Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crock, crock... tales from the Yucatan from Molly Touger


And the winner is LORI! An ARC of MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE!will be on its way to you. Lori, contact Susan's assistant: MacNealAssistant "at" gmail dot com.


HALLIE EPHRON: For your daily amusement...


As many of you know, my daughter Molly is a Brooklyn girl living for a year in the Yucatan and blogging about her adventures on Muchas Donas.... which means many donuts, not many ladies because the n has no squiggly dash over it. When we were visiting her, we did indeed have great donuts. And amazing paletas (ice pops, minre was made from fresh passion fruit seasoned with chiles.) And tacos to die for.

Close encounters with wildlife are part of life  in Felipe Carrillo Puerto because it's in the middle of the jungle and half of Molly's apartment is an open balcony which she shares with a vigorous passion fruit vine, a squadron of geckos, and recently... well, I'll let her tell you.

MOLLY TOUGER: I’m making coffee in my outdoor kitchen when I see the green. I turn and he’s sitting on the patio rail. I freeze. I’ve seen flycatchers, doves, cuckoos. But not parrots. Parrots belong in the jungle.

I stare at him and wonder if I have time to get my camera. He’s beautiful, red and yellow around the eyes, a yellow beak. He stares back. Then he jumps to the floor. “Crock, crock.” I take a step forward. He flys at my face.

I run to the other side of the kitchen. He lands, and waddles toward me marching with intent. He is five inches tall at most. “Crock crock.” He goes airborne again and chases me into my apartment.


Now we are both inside, the parrot waddling furiously, me trying to find my phone to take a video while simultaneously deciding whether the bird is rabid. I find the phone and press record. He chases me back out of the apartment.


He squats on the kitchen floor looking perturbed. I turn off the recorder and we stare at each other. He could be a pet. I put on an oven mitt and place my protected hand on the floor. He waddles over and steps on. “Crock crock.” I lift him and he begins to climb.


I lose my nerve, slide the mitt and attached bird on to the kitchen table, and run down to the yard to find my landlord, Armando, who has been both a cattle rancher and a free-diving lobster fisherman. He can answer nature-related questions: how to assess a green mango for ripeness, revive a stunned woodpecker, dispose of a dead bat.


Thumb riding
I use my Spanish. “A parrot arrive in my kitchen. I believe it is pet. What to do? No is dangerous, no?”

Armando laughs. Armando always laughs: shirtless, curled silver moustache, mischievous eyes. The mango will be ready in two days. The woodpecker should be put in a basket until it comes to so the cats won’t get it. The bat can be buried in the garden if I insist on being overly sentimental. I follow Armando back up the stairs to my kitchen.


The parrot is still sitting on the table. “Crock crock.” Armando gently grabs the birds around the wings and places him on his finger. “Crock crock crock crock crock,” says the bird. “Tiene hambre,” says Armando. He’s hungry. Armando asks if I have any fresh masa.


I look in my refrigerator. I have mangos and stale tortillas. Armando says the tortillas are too sharp. I can try the mango but he will find some better food.


Don Stabby rejects mango

I try to pet the bird’s back, like I would a cat. He flaps irritably. Lesson 1: the parrot is not a cat. I walk to the counter and one-handed, cut a slice of mango. I hold it near the parrot’s beak. “Crock crock.”

Lesson 2: the parrot does not want mango.


Armando returns with his wife Sonja and a bowl of mixed flour and water. Sonja had seen the bird that morning—she thinks it came from the house behind ours. Definitely a pet.

Armando hands me a spoonful of white goo and the parrot begins to eat, jabbing at the spoon, sticking out his little bean tongue to lap up the sludge.

Lesson 3: The parrot likes flour and water. But Sonja suggests we should still get some fresh masa since the current mixture is basically glue. We enlist my neighbor to run the errand.


Sonja and Armando leave and we are alone. The parrot pecks at the spoon and digs his talons into my skin, gripping so he doesn’t fall. It is sweet and vulnerable but also painful. I decide: I will call you Stabby. I realize I don’t know if he is a boy or a girl. Since he seems like a “he,” I go with it.


My neighbor drops off the masa and a cup of green smoothie and I try feeding these to Stabby, now using just my fingers. He licks eagerly, calming down, emitting quieter noises between each bite. In this moment of sweetness I realize holy crap, this is incredible. I take a selfie and post it to Facebook.


