MI amigo – PICO

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Story written by Eugene "Uncle Gene" Verdu


Mi amigo PICO

Pico was an Amazon parrot, with a double-yellow head, born in Mexico. Yellow heads are good talking parrots.Pico

Let me tell you how this wonderful bird came into my life.

In 1981, I attended a professional conference in San Antonio, TX, with a coworker Madaline. Her husband Bill traveled with us.

One day, Madaline’s husband, who became my friend, wanted to take a trip across the Mexican border to do some shopping. He did not speak Spanish and asked me to join him on the journey.

So, we got in the car and drove to Nuevo Laredo, a city on the banks along the Rio Grande River, across from the US city of the same name (Laredo). We parked the car on the US side of the border.

Heading downtown, we passed vendors on both sides of the street, selling just about anything you could imagine. After having tacos and a beer for lunch, we walked to a nice little park and sat on a bench. A young man came by with a box containing several baby parrots and asked if we wanted to buy one. I immediately said, “Yes! I’d like to buy two, but they have to be yellow heads, and they have to be babies, and delivered to me across the border.” He said he had a buddy that will take them across for us.

Most of the conversation with this young man had been spoken in Spanish, and my friend did not speak the language. I explained to him what was going on. His face turned red, and he said, “Are you crazy? You will get us thrown in jail!.” I told him not to worry about it, and everything would be alright.

So, the guy selling the parrots tells us to meet him, and his buddy, on the street a few blocks away. When we saw the “buddy,” we became a little weary. This Mexican gentleman was big and rough, looking like he would kill his mother for a peso. Bill said, “Gene, you cannot do this. You will get us killed!”

After negotiating with the guy, we agreed to meet at a church parking lot across the border, about five miles away, at a specific time. The price would be fifty dollars per bird. I made one more stipulation. The parrots must be alive when we pick them up and they would be paid upon delivery.

So, we got to the church parking lot, and a pickup truck with this same mean-looking young man arrived. He was carrying a paper bag with the two baby birds inside. Each bird had a couple of little pin feathers on them. Other than that, they looked like pigeon squabs. I gave him the money and took the parrots. We went back to the hotel, fed them, and the next day I brought them home on the plane in a small box. My long-time friend Gary picked me up at the airport. He did not like birds and had no idea I was buying them.

I sat the box between us on the front seat. Gary looked at it and glared at me. He said, “You did it to me, didn’t you?” I said, “I did what to you?” He said, “You have a bird in that box. You have a parrot.” I said, “No, I do not, Gary. I have two parrots!”

I hand-fed the parrots and took them to work every day, for six to eight weeks, until they were old enough to care for themselves.  I ended up giving one of the parrots (Chiquita) to my niece, Kathy, and I kept Pico.

Of course, Pico was a talking parrot. He used to say things like “Let’s go outside” and “Come here.” He would call the dogs, and they would run to the cage. At one time, I counted 50 different words he would say. Unfortunately, each time we moved to a new home, he began to talk less and less. Commonly, parrots don’t talk as much when their environment is changed. They are very routine-oriented. Food and water always need to stay in the same position in the cage. Pico was no different.

At one point, he was so tame that I could put him on my shoulder and take him around to show the neighbors. But, one day, when I reached into the cage, he looked as if he was going to bite me. Instinctively, I smacked him with my hand just a little bit. After that, I could never get him on my hand again.

A funny story. One time, we were dog sitting a black schnauzer, Mister, for Gary’s friend. Pico hated that dog! We were downstairs, and Pico was out of his cage. The dog ran up as if he was going toPico and Gene pounce on the bird. I stopped him by pushing him back with my leg. Later we took the dog and bird outside on the patio. Pico flew down from the fence, and he and Mister started walking toward each other. The dog stopped and looked at me. Then he would look back at Pico with an “I’d like to eat you, but if I do, I know I’ll get kicked again” look on his face. He edged closer and closer, and the bird goes right up to the schnauzer’s mustache and pulls it with his beak! I just happened to have a camera and took a picture. Mister kept looking back at me as if to say, “I want to kill him.” But he behaved. It was so cute to watch at the time.

I enjoyed the great thirty-eight years of friendship with Pico. He passed away in October of 2020.

Adios Pico, you were a good little bird and dear friend!



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