Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

Nona’s Stories: Pretty Poll the Parrot

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The Peterson’s, Hanel and Lillie, came by the ranch for us. We left about 2: p.m. and drove all night – this was in the mid 1920’s and we were traveling in a Model “T” Ford – (the thing then!).

Arriving at Laredo, Hanel and Ray checked in at the new Power Plant, and Lillie and I went apartment hunting.

We took apartments at a Mrs. Foster’s. She was a woman in her sixties, blind in one eye, and the widow of a Capt. Foster of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Her house wasn’t far from the railroad round house, and some of the Engineers slept there on their time off between trips.

She had a green short tail Parrot, that had been her husband’s camp mascot. There had been many Mexicans in her husband’s troop, and they had taught the Parrot every “cuss” world in the Mexican language-(in Laredo it’s “Mexican” and not “Spanish”) -and, I suspect, a great many “cuss” words they invented.

“Pretty Poll” even “cussed” with a Mexican accent! She “spoke” English, too, and sounded more like a human voice than any Parrot I’ve ever heard.

She was quite old, as Parrots go, and very set in her ways – and, also, very “cranky.” Her days were a set routine. She was up bright and early. Mrs. Foster, who she called “Mama,” opened the front screen door for her, she made her own way down the wood steps of the front porch, down the concrete walk to the front yard gate. The yard fence and arch over the gate was thickly overgrown with Trumpet vines. She climbed up to the center of the arch over the gate, where she, being green, was well hidden. Then she watched for people passing. She liked girls, and thoroughly disliked men. She could give a perfect “wolf-whistle” when she spotted a girl passing, and call out “Hello, pretty girl, how about a date?” But if it was a man passing, she would wait until he was quite near, then say, in a man’s angry voice- “Get the Hell out of here!” (one of her favorite expressions, another favorite was “What the Hell!”).

If a dog passed down the street she would whistle to him, if he came looking for the “person” who whistled to him, she would say in a loud, scolding voice “Get the hell out of here!” Followed with a string of her favorite “cuss” words.

The reactions of people and dogs – and in Laredo there were many dogs –  were comical to watch. I often wondered if she had a sense of humor.

She wouldn’t come down from her archway perch over the gate until the noon time whistle of the round-house blew, no matter what. In mid-summer in Laredo it’s very, very hot. Not at all unusual to be 120 degrees. The concrete walks are blistering hit. But Pretty Poll insisted on “hot-footing” it up that walk on her own. She fought like a wild cat if anyone tried to pick her up and carry her to the house, and she could really bite with that strong, sharp beak.

Her legs were very short, and she was exceedingly “bow-legged.” It took her some time to walk the distance from the gate to the house, especially since she stopped about every other step to shake a foot and say, vehemently, “What the Hell!!”

I felt sorry for her as I know that hot walk really burned her feet, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She climbed up the porch steps by reaching up and grasping the next step up, with her strong beak, and pulling herself up. By the time she got to the front door she was in a vile mood and “cussing” in “Mexican,” calling for “Mama” to open the “&)^)^)!!!” door. She was put in her cage for a “siesta” until 3:p.m. Her cage was covered with thick black material, with a draw-string at the bottom, and if she could see the tiniest little speck of light she let it be known – loudly.

At 3:p.m. she wake from her nap as if by clock, calling for “Mama”. Then out to the front gate again to tease the passer-bys. At dusk she came back to the front door and called for “Mama” to open the door for her. Usually it was cooler then and she was in a better mood.

If anyone asked “Polly want a cracker?” her answer was “Hell, No!”

She greeted each of the trainmen with “Whatcha know, Joe?” To tease her and because they got a kick out of her “cussing” they would say “Well, if it isn’t old ugly Poll!” That would make her so mad she literally jumped – I should say – hopped- up and down, “cussing” in “Mexican.”

Mrs. Foster didn’t mind – she said it gave Pretty Poll an interest in life and kept her from being bored. Pretty Poll got even by walking sidewise up their chair leg, up their arm to their shoulder – then reaching over and biting their ear. She nearly took a piece out of the ears of the new men that weren’t wise to her trick.

To people she liked she climbed up to their shoulder, reached over and “kissed” them on their cheek.

She was quite a character, and really ruled the roost at the Foster house. When Mrs. Foster had her coffee in the morning, Pretty Poll had coffe too, in her own little bowl.

There was a city plaza within walking distance of where we lived. Every evening from 7:p.m. to 11: Mexican bands and orchestras played there, and it was really good music. The sidewalk around the Plaza was lined with benches and there was always a big crowd. But they were quiet and well behaved. Never once did I see anyone drinking or otherwise causing a disturbance.

The Mexican girls always had a chaperon with them, a relative or friend with whom they sat. The young men would come and introduce themselves and ask permission to walk with the girl. If granted, they strolled on the sidewalk around the Plaza, returning to the chaperon.

Most every evening Ray and I walked to the Plaza and enjoyed the music.


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