Walter Mencken 2:02 p.m., June 25
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All Mexicans Have Pet Birds
The other day, my 13 year old son came home from middle school and asked, “Is it true all Mexicans have pet birds?” I laughed because it sounded to me like he’d heard a good Mexican joke that I might like to share with my friends and on my relatives. The more we talked, the more I realized that he was genuinely curious as a result of a talk he was having with a girl in one of his classes. She is white. We are Mexican. When he shared pictures of our pet Cockatiel named Chip with her, she made the Mexican and pet bird remark. But is it true? Do all Mexicans have pet birds? Well, first of all, we know that when someone says … all Mexicans…, they really mean many or a lot, of course. So when I thought of the question in those terms, reaching into my past and present memories, I realized I might be part of another stereotype. For instance, my mom, may she rest in peace, loved having chickens in the back yard regardless of city ordinances (Brawley, Ca, go figure). I have always had a pet of some kind. I had dogs mostly, but also a cat, a fish or two and yes, up to 7 different occasions of birds including hens, roosters, pheasants and three different Cockatiels. My son told me many of his friends also have birds. As a matter of fact, he has a schoolmate named George that he currently compares bird rearing and training notes with. And countless of my own fellow Mexicans I have met along the path of life have had or have parrots, finches, Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Pigeons, doves and of course chickens. Should I mention the fighting roosters my relatives in Mexico breed? The roosters and hens I had were cool. I remember many years ago at a country house (our bachelor party house) I rented out in the country, people coming to visit, but especially my brother, being attacked by one of our strutting roosters. I thought it was funny until one day that bird slapped some spurs into my shins. It hurt. I had to kick it away and it was amazing to see how ballsy he was because it would not quit. God has surely made some marvelous creatures because this rooster was strong, brave, pretty and proud all wrapped in one. The hens were Rhode Islands Reds. Need I say more? They could crank out some eggs. Hmmm, fresh laid eggs for breakfast. When we moved to the big city (Escondido), I had a chance to acquire a bird from a co-worker and another from a neighbor. Not all at once, it was as they died. You see, we needed to learn how to live with the Cockatiels and they with us. The first one ate some laundry soap spilled near the washer and died. The second one endured hours of music in its face. Along with regular mistings of 409 cleaner as my middle daughter did her chores to music with the bird in his cage near the bar. I really miss that second bird. We named him Paco, and he really could sing unlike the others. But our latest per Cockatiel named Chip has been with us for about 4 years now and is going strong. I think we have “cracked the code” on bird care. Plus, the middle daughter has moved out so the bird is safe from her torture. Do all Mexicans have birds? That still is funny to replay in my head. This Mexican likes having birds around. And if I am an average Mexican, then I guess we all have pet birds.