Sharing a secret

When Don Stabby seems to be done eating, I start calling friends through FaceTime. I reach Joanna. Instead of saying hi I simply waggle my eyebrows and lift Stabby into the frame of view. Joanna is delighted. I lift Don Stabby up and down at diagonals so he looks like he’s riding an escalator across the FaceTime screen.


It’s Joanna who suggests I add “Don” in front of “Stabby,” which in Mexico is a respectful title approximately meaning “Mister.” With that, Stabby becomes Don Stabby, and then moments later, Don Stabuloso.


After I hang up, I try out Don Stabuloso in various locations in the apartment. I place him on the dining room table where he waddles uncomfortably. “Crock crock.” I move him onto the backrest of a wooden folding chair that he can grip with his feet. He looks much happier and expresses his appreciation by pooping. I decide he should not sit on anything upholstered.


I realize I need a shower. And coffee. And food. All of which I’ve forgotten since Don Stabuloso arrived. I place him on the tile floor which seems safe, and take a shower. When I get out I find him at the bottom of the folding chair, his feet curled around the rung that connects the chair’s legs. He has pooped again.


I get dressed, place Don Stabuloso on my thumb and return to the kitchen, where I find that the administrator for our compound, Cauich, has arrived with a small red wire bird wage and a pile of newspaper. Cauich says that if I don’t want the bird, he will take him. He has many animals, including two birds and two dogs. I say I think we should try to find the parrot’s owner. As soon as I say it I feel incredibly sad.


I also feel sad about the cage. But I understand that if I keep Don Stabby he will continue to need a place to poop that is not my floor. I put Don Stabby in the cage but leave the door open. He sits where I’ve placed him, his tail feathers hanging out.

Cauich says he thinks the bird belongs not to the backyard neighbors but to the people across the street. We decide that if we can’t find the owner, Don Stabby will stay with me until I leave Mexico and then Cauich will take him.

We have a plan. In the cage, Don Stabby sits in silence. He looks very small.


On Facebook there are many comments, expressing love for Don Stabby and encouraging me to keep him. There is one that disturbs me: “Parrots form an incredible attachment to humans and if that’s you, he will be devastated when you leave.”


I go on the Internet and learn more about parrots. They mate for life. In captivity they often transfer their mate love to their keepers. Don Stabby is most likely a Yucatan Parrot. Yucatan Parrots are supposed to be wild birds and as such cannot be brought to the United States according to Mexican law and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. I realize it is legally impossible for my relationship with Don Stabby to be anything but temporary.


I try to take Don Stabby out of his cage but he flaps irritably so I let him be. I refresh his water bowl and put a wooden spoon through the bars so he’ll have a comfortable place to perch. I watch him fluff and settle, showing off the blue tips of his wings. I notice that under the wings he is sort of scrappy, downy white fluff on pink skin. I wonder if this is normal, or if he’s been neglected or is sick.


I realize I need to go grocery shopping. I feel guilty about leaving him alone. But I realize if Don Stabby is going to stay here, there will be other times I need to go grocery shopping. And go to work. And go to sleep.


I decide he should stay inside the apartment. I place the cage on the dining room table, near the window. The midday sun is burning through the glass. Don Stabby stares into it, seeing but not seeing. I move the cage so he can have a bit of shade if he wants. I leave the cage door open so he can go exploring.


When I come back Don Stabby is still in the cage, perched on the handle of the wooden spoon. He doesn’t acknowledge me. Perhaps he has been lonely. I take the cage outside to the kitchen table so we can be together while I cook. While I chop onions and garlic, he is quiet. It feels too quiet. I stick in my hand, remove him from the cage and place him on my shoulder. “Crock,” says Don Stabby into my ear. I decide this is an improvement.


Shoulder-riding takes some adjustment on both of our parts. When I bend over, Don Stabby climbs onto my back which complicates straightening up. I have to rest my head on the kitchen table so he can climb off and we start again. I drape my shoulders with a towel to give him something better to grip, and soon Don Stabby moves naturally with my body, climbing to my shoulder blades when I bend, climbing back to rest by my ear when I straighten.


Snuggle

While I wait for the food to cook, I sit at the kitchen table, drink a beer and we talk. “Crock,” he says. “Crock,” I say. “Crock,” he says. “Crock,” I say. I decide he may be hungry again. I take the masa out of the refrigerator and let him nibble it off my fingers. “Crock.” His throaty noises sound happy, almost like coos.


