Polly Wanna Cracker, a Finger, a Nose?


You’ve no doubt seen those movies where the unsuspecting family welcomes a hitchhiker, distant cousin or long lost college roommate into their cheery lives. Soon the audience sees the eye twitch that signals “Hi. I’m a homicidal maniac. Just give me a half hour and you’ll all be in freezer bags labeled ‘lunch’.”

Well, my family had seen the tell tale signals of Polly, the 75 year old parrot handed down from my great aunt Willie Belle Story Raines Roden to my grandparents and finally to us. Although we didn’t visit Auntie often, we had heard Polly would grab ya if she could. And there was her evil chuckle . . .

Once my grandparents had inherited the bird, it was obvious that a cunning devil spirit had arrived. B movies recycled on TV featured such creatures: fascinating, charming beauties who turned into Panther Ladies or Reptile Women intent on disemboweling you as you slept. Bright green Polly was lovely. She cocked her yellow head, cooed sweetly, and strutted with real grace. Her cage acrobatics were excellent too – a feathered Flying Wallenda!

Living in her cage in my grandparents’ kitchen, Polly soon found a source of major amusement: taunting my grandfather, Bampaw. Bampaw & Polly waged a roller coaster duel for years. He’d imitated a growling gorilla with bared fangs while poking her cage with a cane. She’d shriek and stretch out dagger talons to snag him. With false teeth protruding (his) and open beak bouncing (hers), you could almost see a family resemblance . . . They’d whip each other into frenzies. Hard to say if this was parrot abuse or grandad abuse – they seemed evenly matched.

Finally, Bampaw moved too slow while cleaning her cage bottom and Polly struck! She locked her jaws around the palm of his hand and wouldn’t let go. It took two people to get her off, with stitches, shots and a permanent scar for my grandpaw. Thereafter, he was more cautious. There was respect in his contempt. While spinning recipes for parrot stew, he’d declare that she was a tough ole bird – just like him.

When we inherited Polly, Mom laid down strict ground rules and located the bird in a safety zone in our kitchen corner. Present day friends have questioned the wisdom of bringing this convicted mutilater into a house with small children. At the time, there was no question. Polly was a relative, she’d been in our family since before Mom was born.

Everyone had weird kin – this was ALABAMA. Besides, Polly was much more entertaining than any of our other relatives and didn’t eat one tenth the amount of Aunt Ida Mae.

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