My moose story inspired a friend to write another wild-animal Tale (tail?). I wanted to share it with you.
The black ball beside the road ducked just as I drove past it on my way to work. I realized at once what it was and turned around to get it. Two more cars passed it before I got stopped and the small black ball ducked each time. It couldn’t have gotten any closer to the side of the road without being on it. I walked across the road and bent down to pick it up and was meet with a cry and a beak that opened so wide, I could see half way down its throat. The baby magpie must have been blown out of its nest the night before by the high winds, and was hungry. I looked around for the mother and was greeted by cries form a treetop a short distance away. I picked the baby up and put him on the other side of the fence, hoping that its mama would feed it still.
I stopped and looked for it after I got off work that day. I didn’t see it and hoped that it was being taken care of. I went on home and fixed some supper for myself. I decided to go do some grocery shopping after supper and so I got into my car and drove out to the road. There right by the road, so close it was scary, was my little friend, sitting there like he was waiting for me to come by. I got out and picked him up, once again greeted with the beak open so wide I was amazed by it.
I set him on the seat of the car and he just looked at me with a look that said, ” It was about time. I’ve been waiting for you. ” We went back into the house and I mixed up some baby bird food. He let me feed him without too much trouble, as he was very hungry. Then he just sat there on the towel, looking at me as if to say, “What’s next?” I looked him over and marveled at the half-inch tail and the perfect baby feathers all over him.
My husband, Dan usually takes care of the baby birds we find but he was gone for the next week. So I was just praying that I could keep the little guy alive for a week till he got home then we could name him together and he could take over its care. Our first week together went well and we got to know each other. The baby was very alert and would sit there and watch me as I went about my housework. When Dan got home, he said lets name him Louie. Dan figured that Louie was about three weeks old when I found him. Now Louie would just sit and watch all that went on around him and he realized that there were birds in the other room. He wasn’t able to fly yet but he could hop to anywhere he wanted to go. It wasn’t long before he wanted to join in the fun he thought he was missing in the other room. He would sneak in when I would forget and leave the door open and the other birds thought he was just another of the flock. When he learned to fly, he would chase them around the room.
Louie grew to enjoy being with his people. He would stand on the dish drainer and give you kisses. He didn’t like you to touch him but he would always come to see what you were doing. If you were very lucky, he would let you scratch the top of his head with one finger.
We tried to teach him about eating what other magpies ate and so we would offer him pieces of meat and cheese. Louie loved cheese and if you left the top off the container of shredded cheese, Louie would help himself. Louie was always hungry when we got home from work and would rush through the door as soon as you opened it. If you didn’t give him food right away, he would follow you around till you did. He would eat all he wanted and then hide the rest. Any little nook or crack was a good place to secret away snacks, in his mind. We would find bits of his dinner stuffed away in our checkbook that had been left on the table or tucked under the edge of a magazine. Anything with a hole in it would soon hold his treats and I had to learn to turn things so it didn’t have an opening for him to use.
The minute you started to pull into the driveway, Louie would fly to meet you. He would follow you down the drive and wait patiently on the side view mirror while you got out of the car. I would always talk to him and tell him “Hello, Louie”. It wasn’t long before he would say hello Louie to himself when I would let him out on the morning. He would sit on the post, chattering to himself.
Louie was very friendly when he wanted to be. He went over to meet the neighbor, Bob, one morning. Now Bob wasn’t aware that Louie was a pet and so it kind of freaked him out when Louie peered over the edge of the roof at him. However, Bob was used to all our pigeons standing on the roof edge and so he didn’t pay too much attention at first. Bob went to sit in his lawn chair, setting his cigarettes and lighter on the ground beside him. Louie flew down to check it out. Now magpies like bright and shiny things and so these really caught his eye. He tried to pick up the cigarettes and Bob grabbed them. He tore off the bright silver paper from the end of the pack and set it in front of Louie. He set the pack back down. Well, Louie must have decided that bigger was better and tried to carry off the whole pack. The pack was bigger than he was used to carrying and had to land a short distance away. Bob retrieved the pack and set it back down by his chair. Louie decided to try extracting a cigarette from the pack and so he picked it up and shook it. Out fell several of them. Louie grabbed one and flew to the top of a low shed. I guess he didn’t like the taste because that’s where he left it. Louie would go visit Bob and would even come when he called him. Bob soon found that Louie liked treats and would give him food tidbits during the day.
