He spent a lot of time in his cage hanging upside down and babbling. I assumed that he was going to talk but he didn’t early on. He just babbled. As I look back on it now, he was probably behaving the way a baby does who doesn’t speak yet. He was making a noise that sounded like words but didn’t mean anything to us.
I used to take him out of his cage and cuddle and talk to him and he became my buddy. They tell you to exercise your bird so I let him perch on my fingers and then put another finger in front of him encouraging him to step to the next finger. When he did that I moved my other finger back for him to step on. Each time I did this I said step up and that was his first word, or words, “step up.” I was excited the first time he said step up and said so. Shortly thereafter part of our routine after the step up exercise was for me to say give me a kiss and I would put his beak under my lower lip. Herbie really got into that and said “Give me a kiss.” Then, he said his name, “Herbie. We were thrilled that he knew three words, or phrases.
We were adding on to the house at that time and I used an air hammer a lot. While I was renovating the house Herbie was in his cage make renovations of his own. I would press the hammer and put three nails in place. Herbie would make the same sound of the air hammer and put three nails in place.
Sherry’s dad had a very distinctive way of yelling for her when she was upstairs. It was kind of a sheRRY. With the first part a bit softer and lower than the last. It wasn’t long before Herbie was saying that too. He probably got a real kick out of her running past his cage to see what her father wanted when Herbie was the one who had summoned her.
Of course he also said “Hi” when we waked past his cage and then “Ok” after we said “Hi Herbie” to him. Then he began to put few of his words together. He would stand there very calmly in his cage and say “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Our cat would come over to his cage and stand on her hind feet and stick her nose in between the bottom bars of the cage. Herbie would then swiftly bite her nose. As she jumped back, he would laugh at her with a throaty “Ha Ha Ha.”
As I said, this was the time of the great renovation project where I was adding a room in the back for Wally, and also adding an extra seven feet to the second story which was to become additions to the rooms upstairs but will probably forever be the side attic. During this project it was our custom to ask everyone at the front door where they were going in case they could pick up something for the project, which had taken on a life of its own. The front door was also next to Herbies cage and it wasn’t long before he was asking everyone as they left the front door “Where you goin.”
But it was with Sherry that a real routine started. When she went into the front room Herbie would say, “Hi.” And she would say “Hi, Herbie.” He would then say “sheRRY.” She would say “What Herbie.” And he would say “Where you goin.” She would say “I’m going to the store.” He would say “Ok.”
Herbie thought of himself as part of a flock, his flock, and when he was on top of his cage he was nearly at tall at Sherry and me. His flock had two birds that sat in the “tree” higher then Herbie and they were Sherry and myself. He was third in line and the animals were at the bottom of the tree and, since he was third in line, were beneath him. They could and should be pecked. The grand kids were also pretty small at that time and lower in the family tree. Although he thought they deserved a good pecking we didn’t let them handle him much. He was a bird living with his flock in a human house.
Herbie was my second bird. My first bird was a crow. I was about 4 years old and we lived in Arthur, Nebraska. When I went outside to play, I pretty much had the whole outdoors available to me. We lived on the edge of town where it was Arthur one minute and ranches the next. Of course calling Arthur a town was a bit of a stretch. It was a village really of about 200 people in a county of about 700. My mom tells me that you could hear the vroom, vroom, vroom of the diesel engine that powered the town but I don’t remember that. I just remember that it was a great place for a kid to grow up. My Dad used to sit on the porch. When I thought I was walking over the range by myself he had me in his binoculars. I remember one time hearing a hum coming from a telephone pole and thought it was Roy Rogers talking to the other cowboys out on the prairie.
The telephone was a pretty new device in Arthur. It had been around for years, just not in Arthur and so my Dad and the other people in town and out in the country used to prank each other when the phone came. That fun continues to this day but it was a novelty then.
I had a bird back in Arthur, or at least we were friends. I named him Jimmy Crow. When my dad taught classes at the high school across the street made of sand and round stones all of the kids would run to the window and say “Dougies’ playing with Jimmy Crow again.” I never really did like that name but as I got older but at four I didn’t really care. Jimmy would flutter down to my window when I was taking a nap in the afternoon. He’d see me through the window and tap at the window with his beak until I woke up. When I did, I got up and went out to play with Jimmy Crow. I always wore a Santa Hat because he rode around on my head and poked at the spot where my ears would be. One of my favorite places to play with him was the old water pump in the back yard. Our duplex had inside plumbing but there was still a pump in the back yard. I used to pump the water by the handle and Jimmy would bath in the water and take a drink. We must have been friends for a long time but I don’t remember much else except one day I came out to play with Jimmy Crow and forgot my Santa Hat. Jimmy flew to my head and began to pick at my ears which were exposed without the hat. It really hurt, and knowing now how Herbie could get with his beak it probably did. I threw my hands up on my head to protect myself. I must have hit at him too. Anyway, Jimmy promptly dissolved the friendship. My last memory of him was Jimmy flying away from me, high in the air over the little two room school house where the next year I would start kindergarten. I never saw Jimmy Crow again.