The romantic, Christmas make-up holiday, fondly referred to as Valentine's, constructed for the purpose of allowing spouses a little R&R (repent and repair) for gifts like irons and underwear, moves me to write about L-O-V-E, love.
Growing up in St. Louis, my husband and his family owned a cockatiel. It was a beautiful bird acquired from the pet store, along with all the accoutrements caged poultry requires to enjoy a fulfilling life.
My father-in-law loved that bird, often liberating it from behind bars to explore other regions of the household. After all, pets need petting. And so, the cockatiel, Wicker, would eagerly climb onto an extended hand and up his arm for a long-awaited outing.
Over time, as birds' wings will, Wicker's grew to a length that would easily sustain air travel on atmosphere currents. My husband's father, sensing an impending calamity, foreshadowed by his feathered friend's fitful flapping, decided to hold a quill-clipping clinic.
He whisked his bird into the garage to prepare for the anti-escape operation. Patiently, his feathered friend remained on the shoulder of its chauffeur, politely pooping down its attendant's backside.
Yet, despite all its creature comforts, instinct inspired Wicker to yearn for ventilation that lay just beyond the barrier of the garage door. The wise cockatiel, ever watchful, waited for the perfect moment to present itself.
Before pruning could ensue, the doorbell rang, ding dong. The cockatiel chirped in response, "I'm coming friends, as soon as this stooge opens the door," which he did. Birds, like words, are too quick to recall.
Seeing the sun streaming in, feeling the cool air rush past, and noticing a tall tree about 100 feet away, the aviator took flight. Out of practice, he wobbled a bit and had difficulty gaining altitude, until a breeze caught and lifted him high into the branches of a sycamore tree. There he sat, with his tropical feet freezing to an icy bough on a late, St. Louis, winter afternoon.
Wicker's owner stood in the doorway, mouth agape, watching the fowl fly to an unreachable roost. What to do, what to do? The family patriarch began brainstorming. (The caged bird sings, incidentally, because it desperately desires to generate a few bird-brained ideas of its own.)
Then, he did what any red-blooded, American male, living in the heartland would. He grabbed a pump-action pellet rifle and went hunting.
Taking careful aim at the wing area, as wife and children looked on with hope, my father-in-law squeezed the trigger. POOMP. He missed. He gave the gun another 10 or 15 pumps, just to ensure the pellet had enough velocity, and kick, to knock the stray avian off its perch.
He again lined up the target in the cross hairs, and gently pulled the trigger. POOMP. Joyful shouting drifted through the neighborhood as the prize plummeted to the frozen ground. What a lucky bird to have a family who loved it enough to go to such lengths to prevent it from a sub-zero demise.
Everyone rushed over, expecting to scoop up a lightly grazed, but intact, cockatiel. A little pool of blood on the ground, however, revealed that, in fact, it suffered a mortal wound.
And even though Wicker died in captivity, two weeks later, of pneumonia, my father-in-law's heroic actions elevated him ever further in my husband's eyes. To the many lessons handed down by his dad, my sweetheart added, If you love something, let it go. If it doesn't come back, shoot it down with a pellet gun.
Accordingly, when he says, "Valentine, I've set my sights on you," I watch my wing.
(Lucy Adams is a Columbia County native and McDuffie County resident.)
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