Louie was under the impression that all creatures were put on this earth for him to play with. As he grew up in the kitchen, he found that the dog was an excellent playmate. I don’t think the dog harbored the same thoughts but Louie never took that into consideration. As the dog wandered around the kitchen, Louie thought it was great fun to follow him and pull a couple of hairs on the back of his leg. The dog not realizing this was a game would go hide under the buffet. Louie wanted to play so he would walk under the buffet and chase the dog out and the fun would start again. Louie would follow the dog and whenever the dog wasn’t paying him heed, Louie would grab a couple of hairs.
Louie would follow you wherever you went when you were outside. If you headed down the drive to get the mail, he would fly ahead and wait on the mailbox for you. Then he would fly back to a fence post, waiting for you to return. I would sit outside at the patio table and he would come and stand on your feet. If you had shoestrings, they were for Louie to play with. He quickly learned to untie them for you. He would climb up you and sit on your shoulder and give kisses or listen to you talk to him. If you had a snack, you were expected to share.
At dinnertime, Louie would invite himself and would help himself to whatever looked good, dragging his piece off to the edge of the table. After satisfying his hunger, the leftovers were secreted away for late night snacks. One afternoon while I had cookies baking in the oven, Louie followed me in the kitchen door. I took the sheet of cookies out of the oven, turning my back to the ones left to cool on the counter. I was aware of Louie flying back and forth behind me and when I turned to place the warm cookies to cool, discovered that there were several missing from the cooking rack. I grabbed the cookie from Louie’s mouth and hunted for the others he had spirited off. I never did find one of them.
Louie was willing to share anything with you, even if it was yours. He would walk across the table to your beer bottle and try to pull it over. He would drink a little beer if you tipped it so he could get his beak into the opening. Then he would strut around the edge of the table as if to say, “Look at me, I’m something special.” He would share your soda too, till he discovered he didn’t like it.
Magpies are very territorial and Louie took great care to insure that no one invaded his territory. Invaders were not allowed and the meter reader was no exception. I saw her pull into the driveway one day and waited for her to leave. It seemed to be taking a long time for her to do what needed to be done and so I went outside to see what was happening. I found her back by the meter but she had never had a chance to get close enough to read it. Louie was nipping her shoes and flying at her head to keep her away from the house. I tried to let Louie know that it was all right but he wasn’t having anything to do with it. She finally got her job done, but I bet she will never forget her encounter with a magpie protector.
Louie didn’t react to everyone that came to the house like he did to the meter reader. The vet had to come visit one of the emu’s that was feeling under the weather. Louie didn’t bother the vet but he thought the vet’s truck was a new playground. The vet found Louie riffling through the things on his front seat and just laughed. We were worried about the West Nile virus that was affecting the horses and members of the crow family, and the vet gave us the vaccine to inoculate Louie. The vet still laughs about Louie in his truck.
But some people just shouldn’t invade Louie’s kingdom, such as the water truck. The driver opened his door and Louie flew straight at him. He scooted across the seat and went out through the other door as Louie decided to check him out. Louie flew straight through the truck, trying to let the driver know he was in hostile territory. Luckily Bob was home and saved the water truck driver from the menace of Louie’s protectiveness.
One day, my daughter, Shanna, came for a visit and wanted to see Louie. We were standing by the back door, calling him. He didn’t come right away and so I went to look for eggs behind the house. Suddenly I hear Shanna calling me, in a panic or so I it sounded. I got to her as quick as I could and there was Louie standing on her jacket covered arm, talking to her. “Hello Louie. Hahahaha, hello Louie. ” She was so excited to see Louie and as he was climbing up and down her arm, told me that she didn’t know he could talk. We went into the house and Louie sat with her for an hour before going on to something else.
Louie was a loner for most of the time he was with us, preferring our company to others of his kind but he did make friends with one other magpie and they would spend time together. Louie’s friend would land about 30 feet away and watch his interaction with us. A couple of times, Louie wasn’t waiting to come in at night and would be out, coming back in the morning to eat. The last time I saw Louie, he had pick up a large piece of hard bird food I had thrown out from the birds’ dishes in the house and flew off towards the grove of trees by the creek where the colony of magpies lived.
I don’t know if Louie and his friend took up together or if some other fate befell him.
When the wind is blowing, I remember how he didn’t like to hear the wind and would sit and shake like a leaf. When I bake cookies, I always wonder where that other cookie is I didn’t find. Every time I see a magpie sit on the post and chatter, I hope its Louie. I still find his secret hiding places with his little bits of food. I wonder if he has enough to eat. Wherever he is, we miss him and would love to have him come back to us.