I pick up my phone and take more selfies. Don Stabby looking at the camera. Don Stabby talking in my ear. Don Stabuloso chewing on my hair. The pictures are adorable. I open WhatsApp to send one to a friend.


And then in a flash of green, he has disappeared over the patio rail, heading for the street.


I race to find my keys then run down the kitchen steps and through the compound garden. I unlock the door to the gate and step out on the street. The sun is starting to set. Grackles scream in the trees and flycatchers twitter on the power lines. But Don Stabby is gone.



HALLIE: I was crying and laughing at the same time when I got to the end of this. Love story with parrot.

I now believe what bird owners have been telling me: birds make wonderful companions. Anyone out there who's had a close encounter with wildlife to share? 

28 comments:

Joan Emerson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Emerson said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely story . . . here's hoping Don Stabby found his way home. The pictures are precious.

Our closest encounter with the local wildlife consists of visits with the deer who regularly wander by. Sometimes they come to drink water out of the grandbabies' wading pool, sometimes to look yearningly at the fenced-in vegetable garden. [Do you think they remember that in the fall we'll leave the gate open for them?] They've learned that the roses are of the deer resistant kind [whatever it is that makes them deer resistant] but they'll nip the blossoms anyway if they are hungry enough.
Then there was the time the deer decided to make friends with the dogs . . . . .

Hallie Ephron said...

And and and?? I'm assuming the deer ended up on the losing end of that one.

My neighborhood is just urban enough that we don't have deer wandering by. We do, however, have wild turkeys, and you do NOT want to make friends with one of them. Nasty and dangerous. And too big for the red tails to dispatch.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Don Stabby is GONE??? oh, I can;t decide how I feel about that--which makes this SUCH a good story. (Can you go on this AMerican (ish) Life?)

Well,y ou know about us and the raccoons. And the squirrel that got inside. ANd the ducks, of course. This summer we have a bunny. "He'll eat the flowers!" Jonathan says. "WHo cares,I say, he's adorable. And we don't have vegetables, anyway, and he bunny is not eating the flowers.

We did when I was growing up, have a bird, Briefly. it was HORRIBLE. WORST pet ever. It was a mynah bird, named YURZA. (!) He learned to imitate the phone ringing. Perfectly. Ahhh.

ANOTHER WiNNER OF ARC of WHAT YOU SEE ! Still trying to reach SUsan who chose High Society as her favorite wedding . Third notice nodal, so ick tock, if you don't reply today, I will pick another winner! Susan, where are you??

Hallie Ephron said...

Yes, perfect for This American Life. Or The Moth.

You're reminding me, Hank, or friends who had a mynah bird who'd been brought up in a bar and Southern California and swore loudly and incessantly in Spanish.

Ick tock, ick tock. (Have to figure out how to use that.)

Mary Sutton said...

Awww. Don Stabby must have decided that the visit had gone on long enough. My parents had a bird before I was born. After I was born, I got more attention than the bird. My mother always said it died of a broken heart.

Encounters with wildlife? I'm currently feeding all the neighborhood rabbits from the clover in my backyard (it's too wet to mow). There's a family of deer that nap in the back and eat my tulips every spring. They used to get a snack and a drink from the neighbors' fountain on their way to breakfast at the golf course. There's a groundhog living under my shed. Squirrels move into the attic every winter. One night, one came down to the living room to check things out (the dog loved that). Another night, I woke up to find one in bed with me. The hubby was overseas. Guess the squirrel thought I looked lonely.

Our front tree has been turned into a woodpecker apartment (or so it looks by all the holes). We did have a nesting robin in the rhododendron last spring, but some predator must have gotten to the eggs because one day - just shells and no robin (and it wasn't long enough for the eggs to have hatched).

My goodness. It sounds like I live in an episode of Wild Kingdom. And I live in the 'burbs!

Marianne in Maine said...

That's not I wanted that story to end. Noooo. (And I don't even like birds.)

We had a parakeet when I was a child. Perly. I have no memory of why we named him that.

Here in the wilds of Maine we have close encounters with wildlife way too often. I was on my way to a meeting one evening when three moose sauntered - they always saunter - into the middle of the road and stopped. Right there. Center of the road. Blocking both sides. I swear we sat there for 10 minutes. And you cannot rush a moose. At least none of them approached the cars. My sister had one attack her car when she had small children with her. It was scary.

Now we have bald eagles in our yard. They're magnificent.

Hallie Ephron said...

