When Carol Barrera was a little girl growing up in New Market, a neighbor gave her a baby crow. It turned out to be a gift to the whole community, or a source of torment, depending on who was concerned.
“Glenn Williams is the one that got the crow for me,” Carol, the mother of Donnie, the Highland County sheriff, and Dick and Kay Barrera, said. “He went up in a tree and saw a nest with baby crows in it and he gave me one and he gave his daughter two, but she never did anything with them.”
Carol did. Afraid her parents would not let her keep it, she took the crow to the basement of their house and fed it a baby food called pablum. Her parents, Ervin and Bernice Walker, soon discovered what their daughter was up to. But they let her keep it and the bird ended up spending its nights in the rafters of her father’s garage.
What followed over the next seven years or so were a series of adventures in the 1940s and ’50s that Carol says she is certain any person who was living in the New Market community at the time could not forget.
The crow was named Snubby. Carol said the name from the 1948 comedy film “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!” which is also known for having Marilyn Monroe’s first speaking part. Barrera said there was a team of mules in the movie, one of them was named Snubby, and that’s how the crow got its name.
At the time, Barrera’s father operated Walker’s Grocery in New Market and had an egg and poultry business.
“When anyone pulled in the grocery (Snubby) would have their windshield wipers off the vehicle before you could shake a stick,” Carol said. “Dad always said he wished he had stock in the windshield wiper company because he had to replace so many for his customers.”
Like crows are known for, Carol said her crow liked anything shiny. She said that one day a neighbor left a window cracked over the kitchen sink where she drained her dishes. She returned to the kitchen to find all her silverware missing. Although no one ever found the silverware, everyone knew who the thief was.
Carol’s daughter Kay said that she remembers a story about her mom’s first cousin, Ralph Bloom. She said that Bloom was walking to the outhouse at school one day and was flipping a silver dollar. During one flip, Snubby swooped in, snatched the silver dollar, and no one ever saw it again.
Kay said that Snubby would eat breakfast at her mom’s house, then fly about 50 yards away and have breakfast at her mom’s grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Walker’s, house, too.
Snubby never wandered too far from his adopted home and Carol said maybe that’s because he liked to ride on the handlebars of her bicycle. One time Snubby fell off and Carol figures that maybe he injured a wing and knew he couldn’t fly very far.
Carol said her dad hauled eggs and chicken in an open truck and Snubby would ride on top of the stacked supplies. But when they got to a certain point not far from home, Carol’s dad would roll down the window and wave his arms, and Snubby would head back home.
During his years as a youngster Carol said her brother, Ronald Walker, dragged a blanket with him often, and that Snubby would ride on the back of the blanket.
Snubby also liked to follow the New Market kids to school. When they went inside, Snubby would find a perch on a window near a pencil sharpener and peck on the window, wanting attention. “And all the kids would be lined up to sharpen their pencils,” Carol said. She said that almost every day school principal Betty Saum had to call Carol’s mother and have her come and get Snubby.
At recess, Carol said kids knew not to leave their ball gloves around because if they did, Snubby would take off with them.
Snubby liked to go to church, too. Carol said he’d fly up to the platform where the Baptist minister at the New Market church was located and hang out there. “But he wouldn’t shut up,” Carol said.
When Carol’s father came home from work in the evenings, she said he liked to lay down on the ground. But when he did, Snubby would snatch things from his pockets. “He’d start with the cigarettes in dad’s upper pocket and then go to the lower pockets, and dad just let him.” Carol said.
“Snubby loved to come out of nowhere and swoop down at people,” Carol said. “It would scare some people and dad would have to put him up.”
One Sunday morning Snubby followed Ruthie (Edwards) Shoemaker home. She lived close the Baptist church that was located across U.S. Route 62 from where the New Market Community Building now stands. Carol said Shoemaker’s father, Jake, shot and killed the crow that day.
“My dad broke down. He said, ‘Why in the world would he do something like that?” Carol said.
“Jake went in the store one day and dad grabbed him by the seat of the pants, threw him almost to the middle of U.S. 62, and said, ‘Don’t come back again,’” she added with a chuckle.
As Kay and her siblings were growing up, Kay said they heard lots of stories about Snubby, and that her mother still talks about him from time to time.
“She always talked about how smart he was,” Kay said. “Mom said it could do everything but talk, and he tried to do that, too.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]