Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life as I Knew it - Part 2


Mr. Paul, alias Heinz

When we left Nigeria, we gave Mr. Paul to the Hart Family. Like us, they had a houseful of kids and we knew they would enjoy a talking parrot. They renamed Mr. Paul, giving him the name of Heinz (as in Heinz 57) because he could say such a variety of things.

Before they left Nigeria, the Harts sent Heinz back to states in the care of their grandfather until they could arrive. He took the bird to a local bar on his shoulder where Heinz entertained the patrons by talking and even drinking beer from his mug!

This is one of the stories of Heinz’s life in America written by Russell Hart.

Do parrots really have a personality? Shortly after returning to the States, my Grandmother bought my sister Vicki a miniature silver poodle for her birthday. We called the poodle Pete. Not long after the dog’s arrival in our home, the Parrot / Heinz/ Mr. Mrs. Paul, developed the ability to call the dog. And when I say developed the ability, I mean he could call the dog and sound like anyone of the six of us he chose. We each had a different way of calling Pete. We found it quite amazing that he learned so quickly just by listening as we went about our normal daily activities. This was not something anyone deliberately taught him.

We soon noticed that every time Heinz called the dog, Pete was ALWAYS at the other end of the house, usually in my sister’s room. Heinz/ Mr. Paul’s cage was in the back corner of the dining room, at the other end of the house. What makes this noteworthy is the layout and design of the house. The moment Pete would hear the call he would pop up and run as fast as his miniature legs would allow. Pete had great traction for a quick run through the carpeted bedroom, hallway and living room and the carpet's traction also helped greatly to maintain full speed on Pete's sharp left turn to enter the kitchen. However the kitchen and dining room were tile. The dining room was located immediately to the right of the kitchen requiring a sharp right turn into the dinning room.

Pete, now at full speed, would attempt this turn only to slide across the tile floor for a distance of about 15 feet only to slam into the cabinets. This at least slowed Pete down enough to make the turn into the dining room which he had slid past.

However, no one (not even the person who Pete thinks called him) was ever there. Just the bird in the back corner turning circles in his cage. Sometimes the person who Pete thought called him was my sister who was in the room with Pete when he thought he heard her call from the dining room. (dumb dog )

This went on for years. The dog was fooled each and every time, which was usually several times a day. Until one day when sadly, Pete was run over by a car in front of the house and died. From that day forward Heinz never called Pete ever again. NOT ONCE. (Note: Heinz lived another 20 years after Pete's death )

So I pose this question: Was Heinz just repeating the sound of us calling the dog. (which he likely would have continued if in fact he was just copying us) or.....was he messing with the dog on purpose for his own entertainment?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life as I Knew It

Mr. Paul

Mr. Paul was a talking parrot that hung in a cage on our front porch in Ogbomosho. He was a gift from some other missionaries who were leaving the country. Mr. Paul was loads of fun! He was quite good at talking and had a very large vocabulary. I have so many funny stories from our time with him!

There was the day two Nigerian seminary students came to visit with my dad. Daddy was busy finishing a letter in the breezeway adjacent to the living room. He greeted the men at the front door, invited them in asking them to sit on the couch and wait for a few minutes while he finished typing the letter. My father could see the living room and the two men from his desk in the breezeway through a screened window that served as a partition between the two. But the two men were not aware of my father’s whereabouts as they sat quietly waiting. The room was silent until suddenly Mr. Paul whose cage was just on the other side of the screened living room window, said in a loud, deep voice that sounded like my father, “Let us pray!” The two men stood to attention immediately first bowing their heads and then slowly looking around.

And many, many times, Mr. Paul caused someone to make an unnecessary trip to the front door. He knew how to make the sound of a person’s feet walking, then scuffing on the mat as if they were being wiped, then the sound of someone knocking on the door, finished by the word, “Ago?” This was the Yoruba word for “Is anyone home?”  It was the customary call we made when approaching a door. Back in those days, we did not have doorbells and no one kept their homes locked so we simply yelled our inquiry as we approached the door in order to let someone know they had a visitor. Day after day after day, some member of my family went to our front door to find no one there. Often it was me who made this useless trip.

But the opposite of this happened when Mr. Paul called our gardener in what sounded like my mother’s voice. Many times, “Baba” stopped his work to come ask my mother what she needed. For a while my mother was very confused by this development but then finally, it dawned on her; Baba was not going crazy and neither was she – it was the parrot.

One of the phrases we taught Mr. Paul was, “Read your Bible, Mr. Paul” along with the usual, “Hello” “How are you?”, “I’m fine, thank you”, and others. My dad tried to teach Mr. Paul to say “Super cala fragi listic expe alla docious” But all he managed to learn was “Superca” - which he said often.

“Superca! Read your Bible Mr. Paul, superca!”

Our windows were usually open with only a screen between him & us. We could hear his constant talk all over the house… If I close my eyes, I can still hear him talking!

When we came back to the states we left Mr. Paul safely in the hands of another missionary family who kept him for many years. A few years ago I saw one of the members of that family and he told me that they had brought Mr. Paul back to the states with them when they returned. Mr. Paul lived for about 30 more years with this family. But he also told me a little secret about Mr. Paul. At one point in his life…he laid an egg.  So I guess he was not MR Paul after all!  I suppose MS Paul would have been more appropriate.

 “And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind…and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

Friday, May 4, 2012

Through My Kitchen Window

I’m a Perfect Mother

            I’m a perfect mother! Well…not really. In fact, there are times I feel like a terrible mom. But every now and then, once in a while - like a streak of warm sunshine streaming down on me, it feels like I did something right. My grandmother, who was also my namesake, recorded such a moment in her journal many years ago.

            “Maa” kept a small hand written collection of original poems in a journal she titled “Gathered Fragments”. The name was derived from a Bible verse. The sixth chapter of the gospel of John tells of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes.  After the people had eaten, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”  (John 6:12, NAS)

            There are many beautiful original poems in “Gathered Fragments”. I am especially fond of one particular poem that “Maa” wrote. It is a very short poem. She was inspired to write this little jingle by a comment my father made when he was nine years old. In her handwritten entry, my grandmother wrote:

            “Keith, my biddy #3 came to me today explaining his views on women. Gesturing as he spoke, he said, ‘Maa, I don’t like women who are short and fat…and I don’t like them t-a-l-l and thin either!  I like them just like you!!’  This was flattering to say the least as I am a bit on the short, fat side.”

            My grandmother was only four feet and eleven inches tall.  She was in fact, a bit rounded in her figure.  Her child’s unabashed adoration prompted her to write this poem:

                                       I posses a perfect figure
                                                And I never do grow old.
                                      Ah! My face is quite the fairest
                                               And I’m worth my weight in gold.

                                      Queens may sit in royal splendor
                                                With their nations at their feet.
                                        Movie stars may have their glamour
                                                And their conquest be complete.

                                        But adoring eyes behold me
                                                Brightly gazing into mine,
                                         I’m appraised and judged quite perfect
                                                By my little boy of nine.

                                     Written by: Harriet K. Edwards in 1937