Renaming your home Sutton Zoo. Squirrels in the attic are awful. We had them a few years ago and it took 3 tries and a lot of $$ to get rid of them. Woodpeckes are great, as long as they don't start to hear insects in the sides of your house. Sad about the robins. We had cardinals nest right outside our window.

Spiders in our basement... just found a next of them with tiny spiderlets. We do not pet them.

Hallie Ephron said...

"You cannot rush a moose." Marianne, good to know.

Karen in Ohio said...

Molly is an excellent hostess: she found out what kind of food and drink her guest likes best, offered a comfortable bed, and gave snuggles to Don Stabby. Love this!!

We've had a jillion critters passing through our lives, thanks to Steve's career as a wildlife photographer/writer. Some memorable, and some not so much. I totally prefer them on the outside of the house, though, after all is said and done.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

What a great story. Te amo, Don Stabby! As for wildlife stories -- I once saw a squirrel and a rat attack each other in Prospect Park over a hollow tree stump. New York real estate is tough for everyone.

Hallie Ephron said...

Susan, that sounds scary.

Reminds me of the opening of a particularly dark crime novel I loved, set in Manhattan, Josh Bazell's BEAT THE REAPER. It opens: "So I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow..."

FChurch said...

Tree swallows dive-bombing me as I mow, hummingbirds that came to the feeders as the boys held them, perfectly still and patient. A pheasant taking a dustbath in the orchard. A bald eagle resting in a tree for a long morning. Woodpeckers that come in close for a bite of orange, along with the orioles. A doe and her fawn slowly browsing up the yard one rainy, misty afternoon. A black ferret (someone's lost pet?) rippling through the grass as it fled across the yard. Ground squirrels, gray squirrels, a groundhog also under the shed, coyote scat, crows, a catbird meowing from the oaks, bluebirds nesting in the boxes above the grapevines, and ravens stalking about under the pear trees. And sometimes, those huge flocks of grackles that alight everywhere, noisy and busy, until at some signal, they all take off for other parts.

Deborah Crombie said...

Hallie, so delighted to open up JRW this morning and see Molly! I subscribe to Muchas Donas and adore her stories of living in the Yucatan. (I'm very curious about this outdoor kitchen... Doesn't it ever rain?)

I've never had a parrot, but years ago, parakeets. (A friend had one in her school classroom, couldn't leave it over summer break, etc., etc. We thought it--I never learned to tell parakeet gender--was lonely, so got another.) One day I was cleaning the cage and one bird got out, flapping madly around the room. Then, snap, Hallie, our hundred pound German shepherd, leaped up and caught the bird in midair. Parakeet funeral, we thought. But, no, when told to drop the bird, Hallie sat, opened her mouth, and the bird had not even a ruffled feather. But another time, Hallie caught a wood rat on our deck and broke its neck with one shake.

I never really liked having caged birds, so now we just have loads of songbirds in the garden, and hummingbirds, my favorite. We do have possums and racoons in our neighborhood, but I suspect the dogs discourage them from coming in the yard.

Hallie Ephron said...

FChurch, sounds like the wildlife lives there, you're the intrlop
er!

Hallie Ephron said...

Debs - that's quite a story of bird survival. And dog obedience, I might add. Have you posted about training your dogs? Because I'd love to hear about it.

Lisa Alber said...

I'm a firm believer that everyone should live for a year outside the US, hopefully not in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. Someplace a little difficult where you'll see what life is really about outside our privileged US. So kudos to Molly!

I lived in Brazil for awhile, and at one point I took a canoe/camping trip into the Amazon with a Norwegian guy and a guide. It was amazing. I couldn't get over seeing macaws in their natural habit. Everywhere, flocks of the green ones and the blue ones flying and cavorting and causing a ruckus. Truly a beautiful sight.

Also, an anteater! The guide flushed one out and held it by the tail so we could snap pictures of it. It was colossal. Almost five feet high, over seven feet long with a great pluming tail. It was cute too.

And fresh-water dolphins too!

Joan Emerson said...

And, and, and . . .
The deer stands in the middle of the yard looking at the dogs; the dogs stand at the bottom of the steps looking at the deer . . . the bravest one of us stands between them while the staring contest continues.
Finally [after they've all had a good long look at each other, I guess], the deer turns and trots toward the trees, the dogs turn and bounce up the stairs and back into the house.
By all accounts, it was a standoff.

Molly said...

