One day, the crafty old crow was sitting in his nest while his pack of pet doves brought him breakfast and plucked out their own chest feathers to make sure his nest was soft and warm. He happened to glance down to the forest floor and saw a large pond at which deer and other animals were drinking. The water was clear and inviting.
“That’s a mighty big pond,” the old crow thought to himself. “I’d like to bathe in it. I’d like to drink from its clear waters. But not with so many other animals around. I want it all to myself. And if I can’t have it, no one should have it.”
At the far side, beavers were busy shoring up the dam they had made to create the pond so all the forest animals could drink from it.
“Beavers,” muttered the crow. “I hate beavers. They’re always doing things for other animals. Always making this and that, fixing things, helping others. They’re everyone’s friend. Can’t stand beavers.”
Then he looked at the deer around the pond. “Don’t like those deer, either. They’re too friendly with the beavers. Can’t have that in my forest. Beavers and deer should never be close like that. It’s unnatural. I’ll have to put an end to that pretty damned quick.”
So the crow called his friend, the fox, and said to him, “Foxie, this isn’t right. Those beavers are damaging the forest. They’re making a mess. And they must be doing it for some nefarious reason. Am I right? It’s not right to let them build things like this. I need you to stop them. Dig something up. Do it and I’ll tell you where the doves nest and lay their tasty eggs.”
And with that, the fox ran into the woods and returned with the carcass of a dead squirrel that had been buried for several months. That night, when all the animals were asleep, the fox placed the smelly, dead squirrel on a rock beside the pond. When morning rose and the animals came again to drink, but drew back when they saw the dead squirrel.
“See this poor dead squirrel?” The fox shouted at them. “The beavers killed it. They were hiding its body and using it to poison the water. But I found it and brought it here to warn you. You better leave here now or you’ll get sick. Or worse. Maybe they’ll kill you next!”
The beavers, hearing the fox, tried to protest, and tell the animals they were innocent, but the old crow flew overhead and cawed so loudly he drowned out their protests. The animals only heard the fox, only saw the carcass. Many of them got scared and ran away.
“But where will we go?” asked the deer. “We’ve used this pond all our lives. We are friends with the beavers. We work well together. Surely they won’t harm us!”
The crow flew down to the ground and paraded in front of them. “Nonsense. The beavers are plotting against you. I have heard their whispering. You aren’t safe around them. I know a place where you will be safe from these vicious beavers. And you’ll have all the fresh water you can drink. Just follow me.”
And with that the crow flew deep into the forest, with the deer following him. After a long flight, leading the deer around and around until they were thoroughly lost and very tired, he stopped by a small, brackish puddle far away from the pond. “Here you are,” he told the deer. “This is your new watering hole.”
“But it’s too small,” protested the deer. “It’s not as clean and clear as the pond we shared. And we have no friends here.”
“Too bad,” snapped the crow. “Learn to like it. Or leave. Just don’t go back to the pond or I’ll set the fox on you. You’ll end up like that squirrel. Am I right?”
And the fox nodded his agreement. With that, the crow flew back to his nest.
But the beavers were still in the pond, still building and fixing things. The crow called the doves to his side.
“Those beavers are trying to ruin the forest for you,” he told them. “They don’t recognize that you are the rulers of the forest, not them. They are doing secret things underwater. They’ll ruin the roots of our trees and cause them to fall over. They must be stopped.”
“But how can we stop them? We are just doves. They are strong, well-organized and all the other animals in the forest like them,” said the doves’ leader.
“Simple,” said the crow. “You must poison the pond and all the land around it with your droppings. You must shit in the water and on the shore until no animals want to drink from it or even come close.”
“But won’t that make it poison for us, too?” asked the doves.
“Just for a little while. It will clear up as soon as they are gone, and then the whole pond will be ours. Trust me,” said the crow. “Have I ever let you down?”
So the doves flew over the pond and dropped their shit in the water and all around the shore day after day. While they did this, the fox ran around the shore barking and yipping so the beavers could get no rest. They became distracted, unable to do their work properly. The water and the shore began to stink with all the droppings.
Finally, the beavers gave up and left, waddling into the deep forest to look for a new place to start another pond.
“Now what?” asked the doves. “We’ve separated the deer from their friends, we’ve poisoned the water and we’ve chased all the other animals away. But the water is unfit to drink. The dam is crumbling because there are no beavers to fix it. The water will soon be gone and the shoreline is filthy. What can we do? Where shall we drink?”
But the crafty crow just sat back in his nest and smiled at the doves. “All will be made clear, my little dears. Trust me. These things take time. I will put my best effort into clarifying the water. The fox and I will meet daily to figure out a plan. But I need another year to do the work. Maybe more. For now, just let me worry about the pond while you busy yourselves with more important things. Like getting me my breakfast. And plumping my nest. I’m getting awfully hungry and I can feel sticks coming through the twigs. Gone on, now, I’m feeling mighty peckish.”
And with that, the doves flew off to hunt for delicious clams to crack open and bring to the crow, who sat in his nest and eyes the sour water of the pond below with satisfaction.