There were a number of interesting and unusual things I observed in Alaska during our Rivet Ball days, but one that never ceased to amaze me was the Ravens, the feathered kind. You may recall the natives in Alaska considered the Raven to be top dog in the animal kingdom because of its intelligence, craftiness, resourcefulness, extreme sense of humor and a fine appreciation for practical jokes.
Many of the northern animals change their colors, thickness of fur, etc., with approaching winter - but not the Ravens. It was as though the Ravens decided that sort of thing was beneath them and refused to go along with evolution.... mavericks if you will. The most remarkable encounter or "Raven event" for me occurred one afternoon at Eielson while I was walking back to our quarters from the squadron in the ice fog. The street was covered with black ice, snow banked over the side walks and it was at least minus 20°F with zero wind. There was no traffic and the silence was deafening – with only the "crunch, crunch, crunch" of my boots in the light layer of snow covering the ice.
Having tunnel vision that comes from having the hood of my parka pulled forward to cover my face, I could see nothing unless it was directly in front of me. Suddenly there was a faint, "swish -- swish -- swish" sound. As I turned to see what it was, I felt a gentle brush of cold air against my face as a large black Raven flew just to the left of my hood heading in the same direction. Visibility wasn't more than ten to twenty yards, but there he was, flying at least five to ten miles per hour, five to six feet off the ground as he disappeared into the ice fog. Why do I consider this event remarkable? Mostly because of his flying so close. Then there was the fact of his speed at minus 20°F to minus 30°F. At that speed, the wind chill factor was minus 34°F to minus 40°F. This bird had no goggles... how did he keep his eyeballs from freezing?
As Team 2 developed, it was decided over a beer or two (specific events of that party are a little fuzzy) that we should have a team patch. The design should be simple and easily recognizable to anyone in the squadron. After some thought plus comments from some of the other team members I came up with the following. The number "2", blue ocean and sky were easy, as was the "Rock" we flew from. However, the Raven needed to be unique. I had read some of the Indian lore regarding the Raven and was struck by the Northwest and Alaskan artwork depicting the animal kingdom and the stories they told. The Raven figured heavily in much of their artwork. I remembered an Indian woodcut print that reminded me of a Raven with a bit of Snoopy's attitude. I modified it a little and the Team 2 patch was born. The Team 2 patch depicts a Raven looking out at the world from a perch on The Rock (the "2") against a backdrop of blue sky and dark blue water waiting for an opportunity to show what he can do or just have a little fun.
Other Raven and Crow Observations:
I noticed a Raven (the feathered kind) made the news around mid-August 2002. A Raven surprised the scientific community with its ability as a "tool user" by using a hooked wire to fish grubs out of a limb. However, what really got their attention was if a bent wire was not available it would bend a straight piece of wire until it had a suitable hook on its end in order to fish grubs out of a limb. This was with no training, the Raven just figured it out for itself – very interesting.
As a boy growing up in East Texas I used to hunt crows, but now consider a small flock of crows that call our farm "home" as some of the good guys. Why? I have always admired hawks, but prefer having the crows around because the hawks have a taste for our chickens and guinea hens which are the core of a very effective "tick control patrol." Anyone having spent time in the country knows that crows and hawks are mortal enemies and the crows almost always win out when they declare an area theirs. Around our place they do a good job of keeping the chickens and guinea hens alive by driving the hawks away and they don't charge much for the service... just some of the spilt grain from feeding the live stock every day. As a freebie, their antics around the farm provide a chuckle now and then, but they are extremely difficult to approach.
Lt Col, USAF (Ret.)