South Hills Native’s Book Shares Childhood Lessons She Learned From a Crow | New
A retired teacher from South Hills shares the lessons she learned as a child of a pet named Blackie, a raven who was rehabilitated in her childhood home.
Amy Leput Strahl, formerly of Scott Township, wrote âBlackie: A Memoir of a Year With a Crowâ based on memories of her childhood when she was 6 years old. His father, Pete Leput, served in training pigeons for World War II to convey messages about troop activity. So when a friend found himself with an injured young crow, he brought the bird to Leput.
âThis crow ended up spending the year with us,â said Strahl, a graduate of the University of California, Pennsylvania. “It was just amazing what I learned from this little crow.”
His father built an aviary in a tree with a stepladder so the bird was safe and had the freedom to come and go as it pleased. Strahl and his older brother, Walter Leput, waited patiently to gain the bird’s trust, and within a week or so, he was flying towards them and waving to them. Soon he started following them to school and he was scaring a neighborhood menace every time he approached.
Strahl wrote stories about raven antics and intelligence. He learned to untie and unlace shoes and seemed to take pride in learning to untie clean laundry from the clothesline.
During their walks to school, a woman from the neighborhood showed anguish towards the bird, saying that the bird was bad because it was black. Strahl and his brother learned about prejudice through hostility.
âThere is good and bad. Some people are fanatics, âStrahl said, listing the things she learned from the experience. âWatch, learn and persevere. “
âThe most important topic is probably not to judge things by what you hear, (but) to experience things and to form your own opinions,â she added.
One of the last lessons she learned was when Blackie left and didn’t come back, she said. He was spending more and more time with crows in the wild and left at the start of the mating season in the spring. His father told him and his brother that Blackie had probably found his mate for life.
âMy father prepared my brother and I well for his eventual departure. He was like ‘Blackie will know when it’s time to go.’ It was a great lesson to learn, âshe recalls. âI clearly remember coming home from school. Dad sat us down and said, ‘I think Blackie has found his girlfriend.’
She hoped Blackie would tell her offspring that she and her brother could trust. Later in life, a group of crows in the same neighborhood comforted her after her father died. She later learned of a wildlife researcher’s findings that crows pass on information about humans to their offspring that can be trusted.
Strahl said she has been planning to make history since she was a little girl, and “the pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity.” She introduced it to publishers and a publishing house in Austin, Texas agreed to publish the book.
She wrote the book at a 5th grade reading level. Strahl also drew sketches to illustrate the opening of each chapter.
She said her adult friends enjoyed the story as well, and she provided a glossary at the end of the book for young or difficult readers. The retired teacher has also created lesson plans to accompany the book and plans to provide them to teachers free of charge.
Strahl hopes young people will enjoy the outdoor book and experience nature as she did when she was a child.
“If you are a child, I encourage you to go to a quiet space, preferably outdoors, and enjoy this book on a gift of nature seen through the eyes of another child,” wrote Strahl in his preface.
“Blackie” is available in print and eBook versions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and White Bird Publications. For more information, visit blackiethecrowbook.com.