How about some games to keep ravens out of our mail?

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2001

When I see ravens sitting on my mailbox, carefully peeling the numbers off after tiring of shredding my mail, I can't help but believe they would really love puzzles. No question, they have the minds for more challenging work than opening mussel shells and my mailbox. And they appear to have extra time on their hands. Sure, they hang around your bird feeder or Dumpster, but more than any other animal, a raven would really appreciate a mental challenge while waiting for you to put out something new to eat or for the tide to go out. We need raven games.

You know those play stations they make for babies? They have spinning things, little slidey gizmos, animal sounds and bright colors. If you upped the IQ and made it bulletproof, you could entertain your neighborhood ravens for hours. I suggest a basic frame to set up in your yard or fasten to your deck rail. Then you could select from a variety of action games to put in the frame. Here is an excellent business opportunity for someone. Ravens live from Mexico to the Arctic, so the mail-order market is immense. Everyone would rush to buy the Raven Rodeo, the Corvus Cortex, the Arcane Arcade. OK, the name needs work.

Ravens are smart and will tire of the same old games, so you'll need to change them out often. You can start with simple things that spin, bounce, light up or make sounds, but before you know it, you'll be upgrading! Imagine the hours of fun you'll have watching ravens solve simple math problems with an abacus or creating music on a real xylophone. At this point, I suggest you have at the ready numbered cards to hold up in the window rating the birds' performance to encourage them to press on to more complex games. Soon, your yard will be the place to go for Rubik's cube-style puzzles, theme mazes, or motor skill games like pinball. You will be host to the best educated ravens in the region. They will be competing for scholarships to come to your academy.

If you are very lucky, you'll be there when one of your students shows some aptitude and interest in art. You may have a weaver, sculptor or a composer in your flock! Be sure to provide plenty of material and collect, photograph or record the art often. Won't you be proud displaying the completed work in your window or making a special CD or limited edition print to sell on eBay!

I need to caution you on one point at this stage of your raven development, and this is no laughing matter. Ravens are not team players. And they can be very competitive. Don't be alarmed if you see marathon, cutthroat Monopoly sessions and heavy betting on the dice games. And whatever you do, do not go with slot machines. It's a well known fact that 20 percent of all ravens are compulsive gamblers. When they lose, they take it out on your mail.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.



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