Farm Collector

The Ladies Page

Country Echoes

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

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

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

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?

  • Published on Jul 1, 1962
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