckshot.

Besides, anyone who lives or works downtown, except the carwash owners, is way past compensatory, they want to extract some punitive damages. Call me petty, but I think making them slightly ill is way too good for them.

Seriously, it's reached the point where people leaving work in the late afternoon have to carry umbrellas when they walk out to their cars. And I can't imagine a little Grape Nehi is going to produce anything near satisfactory pain and suffering. To me, anything short of killing them or making them sit through six hours of "This Old House" reruns is hardly going to be good enough.

Speaking of "This Old House," it looks like the state won itself a real fixer-upper in deciding to put the University of Maryland branch campus in the Baldwin House, a charming little handy man's special which tests negative on crows but highly positive on pigeons.

Score a big W. for Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey and a big L. for the Washington County legislative delegation, which correctly thought the campus should adjoin Hagerstown Community College and announced so during a big press conference. So much for the delegation's influence.

Several weeks ago House Speaker Cas Taylor took great umbrage with me because he said I implied the local delegation lacked clout. (I thought I did more than imply - I really need to work on my game.) But answer us this, Mr. Speaker. If Cumberland were getting a college building, would Gov. Parris Glendening put it anywhere your delegation did not approve of? Uh huh. And I've got a sales tax I want to sell you.

There could be a silver lining, though. Perhaps our delegation could hold another grand press conference and announce that they want the crows to stay downtown. Break out the grape juice, HCC.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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