The Myna Bird

myna bird

When I was young, Grant’s department store had a Myna bird in the back, right behind the pet section.  Now that pet section was really something (this was back in the day before the abomination called “Walmart,” when each department store was personable and unique).  Grant’s had all kinds of beautiful, exotic tropical fish, from multi-colored to almost translucent.  Tiny birds as well:  canaries and parakeets, birds that could really sing a beautiful melody to brighten your day.  Birds that didn’t need any sort of encouragement — they simply sang for the pure joy of it.

But I was transfixed by the Myna, because the Myna could talk.*

And talk it did.

“Hello.  Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird.”

Yeah, a bit narcissistic. I have since learned that Mynas are quite common in some parts of the world.  Not as special as I thought.  Common is not all that unusual in narcissistic creatures, if you stop to think about it.

Years later I’m on vacation in the Quarter, walking down Royal Street minding my own business, when this guy on the street corner says “Hey buddy, I got something over here that you might be interested in.”

I usually look at my shoes when I pass hucksters on the street, mumbling something like “Not today, thanks.”  But low and behold, this guy had a Myna bird in a gilded cage.

My interest was piqued.  “Hey” I said.  “Does that bird talk?”

“Well sure,” he said.  “That’s what Mynas do.”

“Hey good-looking,” said the bird.

Now I was interested.  I may be a bit of a narcissist too.

I glanced at the price tag on the cage.

“Why’s this bird so cheap?”

“Well,” he said, “To tell you the truth I don’t really know, but I can’t find anything wrong with her.  And not only can she talk, she sings.”

Always be wary of anyone who says “to tell you the truth.”  That means they lie most of the time.

“I don’t need another pet” I said.  “I have dogs.  Dogs are low maintenance and they are always happy to see you.”

“Well, I won’t lie to you.  You make a good point there.  But can a dog talk?  Can it sing?”

Always be wary of anyone who says “I won’t lie to you.”  That means they lie most of the time.

“Why don’t you come up and see me some time?” said the bird.

That sealed the deal.  Next thing I know I’m carrying a birdcage down the street.

I got that bird home.  Found a nice sunny spot next to the window.  I left the cage door open.  Won’t tolerate a dog on a chain or a bird closed-up in a cage.  A certain amount of freedom is essential to all living things.  It’s in their nature.

Silence at first.  Just a bit of preening.

“Hey Myna,” I said.  “How about a song?”

The Myna belted out a few lines of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.”  Not bad, but a little flat.

The next few weeks that bird sung that song over and over and over again.  Then one day it stopped.  Silence, except for an occasional “Free bird, awk, free bird.”

For the next few months I tried to give that Myna everything a bird could possibly want.  Day-after-day, nothing but encouragement.  I said things in a tone that a grown man would be ashamed to say in public.

Eventually I realized that I’d been taken.  This bird was common.  As common as a crow, except a crow has more intelligence.

Finally I say “Hey, isn’t there anything else you know?  Say something different.  Anything.”

“Hello.  Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird.”

From then on I left my back door open.  After a little encouragement with a broom, that stupid bird just flew away.

I learned a lot from that experience.  Now I always look at my shoes and mumble when I pass a huckster on the street.

But to tell you the truth, I hope that Myna is safe and happy somewhere.  I won’t lie to you, I would hate to think that it ran into a big yellow tabby with an empty belly.  Because in the grand scheme of things, freedom is never really free.

*Although this little tale is fiction, there was a Grant’s in my hometown when I was a child.  They never did sell that bird, although they eventually had to get rid of it because someone taught it to cuss.  So it goes.

11 thoughts on “The Myna Bird

  1. This yarn brings back memories. Thanks for that.

    I once owned a small parrot when I lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He lived in a cage, of course. One day, returning from work, I discovered that by leaving the kitchen window open a cat had entered my slave quarter apartment and somehow had opened the little parrot’s cage door. I found the cage on the floor on its side, and my parrot, who was named Tube Steak, was nowhere to be seen.

    Sad, I stuck the cage in the closet and wrote it off as an unfortunate experience, especially for Tube Steak. A couple of weeks later (weeks!), I was lying on my bed near the door to a balcony, and Tube Steak walked right in. Walked, on the floor, did not fly. Imagine my surprise. I got out the cage, and put him in, and life returned to what it had been.

    I won’t say I won’t lie to you because you’ll think I made this up. I did not. It happened.

  2. A cute tale you wrote Ray. We probably all have bird stories to share. Here’s mine.

    I once caught a ladderback woodpecker and wanted to relocate him as he was being a nuisance to our log home by jack hammering areas on the logs. One day this bird flew into a closed window and knocked himself out cold on the ground; I happened to witness it. I seldom if ever, pass up on what I feel is an opportunity. I had an old antique bird cage which along with a tea towel, dashed outdoors to the wrap the accident victim into the towel and gently laid him inside the bird cage. My plan was to relocate this pretty bird to a safer environment before my husband took aim at him with a gun. Soon this bird was up and shouting his displeasure of being confined. I quickly drove him about 5 miles to a heavily wooded area assuming it would be content in this new environment. The following day I heard a familiar tapping turned hammering on the northwest corner of the house. He was back! Later I learned that most woodpeckers are territorial and stay within a small radius of their roosting site. He was home to stay.

  3. Grants….that’s a blast from the past !!
    I don’t remember the bird though. Loved this tale so much cuz, your writing is wonderful !!

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