What I Know About Parrots

You never know where a story will come from. This one came from driving by an animal park near Valdosta, Georgia. There was a billboard advertising the place with a giant painted parrot on it. Can’t explain why but I ask myself, “What all do I know about parrots?” Well, here’s what I know.

First, they come in all sizes and colors but when I see the word parrot the only one that comes to mind is the really big one that has red and yellow and green and other colored feathers. Years ago there was one of these in a nearby country store and the farmers who hung out there had taught it to cuss. That parrot knew more filthy words than I did after four years in the Navy.

Secondly, because they can be taught to mimic words and phases, I know that they like crackers. Have you ever been near parrot and not ask it, “Polly want a cracker?” Like all behaviors, this must be based in the certain truth that parrots like crackers.

From my childhood I know that Parrots are somehow associated with shoes. Back in the 40s and early 50s little kids wore Poll Parrot shoes. Poll Parrot sponsored Captain Video and his Video Rangers in the early days of TV. I think the sole of a Poll Parrot shoe had the emblem of a parrot embossed on it. When I was in Radioman’s school in the Navy one of my classmates came back to base after a night in Baltimore. He had gotten into a fight in some bar and as he examined the abrasion on his forehead in a mirror he said, “Damn, don’t know who kicked me in the head last night but he was wearing Poll Parrot shoes!” In fact, his wound did have the appearance of a parrot.

While in high school I worked for a local veterinarian. Reporting for work one day I was told to dig out some very heavy gloves and a thick winter coat, we were going to euthanize a parrot. An elderly woman had passed and left a very big parrot. My boss said the bird was probably 80 years old and very mean. My job was to reach into the cage wearing the protective gloves, grab the parrot, drag it out of its home, not get any part of me crushed by the bird’s beak, and hold it firmly while the vet did the rest. From that I learned that parrots are tough old birds and will rip your flesh if given the slightest opening.

Finally, I know from watching all those old pirate movies starring Wallace Beery as Long John Silver, any respectable swashbuckling pirate had a parrot sitting on his shoulder. I’m assuming that pirates befriended parrots as a way of communicating to all who observed them that they were persons of the world. They had been to the far off corners and experienced things few others would ever witnessed. The thing I don’t know about pirates and parrots, however, is how bad a pirate would smell with all the parrot droppings on his puffy sleeved blouse!

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