Pretty Boy - Life With A Budgie
This is a...
A typical budgie
My father loved birds...in particular, he was fascinated with budgies. Our family was never complete without one dog and one bird. The life span of our family dog, Penny, was sixteen years...but the budgies seemed to come and go at regular intervals. There was Pretty Boy, Pretty Boy the Second, Pretty Boy the Third, Petey, Pretty Boy the Fourth...well, you get the idea. Petey was a complete anomaly and a rather dull bird at that. My father was convinced that it was because of his name and after this particular bird met his demise, he went back to the tried and true system.
Except for Petey, every budgie had a unique personality. My father spent a great deal of time teaching them to talk, while my youngest sister as a toddler treated them to her special brand of attention. I can understand dressing up the family dog in doll clothes or having a rousing tea party with the cat...but you tend to do a double take when you see your sibling dragging a pillow through the house by a rope tied around one corner...especially if there's a bird sitting on it enjoying the ride.
Our budgies had a cage, but they were seldom restricted to it. Most of the time the door was open and the bird was engaged in rather unbirdlike behavior somewhere in the house. When I say "the bird," understand it could have been any one of the assorted Pretty Boys...but because it was a never-ending procession of budgies, we'll just pretend they were all just one rather long-lived budgie. Trust me, it's easier that way and you'll thank me for preserving your sanity later.
Pretty Boy's Playskool Victims
Dirrrrty Bird! Oh...I'm so hawt!
In our house, you had to be careful where you walked. Not so much because you didn't want to step in bird droppings, budgie poop is very small and easy to clean up. No...it was more because you didn't want to step on Pretty Boy. It wasn't that he couldn't fly...when he wanted to, he would...he just didn't want to most of the time. Pretty Boy discovered that most of the action was at floor level.
Occasionally, I'd hear the sounds of my four year old sister playing in her room and I couldn't resist peering in to see what interesting game of imagination she was playing. Inevitably, it would involve Pretty Boy. For a fragile little bird, he was quite tough. I would watch in amazement as Toni would bandage him up when she was in the mood to play doctor or incorporate him into her Play-Skool world. The bird was nuts about that chalet and my sister didn't seem to mind that he would take the parents, drag them off to a special room and gnaw on their little wooden heads until they looked like accident victims.
My sister wasn't the only one that benefited from Pretty Boy's attention. I'm not sure how my mother would have managed her games of solitaire at the kitchen table without the budgie to help her turn over the cards. She would shoo him away with her hand and he'd scamper in that little bow-legged waddle that he had out of her reach...only to return and flip another card over as soon as her attention was diverted. I won't even begin to tell you the level of my mother's appreciation when it came to Pretty Boy's assistance in solving jigsaw puzzles. All I will say is it was amusing to watch my mother attempt to insert a mangled piece of cardboard into its place.
My father was the one to teach Pretty Boy how to talk. Inevitably, the first words learned were "Pretty Boy." Budgies are vain creatures...especially solitary budgies. If there was a mirror in the house, Pretty Boy would find it and spend hours cooing at his own reflection..."Prrrretty BOY...Prreeeettty...oh ...Prrreettty BOY!"...rubbing his chest up against it. My sisters and I thought it would be great fun to teach him a new word...similar to a word he already knew...but which was a lot more fun to watch. Dirty bird. It took my father a bit to figure out what the bird was saying, especially while we were falling all over ourselves in hysterical laughter as the budgie would rub and growl in a rather seductive tone..."Dirrrrty Bird...Dirrrrty...Dirrrrty Bird."
Forget the dishes and gimme a bath!
Wet budgie...not as bad as wet dog
Pretty Boy was smart though. Some things just didn't need to be taught to him and he learned them on his own. Because I played flute and practiced often in my room, Pretty Boy could whistle classical music and often entertained us with his concerts. He did learn one thing though that drove us nuts...
As I've said, we had a dog. We let it out occasionally, as people do with dogs, to do her business in the backyard. When Penny wished to come back inside, she would bark at the back door and one of us would get up and let her in. It was a pretty good arrangement. Until Pretty Boy screwed it up. Being an incredible mimic, the budgie had learned to bark like the dog, in a muffled way, to make us think the dog was outside.
"Bark, bark" One of us got up from the table and went to the back door. No dog. Hmm... So we called the dog..."Penny...Penny!!" The dog would come out of the back room with a sleepy look on her face wondering why we were standing by the back door calling her name. We might not have suspected the budgie...even then...except for the fact that he laughed. I kid you not...the evil little feathered fiend actually KNEW he'd played a great joke and laughed at our gullibility.
Having a free range bird roaming the house was actually a lot of fun. All you had to do was stick your hand in the air, hold out a finger and whistle. Inevitably, Pretty Boy would come flying from his hiding spot and land on it. Of course, there was one other way of getting his attention and guaranteeing that he would come to you. Turn on a faucet. My youngest sister loved bath time. Without fail, whenever a tub was drawn for her, Pretty Boy would come flying out of nowhere and land with a great splash like a pilot on a kamikaze mission. He didn't worry about something silly like drowning. My sister always fished him out of the drink and tended to his bathing needs before her own. This was usually accomplished with a great deal of wing splashing. Not too bad in a bathtub....but an entirely different story when you are trying to do the dishes. I used to try to run the water in the sink as quietly as possible, sticking my hand under it to minimize the bird-luring noise.
It never worked. Within seconds, Pretty Boy would be on my shoulder, inching his way down my arm...closer and closer to what he desired with an almost single-minded lust. I always gave in and cupped my hands into a bowl under the running water so he could splash merrily to his heart's content. When he was done, I'd set him on the countertop beside the sink to preen, while I went to retrieve a towel to dry myself off.
This doesn't look like mashed potatoes to me...
As I've said, the bird had complete freedom of the house...except for two times. Bedtime and dinnertime. We didn't want a bird smacking into the walls at night and the latter became law after the infamous mashed potatoes incident.
We were gathered for dinner as a family, seated in our regular spots, my father at the head of the table. It was a good dinner...meatloaf, mashed potatoes and baby peas. Mmm...mmm. It sure looked good. My father lifted his fork...poised for a millisecond in time as he prepared to dig in. That millisecond of hesitation was all it took. From the living room, a feathery blur made a strafing maneuver worthy of a top gun pilot and dive bombed head first into my father's mashed potatoes. It wasn't a pretty landing. The mashed potatoes erupted and peas scattered like green shrapnel from my father's plate. We sat there in complete stunned silence, not daring to laugh until my father's reaction was taken into account.
To his credit, my father calmly put the fork down and looked down at the budgie, who was happily sitting in the remainder of the warm potatoes, ducking his head down every so often to run his stubby little tongue through them as he sampled my father's dinner. And then my Dad laughed...
My father had infinite patience with birds. With complete tenderness, he held his finger out to Pretty Boy and the bird happily accepted the offer. "Gimme a kiss," my father said holding the bird up to his puckered lips. Pretty Boy obliged by opening his beak, sticking out his blue stump of a tongue and tickling my Dad's lip with it.
But after that...the Pretty Boy the whatever was confined to the cage during dinner.