Birds are for the birds
Years ago a friend of mine owned a cockatoo (I think that’s what it was). My friend’s name is Lee and he named his avian pet “Barnie” after the like-named character from the classic television series, The Andy Griffith Show. This was particularly apt since Barnie was quite adept at whistling the musical introduction to that series. Adorable.
Barnie was a small bird, only about twice the size of a parakeet. He had gray feathers with a white topnotch on his tiny noggin.
During that time Lee, who lives in Orlando, and I were partners in a business venture which required frequent visits by me to that city. Lee and his wife were kind enough to invite me to stay as a guest in their home during these routine overnight excursions.
I might point out at this stage that Lee and Barnie had a very close bond. Barnie would follow him around the house like an airborne puppy, lighting on whatever portion of his body was available at any given time. When Lee would recline on the couch, Barnie would stand on his chest, just below his chin, and “talk” to him to no end. And Lee would lie there and speak sweet nothings back at him. If Barnie had been a female, his wife might have been a little jealous.
Barnie would normally have nothing to do with me, however. The only occasion where he would grace me with his presence, say, on an outstretched index finger, would be those times when he felt the urge to sharpen his beak on my knuckles.
The exception to this was any time the two of us happened to be alone together in the house. Apparently lacking anything better to do in Lee’s absence, Barnie would flutter down from his customary safety roost among the idle living room fan blades and light on my knee. He would then begin busily preening himself. It turns out that this preening is a messy business, and I would end up with grey and white flutter fluff and God knows what else all over the knees of my slacks. And when I reached toward him to gently shoo him away, the little bugger would simply screech at me, flit back up to the fan for a few seconds, and then come right back down on my knee. He made it clear that my sole value was as a roosting post for his cleaning regimen. The only way I could stop this activity was to remain standing until Lee returned, with Barnie up on the fan and squawking at me the whole time, or shut myself in the guest room.
My paternal grandfather also owned a couple of different birds when I was just a youngster. I recall a green parakeet, which, upon its eventual passing, was provided a closed cigar-box funeral service conducted by us kids in the backyard. And then there was a replacement, which was a blue parakeet. Grandpa adored that little blue bird, which would spend most of its time atop his head as he smoked his pipe and read the evening paper. What a sight. But Grandpa always had a spare handkerchief nearby since this little guy obviously considered Grandpa’s head a latrine. Thank goodness Grandpa was bald by then.
You can keep your birds, thank you.
I remember that parakeet but can’t remember it’s name. I only remember the blue one. The green one must have been before my time . (Seizing that I’m the youngest and all, haha!).
The only time my emotionally repressed father cried in his adult life, to the best of my knowledge, was when HIS bird, identical to Barney, shuffled off this mortal coil. The two of them were inseparable. ‘Pepper’, like Barney would follow my dad around the house keeping the old man company wherever he went.
I, too, have never gone in for birds as I’m basically a ‘reformed’ dog person. While I love them dearly, I’ve come to love cats through a fourteen year relationship with a little blue-gray ‘monkey-head’ of a cat named ‘Tooker’ that both adopted and then honored me with her presence while she inhabited the planet. ‘Henry’ and ‘Squeak’ have since taken our place and I’ve recently built a back yard fence for the dog we’re expecting sometime soon.
Nice essay, Skip.
This bird can Zing. Everybody loves tweetie. JMK
Love your story, it made me chuckle! I remember a few bird aquaintances in my past (none belonged to me) and I totally agree. . . . birds are not for me!
I had a diamond dove named Dave who made a nest in my garden window. When my friend, who hated birds, came to visit, Dave would try to land on his bald head. I’d try to tell my friend that if he would just wave his hand over his head the bird would move on but in his panic he could never grasp that simple solution and he would end up running and ducking, running and ducking all over my house. Good times, good times. Just like you and Barnie.