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One day, Twinkle's papa fires his shotgun at a flock of crows eating the corn in his field. One young crow is struck by a buckshot pellet and wounded with a broken wing. In a moment of mercy, the man takes the wounded crow home as a pet for Twinkle. She names him Jim. His wing is bandaged, and the girl keeps the crow on a tether. The bird becomes somewhat tame; but as soon as its wound heals, its wild and cruel nature re-exerts itself. Jim kills some of the chicks in the barnyard and flies away.
Jim Crow takes up residence in an old nest in a forest, though the local birds do not welcome him. He soon starts to prey on the neighbor birds, raiding their nests and eating their eggs. The birds call for Policeman Bluejay, the natural law-enforcer of their community; though the crow is bigger and faster, Policeman Bluejay is fierce and brave enough to defeat him. Jim has to suspend his predations for a time.
Jim learns to fool the Jay and the other birds, by dusting himself white in a nearby chalk pit, then resuming his predations. But the Jay eventually figures out the trick. The whole community of birds is by now so enraged that all of them, even the smallest, attack Jim Crow en masse. He survives by hunkering down in his nest; but after the attack he is completely blind and helpless. The other birds pity him, and bring him food and water to keep him alive.
Twinkle names her new pet Jim Crow —
- ...because papa said that all crows were named Jim, although he never could find out the reason. But the name seemed to fit her pet as well as any, so Twinkle never bothered about the reason.
There is nothing in the story that gives the name or the crow a racial connotation. Baum was either naive about the import of the name, or pretended to naivety for the purpose of his story. (Eva Katharine Gibson similarly creates an avian Jim Crow character in Zauberlinda in 1901.)
- L. Frank Baum. Twinkle and Chubbins: Their Astonishing Adventures in Nature-Fairyland. Introduction by Michael Patrick Hearn. Escanaba, MI, The International Wizard of Oz Club, 1987.