Sweetie Croaked

1981 to 2024

April 25, 2024

     Yup Sweetie croaked..... after 39 years of hanging out together. Needless to say we were best friends..... To be honest it was a miracle she made it this far. Man we did some crazy stuff over those years... not to mention a lot of starving and struggling. 

     Originally she thought I was a con artist so thought I would probably get into politics and she would live the life of Riley for the next hundred years.... That was her first mistake. 

     In the end she made it to 41.... Again 39 of those years she hung out with me.  

     She was three when a girlfriend and I got forced into rescuing her. Little tip here.... Macaws are very powerful and create their own destiny down here. What ever you do don't get too close to them and look in their eyes.... especially if you don't want to be their servant for the next 100 years!!!

     They had her in the store but were having a bit of trouble selling her. She was one of the last wild caught Macaws. I guess they would fish them out of the nests before they could fly and ship them up to North America. Well she never liked the pet store concept or the cage she was in so was a little testy so to speak. I am pretty sure they kept a box of bandages by the cage to help the braver ones willing to try and pet her from getting blood all over the floor.

     Anyway the hypnotic suggestion she gave us kicked in a few days later when we were back in the mountains. It was winter. I called Specks Pet Shop and told them I wanted that bird and could make payments until we could afford to get down there to haller home. They agreed and deal was made. In fact when I stressed to the sales lady that I wanted to make sure I got that exact bird she burst out in hilarious laughter. She said we can't give that mean monster away!!! So don't you worry!!! That was my first warning!!!!....  : )

     Here is the her clearance papers they gave us after we rolled up to their store in our ole Mazda wagon.... back in 1985. We started making the payments in March of that year.

    Now the logical reason for getting the bird was that my girlfriend wanted to have kids!!!! I was like dam!!! To have kids you have to be intelligent, kind, considerate, selfless, motivated, self sacrificing, hard working, and patient!!! That was not me!!! So since I had read that having a macaw was like having a three year old kid... and I always wanted to get a parrot when I was younger... so I said lets get a bird and if that goes well we will have kids.... I figured if nothing else it would buy me some time!!!  Well turns out a few months later the girlfriend left me... Thus I managed to dodge having kids. The trouble is like I said having a macaw is like having a three year old... so I ended up having a three year old for 39 years... which takes me back to not be intelligent!!!

     If I would have had kids at worse I would have had to deal with them until they were 18 and in jail. Then I could have walked away to get on with my life. but on noooo... that would have been smart!!!!

Back at the Farm

     After getting back from Victoria with the bird still in her leaned over cage in the back of my old Rotary Mazda Wagon we moved her into our homely. it was a old 63 Ford school bus that I had modified into a hippy home on wheels. We lived in that bus up until November when we moved into the old farm cabin. We were miles out of town on some old gravel road. We did have power though. The cabin was huge compared to the bus. I think it was about ten my twelve feet but had a bit of a loft so to speak.. The day we moved out of the bus it was 17 below zero Fahrenheit!!! The bus was pretty toasty with the custom built wood heater I had made for it. But still it had some challenges.

     In fact the day before we had gone to Cranbrook to buy a top of the line Fisher stove for the cabin. It had thermostat control and everything. When we got back the bus was about to get very cold and the fire had ran out of wood. If we would have had a flat tire Sweetie would have been an ice cube by the time we got back...... bit of a close shave there!!!

     Course once we got moved over to the cabin with that new heater we could have went for twenty hours without worrying.

California Here We Come!!!

     So back to the intelligence issue I had.... Back when summer was about dried up we got the idea to buy an old van and head to California for a "road trip". Just the three of us!!! Our original plan was to buy a cheap eight hundred dollar van and scrape up about 3k for food and gas. Grab the bird and go.... Well as it turned out I found the deal of a lifetime on a raised roof, camperized Ford Econoline Van. The motor was apparently shot and the guy had to move it right away. So $800 bucks and I drugger home. He wanted 3500 the week before the motor packeder in. Well after a bit of investigation turns out it only needed a $59 timing chain!!!! She purred like a kitten after that.. 

     So since it was in such nice shape I decided to repaint it. That was back in the days when I was doing custom painting with my back yard body shop... Heart Custom Paint. Painted it a bright frost white. Then put a rainbow racing stripe across the hood and down the side of it. This of course was before the gay community stole the rainbow. Back then the hippies used it a lot but never really claimed it. This van was luxury since it had a fridge and stove plus a small propane heater! The perch we made for the bird took up most of the floor space. So it was a little tight.

     Well just before Christmas off we went. $800 bucks in cash, boxes of antiques I had, bird on my shoulder and some food in the fridge!!! The goal was to last as long as we could with the cash and hopefully miss as much of the winter as we could. 

     At that point we had only had the bird for about five or six months.. So she was still in her "dangerous" mode. I have to say she did well once she figured out her spot was my left shoulder. Turns out she rode there all the way to San Diego and back. Luckily she would get antzy when she had to take a dump. So I would put her back on the perch, she would go and then climb right back on my shoulder. All while we drove down the windy dangerous Oregon coast.

     So a few days after my girlfriend left I was sitting on the couch assessing my good fortune... OK.....she was a cool woman but we were just not compatible by any means... she never missed the "grow up" memo that I did. As you know life can be harsh that way.

     Anyway as I sat there on the couch reflecting on my poor decisions I looked over to the bird and eventually said... "look bird..... I have two options. The first one is I can sell you. This will mean you end up in some rednecks living room for the next five years hearing arguments about chevy vs ford.... until their new teflon frying pan kills you" The bird just sat there blank staring at me not moving an inch. I then said "or...... the other option is you stay with me and live a crazy life with a wing nut, lazy assed artist" 

     Well I kid you not she immediately started bobbing her head up and down frantically!!!!!!!!  So I told her "OK!!! it's a deal..... but just so you know... I will likely eventually kill you... not on purpose of course but because of some dumb thing. And that if and when I do I won't be beating myself up.. She just kept bobbing!!! In case you did not know when macaws bob their heads they are very happy.