Wow, I'm loving all of these animal stories! Woodpecker apartments and moose and dive-bombing tree swallows. I can't even imagine seeing macaws in the wild, never mind a colossal anteater. You're all inspiring to spend more time in varied nature! Saludos and abrazos from the Yucatan - Molly

Hallie Ephron said...

Debs, the outdoor kitchen is in a covered balcony (that first picture of Molly is her at her kitchen table with the balcony railing behind her.) So it doesn't rain IN but the floor gets covered with leaves and frogs and insects visit and birds who feel like it fly through.

Molly said...

Yes, it's covered, outside but actually a lovely place to cook in the rain. I just got a lot of creature visitors :)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

HI, Molly!

Susan, I want to see that urban fight. And Lisa, I do want to see an anteater!

The other day, I was sitting at my computer, home alone. I heard a weird noise. SOmne at the back door? The back door to the mud room is open, but the screen into the house is closed. I got up, looked, nothing. Huh.

Happened again. Little sound at the back door. Nothing. Huh,

One more time. I leap up, what the heck?

A squirrel is trying to get in! He sees me, leaps straight into the air, four feet OFF the ground. (You know how they do). DOes not return.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Loved your story Molly--thank you for visiting. You've had an amazing adventure this year!

We never had birds, though we had most other pets except for reptiles. Debs, we had guinea pigs and a German shepherd at the same time. For some reason, the pigs used to sit in the dog bowl and munch on his food. He never said a peep!

storytellermary said...

Oh, what a sweet story! You gave him a little hospitality and he gave you a great story! Prince the tree frog spent one winter with me, co-starred in my Frog and Friends CD, and retuned to the wild in spring, where he has many relatives. Raccoons peered in at me my very first morning here, and squirrels throw nuts when I do tai chi on the deck. Silly squirrels, the hickory nuts are for them. I've told the deer to eat what they want, since they will anyway. One cold winter they even pruned the holly bushes a bit. I did once chase a raccoon that was scratching the back screen door to get at a frog. "That's MY frog. Go get one in the woods." He looked defiant until I stomped my foot.

Hallie Ephron said...

storytellermary, you are true to your name. Prince the tree frog? I love it.

Kathy Reel said...

What a great story about your parrot adventure, Molly! I have to admit that I've never been a pet bird fan, but your encounter with Don Stabby made me imagine how interesting birds, well at least parrots, could be. I'm not crazy about birds flying at me. Today when I was at my daughter's house, which is in the country, their rooster flew at me when I tried to shoo him off of the walk to my car. He's a big rooster. I know he was protecting his ladies, but I'm glad I had an equally big purse to hold up in front of me. Another unpleasant bird encounter was when I was a child at my aunt's farm, and a momma goose came after me when I got too close to her goslings.

The most unusual wild animal encounter was when an opossum got into our house unnoticed by me. My son, who was in grade school at the time, told me a couple of times that he had seen a rat in the family room. I assured him that we didn't have rats. I hadn't seen anything, and he was quite the imaginative kid. This went on for at least two days. Then, one night I saw something streak across the kitchen and into the dinning room. My husband peered under the china cabinet. He got a broom and started scooting the possum toward the porch door. Yes, they do play dead when they feel threatened. Husband got the critter out the door, and we all gained anew appreciation for the phrase "playing possum."

Kathy Reel said...

What a great story about your parrot adventure, Molly! I have to admit that I've never been a pet bird fan, but your encounter with Don Stabby made me imagine how interesting birds, well at least parrots, could be. I'm not crazy about birds flying at me. Today when I was at my daughter's house, which is in the country, their rooster flew at me when I tried to shoo him off of the walk to my car. He's a big rooster. I know he was protecting his ladies, but I'm glad I had an equally big purse to hold up in front of me. Another unpleasant bird encounter was when I was a child at my aunt's farm, and a momma goose came after me when I got too close to her goslings.

The most unusual wild animal encounter was when an opossum got into our house unnoticed by me. My son, who was in grade school at the time, told me a couple of times that he had seen a rat in the family room. I assured him that we didn't have rats. I hadn't seen anything, and he was quite the imaginative kid. This went on for at least two days. Then, one night I saw something streak across the kitchen and into the dinning room. My husband peered under the china cabinet. He got a broom and started scooting the possum toward the porch door. Yes, they do play dead when they feel threatened. Husband got the critter out the door, and we all gained anew appreciation for the phrase "playing possum."

Reine said...

Molly, I love this. And I adore your blog.