For many years now, I’ve lived atop a hillside with views of a chaparral-covered canyon and the ocean in the distance. I’ve treasured the serenity of my life here. Wildlife critters roam my property and, for the most part, we have amicably coexisted. Sure, now and then a deer or a raccoon would do some minor damage to the shrubs and plants in my yard and an occasional skunk would leave his telltale odor, but no big deal.

Then about a year ago, a visitor in the form of a crow began making regular excursions to the upper deck of my home. He was easy to identify because of a ragged notch in his tail feathers.  I suspect it came from an unfriendly encounter with a foe or predator. After a few days of repeated visits, I pointed him out to my wife, Dee Ann, to which she replied “So…it’s only a crow.”

Okay, I get it. But this didn’t seem like just any ordinary crow to me. He strutted back and forth along the deck railing as if he owned it.

“Look at that guy strut, Dee Ann!”

“Yeah,” she said, “he does sort of remind me of Jimmy Cagney doing his Cohan bit in that Yankee Doodle Dandy movie.” The name stuck and the crow became “Cagney.” He seemed so full of himself with his avian cockiness, I sometimes referred to him as “Mr. Cagney, himself.”

At first, he was entertaining and I looked forward to his visits. He acted like he was the deck’s landlord with his cock o’ the walk behavior, and other birds in the neighborhood seemed to steer clear of the area when he was around. The exception was a good-sized Cooper’s hawk, which sometimes would fly over and perch rather imperiously on the railing. Cagney left it alone.

As much as I enjoyed him, Cagney’s visits began to wear thin after a while. His white excrement strategically splashed onto my newly-painted deck really griped me. And he was noisy, with his incessant “caw…caw” intruding on my serenity as I would try to relax on the deck with a cigar and a cocktail or maybe some snacks. He also turned out to be a thief and would snatch bits of food from the deck table if I left stuff unguarded to go inside.

I started shooing Cagney away when he visited, but he was resolute and fearless. He would fly away momentarily but then come right back. I must have amused him with my hands clapping and arms whirling.

About a month ago, I noticed another visitor to the deck and the lower yard. This visitor turned out to be a red squirrel and he was literally destroying my bonsai specimens and other potted plants. He nearly defoliated several prized plants adjacent to the lower patio as well. I tried to get rid of him using various squirrel repellents and live traps, but to no avail.

Finally, out of desperation and over Dee Ann’s objections, I set out some poison squirrel bait. This, too, didn’t seem effective at first, but I persisted. After a short while, I saw that my shrubs and plants were no longer being eaten. The bait was gone, so it must have worked.

A few days ago, it suddenly dawned on me that Cagney hadn’t been around recently to interrupt my tranquility. “Dee Ann, have you seen Cagney lately? He hasn’t visited us for a few days now.” No response.

I sort of miss him.