     So once the deal was made I only had to figure out how the hell am I going to keep her alive for one..... and two...... how the hell was she going to pay her way....... You know, no one rides for free down here!!!

     Well that took awhile. First off I figured I would take her to the second hand store I had just bought every day to draw in customers. That turned out to be very effective in the small town of Invermere. Mostly because most people there were smarter and thus had kids instead of parrots so never got to see them often!!! Thus I got her working which I figured was a fair trade for her food and board.

    Now even though she had calmed down a ton she was still dangerous. If I moved to quickly around her I would end up bleeding. For the first two years I could usually count five to ten hand gouges at any one time. Eventually it finally hit me if I ever had to grab her off the floor in a hurry because of a dog or something dangerous and grabbed her quickly I could lose a finger.... 

     In case you did not know it Macaws can shear a finger clean off with not much effort at all. So I figured I had to get her used to being grabbed by me very quickly without biting.... long story but using some two by fours, couple boxes of bandaides and a towel the pecking order was established and she learned to trust me after that. 

     Since that time she would often groom my eye lashes or give me ear lob massages that were great!!! It was strange getting one's eyelash groomed by something that could tear half my face off in a couple bites!!! She loved to do my eyelashes while driving down the road!!! I would be driving one eyed with my head cocked at a weird angle... which goes back to my comments about intelligence above....

One of Sweetie's jobs at the store was "Hat Check"

Here she is doing some feather dusting inside one of the showcases....

Garage Sailing in Cowgary

     Now one thing Sweetie absolutely loved doing is coming with me to Cowgary to garage sale on summer Saturdays. let me tell you she really earned her pay then. You see we had a cool gig we would do.....

     Back then it was before trackers (cell phones) had come out. Everything was analogue. So Friday after work I would get the Cowgary paper that had all the garage sales. Then using a road map would mark all the sales on a map... .some weekends over a hundred sales. This was a big job. Once they were all marked I would hit the sack and then get up at three am to be out the door at 4am bird in hand. After the three hour drive to Cowgary I would stop and grab a coffee and breakfast at McD's. Once 7:30 hit I was off going frantically from sale to sale. It was a bit crazy to say the least. I took my uncle who had an antique store once. He screamed most of the day and later told my mother he would never ever do that again. It was fast and furious to say the least!!! The bird of course loved it.

     So here was the gig. I would come driving up to a garage sale a little too fast and then at the last minute stab the brakes skidding a little. just as I stopped. I would also lean forward which was the birds que to jump on the steering wheel. All the people at the garage sale would hear the skidding and look over to see the parrot. Someone would yell "look he's got a parrot" and they would all run over to look. As they were doing that I would jump out of the van locking the door and head over to the sale as they were all googling the bird. At a good garage sales seconds can make the difference between getting the deal or missing the deal!!! This worked so well it was incredible.

     One sale I came up to everyone ran over except one guy. We were side by side looking through boxes and without looking up or over in a quiet tone he said... "wow what a gig you got going there..." I quickly realized he was a picker like myself. I said "thanks". "hows it working?" he said again without looking up and under his breath. I replied "it's been incredible". "I can see that" he said.

     I am pretty sure he hit a pet store on the way home!!!! I thought I had recognized him from somewhere. Turns out he often came to my store and next time he was in he told me what a genius idea that was. We shared some picker stories which is always fun.

     There were days I couldn't take the bird "sailing" which was a heart breaker. I had to drive right by the window where her perch was and she was jumping around as if to say "Wait!!! Where are you going? You forgot me!!!" I eventually had to force myself not to look at her as I drove by.

Mountain Climbing Macaw....

     Here is a shot of Sweetie mountain climbing. We were coming back from a long day of garage sailing and winding down on the three hour drive back to the valley. I needed some fresh air and to get out of the van so in the mountains pulled over at this one spot. She got higher up the cliff than I did and was having a riot!!! Macaws are real climbers though usually in trees. Normally when I call her she would come right back down but this time she was having too much fun!! So I opted to kick back for a bit and let her have fun. She was really proud of how well she did!

Harley Riding Parrot

     Here is the only shot of Sweetie and I on the Harley. No digital back then. I tell you she was bonkers about going on the Harley. If I had her on my shoulder and walked outside by the bike but didn't get on it she would nip me and then try to jump towards the bike!!! If I was busy a big argument would break out. I would bark out "we are not going on the dam bike.... course she would persist and usually win. So off we would go down the road or across the field. Because it had a foot clutch that hand would be free to hold her feet. Once we were going about 20mph or so I would hold her up in the air and she would flap her wings as we barreled down the road. When we got back she would be bobbing her head and dialilating her eyes.

     When I took her out on the highway I would get her to crawl under my sweat shirt and poke her head out the neck hole. She would be hanging onto my t-shirt underneath with her feet. I would hold my hand up in front of her to break some of the wind. When I got to where I was going I would stretch my shirts neck out and she would crawl out and onto my shoulder.

     Since the interior is much like the Arctic I had to store my bike in the shed for six months. Every spring I would casually go out bring out the bike and sparker up and leave it running. I would then walk in the house as casual as I normally was. Sure as hell Sweetie would be jumping around excited as hell trying to get me to pick her up so she could "steer" me out side for a ride!!! It was actually kind of strange now that I think about it.

     The other weird thing is I would be watching her half sleeping on her perch and someone would ride up with another bike but not a Harley. She would not even flinch???

This is under construction so stay tuned
The Bird Cage Story