Whoa! There he was … good old Nickie the parakeet staring right back at me from the upper right corner of page 3 in the magazine I was reading. Had Nickie emerged from the grave after sixty some years of peaceful interment?
Turns out the Nickie look-alike was only part of an advertisement … what a relief. Actually, for the low price of just $14.99 I could have a battery powered Nickie for my very own. I am not ready for another Nickie, real or battery powered. One Nickie a lifetime is all I can handle.
Nickie was my first feathered companion. He entered my life thanks, at least in part, to my Grandmother Rood. The interior of her house reminded one of a greenhouse. Everywhere one looked there was a plant or two … hanging from the ceilings, lined up tight on every window sill, covering all available tables and occupying every corner. It must have taken her half the day just to water them.
In amongst the vast assortment of plants hung an occasional bird cage. Some were occupied, some were not. Grandmother’s bird of choice was a canary. She had several and they all had one thing in common: they liked to sing. Grandfather called it chirping. (Truthfully, that was the one repeatable description he used. After several hours of "songs" he would slam his office door shut and mutter other descriptions.)
I often visited my grandparents but tried to avoid the daily discussions on the merits of canary vocalization. It was a no-win situation that was best left untouched.
One day Grandmother gave me one of her old bird cages. Seems her eldest canary had joined the heavenly chorus and Grandfather had convinced her that their canary population didn’t need any new blood.
My father agreed to my accepting the cage on one condition – no canaries. Mom said that was fine and the next day we drove down to Katz Drug in Des Moines and bought a parakeet. I was elated … a parakeet of my very own! The clerk placed the bird in a little white cardboard box and we rushed it home.
Evidently, the bird’s personality changed on the way to our house. The quiet little thing turned into a feathered monster when I stuck my hand into the box to put him in the cage. He latched onto my finger with his beak and drew blood. I managed to get him in the cage and that ended our first entanglement.
Over the next few weeks I tried to make friends with Nickie. It was a waste of time. Every time I stuck my hand in the cage he would take a nip at me. Worst yet, he had an uncanny ability to fly out of the cage as soon as the little door was opened. That meant getting a leather glove and grabbing him (if possible).
You see, once he got out of his cage he zeroed in on mass destruction. He would knock off Mom’s plates that lined the wooden ledge in the dining room or start chewing on Dad’s favorite magazines. He had an unbelievable ability to cause chaos in a remarkably short amount of time.
He was so mean that instead of chasing it our cat would head the opposite direction and hide under the sofa.
For some odd reason I liked Nickie. Sure, he was not a lovable creature, but he looked impressive. I hoped that someday he would settle down and start riding around on my shoulder like parrots do on pirates’ shoulders.
Unfortunately, that day never came. One day when Dad came home from work Nickie was on one of his regular out-of-cage excursions. Dad opened the door and Nickie about knocked his hat off as he flew out into the great unknown. It was the last we ever saw of him.
Mom said he was never meant to be in a cage and would probably fly south to more hospitable temperatures.
We did have a death in absentia funeral for Nickie. I made a nice coffin out of a wooden match box, lined it with cotton and stuck some pieces of Mom’s broken china in it.
The broken china pieces was Dad’s idea.
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)