MAE BABER, R.D.2, Brandon, Wisconsin
The old saving, 'Better To Have Loved And Lost Than Never To Have Loved At All' is probably one of our better known maxims. We, as a family agree, it is better to have lost a parakeet than to have never have owned one at all. To have sheltered an interesting parakeet is in itself an absorbing experience. To have loved and cared for three is being thrice blessed. The differences in their personalities is in itself a study worthy of one's effort.
Our first experience with a bird came as our son returned from college after his second year, bearing with him a plastic cage. Containing 'HUGO', who was undaunted after six hundred odd miles of riding in a car containing five college students and a motley load of luggage. His dormitory life had stood him in good stead.
I didn't at once learn of his exotic tastes. Apparently he was on his good behavior for a while. Before too many months I discovered he was educated to the point where he preferred eating my orchid cactus plants for greens, and also my favorite vine which he plucked off above the soil in the pot, as short as any flock of sheep will nibble a pasture. My cactus plants are just now recovering. The kitchen was the only safe place to give him any liberty.
His chattering splurges always came at mealtime, when we were also ready to chatter. A few dour scowls from the head of the house and Hugo, cage and all, was banished to the kitchen. After all, some of us valued Hugo's hapless head.
For a little over two years he brightened our home with his charming personality. Then came the morning in September when our young student was leaving home again. One of the younger children unwittingly opened his cage door. In the turmoil of packing the car, with the house doors invitingly open Hugo decided to venture into the wide, wide world.
It was a morning to be reckoned1 with at our house. Our oldest son had been married in August - the first one to leave the nest for good. Our second son, the student, now a graduate, was also leaving, and our little Mary was starting her first day of grade school. So it happened that all of the flock were taking wings that morning including the three intermediates.
Perhaps six leave takings was just too much for Hugo. About eight thirty of that September morning I looked around my disordered kitchen and began to dolefully draw the dishwater. Hugo was always a happy accompaniment. He loved running faucets. Everyone back to school but Father and I! This was a change! The tears dropped into my dishwater. And then the thought struck me full force. Where was Hugo? His dishwater song had been missing.
There followed a fruitless search, -the window sills, the orchid cactus, the attic, the basement, (about every door in the house had been wide open in the melee), the screened in porch which he loved. Many 'Here Hugo's' from all of us followed. We hung his cage beneath our back-door tree Without results though we watched it carefully.
Two lonely days followed. Farm wife that I am I followed my husband around at his work when the quietness of the house became too oppressive. On the third morning Mary kissed me goodbye happily as she looked forward to an other day of school. She skipped merrily out of the door to get her bike. Breathlessly she came running in not a minute later.
'Mother! Mother! Hugo is sitting on the chicken yard fence. He looks just awful.' Mary's blue eyes were a mingling of joy and pity. Wasting no time I loosened the cage from it's tree and was off to the chicken yard. I was hardly prepared for this. Hugo, our pert little scamp sat in such dejection as one couldn't imagine him to be capable of. The chickens in a semi circle raised inquiring heads. Shooing them gently away I called lovingly to our lost little friend. As the cage came toward him he leaned eagerly forward, then slipped quickly into his welcome home. Mary sighed deeply. I sighed deeply, and I think I heard Hugo sign too. September nights were not for Hugo.
It took almost a week for him to regain his cocky demeanor. How we guarded him but eventually it happened again. He rode our shoulders constantly, warbling his love right into ears. We even walked out of doors with him without remembering that he was there. He had come back before, so we became braver, thinking he was a homing parakeet. One spring morning the call of the other birds must have proved too interesting and off of John's shoulder he flew. All summer we watched an traced down some neighborly calls but I am sure he found another home.
'Christmas brought a new bird and a new cage. Hugo's cage had been dislodged in a lively ping pong game one partied evening. Kewpie was a bit insipid from the beginning. I questioned her health and one morning she lay, dead in her cage. It was the winter of much snow and many zero temperatures and though I moved her near a register every night there was no saving her.
Mother's Day brought Peppy and much as we love her the memory of Hugo can not be erased. She is a feathered jewel, a lovely blend of soft blues, touches of pearly gray blending to charcoal with head and wings warmed by soft yellows. Woven throughout this symphony of color and jade are cool greens. I never look at her but that I marvel and wonder at each little feather laid neatly over the other blended into a melody of color created by the hand of God. This - is what we think of her.
In your snugly barred enclosure,
Sheltered little from exposure
All the primping that you do
Must be brazenly in view.
Sometimes, grim as somber sphinx-
Then you're gay, you elfish minx;
You're a pert and pretty clown
Eating birdseed upside down.
Hanging by one foot, perchance
You should catch my passing glance -
Then - alighting on your perch,
Proper as a maid in church,
In light moments bursting song
To your repertoires belong -
You're so human and so sweet.
Are you just a parakeet?