The Rain Crow is the story of my father, a beloved country surgeon, recently retired, and his connections to his patients, the south, our family farm and its inhabitants. My father is a brilliant doctor and a renegade. He designed his own surgical tools or repurposed construction tools when a proper instrument for surgery was not available. He went to his patients’ homes to treat them and was a part of their life. People would travel from two counties away for him to be their doctor, and would gladly wait for an appointment until 3am. When patients couldn’t pay they paid him in trade, and often in pies. I remember there were always at least ten pies in his office at all times.
The title The Rain Crow is derived from southern folklore. The rain crow is a solitary bird that hides in the woods, predicting death and rain each with different calls. My father is always listening for the rain crow when his garden needs watering in the summer. After decades of setting store by the call of this elusive bird, he believes the rain crows are dying out due to the use of herbicides and pesticides on farmlands. Most people fail to notice or even care about their diminishing numbers because rain crows are not a valuable game bird. My father says “The rain crow is left over from a different time. They are from an era when people told time by the angle of the sun and hollered from hilltop to hilltop to borrow a plow.They don’t belong in this time and neither do I.” He retired at age 77 in part because he was no longer allowed to accept pies for payment. He practiced medicine and lives his life in a different way still deeply connected to nature and Appalachian culture complying to an observance all his own on land that he is determined to conserve. The Rain Crow strives to preserve the dignity and simplicity of his way of life. This body of work is evolving in chapters. I have located many of my fathers former patients who span culturally from professional football and baseball players to Appalachian hill people. I will be making 8x10 portraits of my fathers patients and recording their stories which I plan to include in written form in what will eventually become a book.