When I was growing up on my parent’s farm, shortly after I turned twelve, my father announced that I was to take care of the chickens. I always felt our relationship was not the greatest, but on this day, I felt he had it in for me. I hated chickens because of their two little mean eyes centered with a nasty, pointed, dangerous, intimidating beak! I thought how cruel he was to make me encounter a hundred beaks a day, particularly when he knew I felt so uncomfortable around them! That night, I did not sleep much; visions of pecking beaks dominated my mind. God, I hated those chickens and try as I might to delay the inevitable, my father’s bark encouraged me to quickly undertake my new chore. Within a few days, my worst fear became reality because every time I neared a chicken setting on eggs, I got a hurtful, memorable peck! Thankfully, when she could, my mother gathered the eggs while I fed the chickens.
Regardless, as I grew older, the chicken beak became any beak and often, while shopping at a pet store, I began skirting the parrot cage, cringing if I had to walk near the open perch. I remember a time at the San Diego Zoo after I sauntered into the Bird Aviary I realized where I was and panicked as I looked for the exit. The guards stopped me, as I noisily scurried from the enclosure, to tell me I was disturbing the tranquility of the birds.
One sunny day, while I was near our Ramada, I heard a funny little noise. Curiously, I followed the row of Oleanders to the base of the Ramada, where I found a little bird and attached to the bird was a little beak.It looked so helpless and I realized it must have fallen from the palm tree next to the Ramada. I whispered aloud, “Okay, calm yourself, its just a little thing, it’s more frightened of you than you are of him”, yet down deep, I knew the tiny little bird was a big bad wolf.
An hour and a half passed before I had enough nerve to pick the little thing up with heavy work gloves. I wore them to protect myself if the tiny, newborn beak transformed into a nasty, old chicken beak. With shaking hands, a lump in my throat and my heart beating irregularly I hesitantly placed the little bird into a box I had prepared. As I walked to the kitchen with the box, I took a moment to sigh, and questioned what to do next. As I arrived at the kitchen door, I thought that this tiny little guy needed nourishment if I wanted him to live.
Without much, more thought I looked up government and private agencies for the care of wild birds to ask if they could give me any information on how to care for the bird. The answers from all the agencies were similar suggesting I leave the baby bird on the ground where I found it and leave it to die! Although, I was stunned by their answers, I returned to the box to tell the bird it was time for me to think up how ad what to feed me. Soon, I remembered M’s collection of syringes in storage and decided to see if a syringe of warm, Cream of Rice might interest him. The cooked cereal was his first gourmet meal and my first lesson in how to feed a baby pigeon—At the end of the feeding, I wore more of the cereal on my shirt and pants than I got down his little throat. The following day I bought strained, baby cereal and oatmeal with peaches and maple syrup became his favorite.
The first evening was trying for both the bird and me. I continually imagined this little, tiny creature could do something damaging to the house or me. Now, I find I was foolish to keep the box and the tiny bird, which could not move, in the garage the first night. Continually I got up to check on him, and each time I heard little cries coming from the box. Fortunately, for both of us, I started keeping him in the kitchen.The box and his blanket were his safe haven.
to his new caretaker and home. Many times, I thought I was doing everything wrong and feared he would not make it. As the days passed, he became stronger and quickly began to recognize me as I came up to his home. When his strength increased, he was lively, yet trusting and waiting to copy what I wanted him to do. When I realized this, I thought I might have made a mistake keeping him. I feared he might not develop correctly if he only looks to me for guidance.
The fear lasted only a week and during those days and I began to trust that he would develop if I thought of him first in every thing he and I did together. He grew very quickly and as with babies I continually I needed to prepare or think of different foods. Besides the staples, I decided he needed new accommodations. The first time I tried to change boxes was a disaster. He did not want to leave his first home. In the old, home all he needed was a little blanket. I furnished his second home with a new blanket, food area and container for water. I soon realized he needed his old blanket to feel safe and at home.
He also needed a name and became Skeeter. I realized that even if he had bonded to me for his mother that I also, had quickly bonded to him. As he grew, he developed a rich, glistening black coat of feathers.Not only was he handsome, he became a little showoff and enjoyed a scampering around the desk or floor wherever I was sitting. He enjoyed following me around the yard, which was truly a sight to see a small, iridescent black pigeon walking behind me, or enjoyed sitting on my shoulder as I worked in the garden.
Then, one day I realized Skeeter needed flying lessons, and I was to be his instructor. Alternatively, maybe I needed to be his mother and guide him as he tried. The first session went better than I thought it would.Skeet loved to play on top of the flat, bamboo basket, but was less than happy as I tossed him in the air.We did this exercise a few times, when suddenly from high above another pigeon came close to the basket and shrieked at Skeeter. It was his real mother telling him what to do. Skeeter did much better with her suggestions!
As Skeeter reached adulthood the little courtyard off the master bedroom became his home. He spends a lot of time visiting his mother, father, and baby brothers and sisters high in the palm tree, but like clock work he is always backing in the courtyard at 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. He returns for breakfast or dinner, a super meal of gourmet seeds. Each time he eats the high house walls around the perimeter of the courtyard hold a line of birds, particularly, Morning Doves waiting to surge down on the leftovers. When he is finished eating, Skeeter jumps up on my shoulder where he delights in pecking my neck, ears, and head as he hears me giggle. He has changed how I think of birds and I know that not all birds have the awful beaks that the bad chicken god makes. Skeeter’s beak is soft, warm, and friendly!
He became an integral part of the family and even though we had a cat, they seemed to get along. When I was in the office, which also opened on the courtyard, Skeeter always wanted in to set on my shoulder as I typed as the cat lounged on top of the screen. He also had a very stylish home built on the top of courtyard wall. I started to notice he had a visitor. A smaller, duller pigeon, which I finally realized, was a girlfriend. They began dating and in a very short time, when I was setting out in the courtyard, I noticed they were bickering. Skeeter tried to entice the girlfriend into his home, but she would not budge. He also would fly between her and I, and then landed on my lap. I cannot imagine that he understood that I knew what the problem was, but as I petted him, I told him to go and have fun and not to feel bad that they were going to be a couple. Eventually he flew back to her and they flew away. The courtyard seemed so quiet and I felt sad, yet happy that I had been able to raise Skeeter and now he was proving that human, trained birds could return to their rightful place in the open sky.
A week later Skeeter and his mate returned for a visit. He soared down to sit one my shoulder to nibble and chatter in my ear. Then, he jumped onto my lap, hopped up on my tummy, and crawled up my chest to give me a peck on the lips. It was his final good bye. In a moment, Skeeter flew off to his mate. They surrounded the house a few times and then flew off to make a life for themselves!