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Pepper has demanded equal time. . .

Pepper has been a member of our family since he was 6 months old.  He was hand-raised by – I kid you not – a little old lady from Pasadena.  He is a cross between a Panama and a yellow-nape, and is a very intelligent bird, although these days he is less a talker and more a curmudgeon.  He will be 49 years old this summer – which is about middle-aged for birds in the parrot family.

I’ve mentioned before that he has always been a source of amusement for everyone, and I have more stories about Pepper than I do about Popoki – but then again, he has been around a lot longer than Popoki was.  Pepper was the “perp” (as Hubs described him) in the most recent Popoki tale.  The following story demonstrates to a degree the intelligence of Pepper, which he has proved on a number of occasions.  Science in recent years has made a lot of discoveries about the intelligence of birds in general, and parrots in particular.  For years it was assumed that parrots were imitators only, with no understanding of what they say.  Ever since Pepper became a part of our family, we have known that they were not merely avian versions of Rich Little – as most people who own or are owned by parrots have always known.  I will tell you a few of those stories over the next few months, but here is one of my favorites:

Hubs will attest to this fact about our family of Tohline’s – we are a talkative bunch. We generally, when together, will talk over each other, but we also hear everything the other is saying.  It appears to be a talent peculiar to us, and it is a skill my Hubs had to learn.  If you have something to say, you just say it!  Being polite and waiting for your turn means that you never get to say anything.  I stress that this sort of behavior only happens at family gatherings, and we were taught to be polite and listen without speaking, and give others the opportunity to express themselves before opening our mouths when we were in “mixed company.” 

My family usually gathered together in our family room (fancy that!), which is where Pepper’s cage was located.  He always seemed to enjoy our gabfests, and was very attentive – offering laughter when appropriate, and a few “eh-eh-ehhhhs” (one of the ways my Mom would say no-no-no, or naughty-naughty) if he noticed an unacceptable “tone” in the conversation.

When one of us managed to “get the floor” and actually speak, uninterrupted, we would hold the floor by speaking without stopping – otherwise we would lose the floor.  In order to do this, we strung our phrases and sentences together with “and uh’s” sprinkled in to keep the momentum up and give the brain time to catch up with the mouth.

One evening during a particularly spirited time of conversation and story-telling, Pepper was thoroughly engaged in our talk.  We knew this, because when he really enjoyed what was going on, he would crouch down on his perch, partially unfold his wings, and sort of quiver in excitement.  All of a sudden, the talking ceased.  Everyone appeared to have spoken their piece, and there came a lull (momentary, I’m sure), in the conversation.  After about three seconds of silence, Pepper leaned forward and said, distinctly, “and uh?”

It took a while for the laughter to calm down – even Pepper laughed loud and long – but each of us was even more convinced that Pepper knew exactly what he was saying.  He wanted us to keep on talking.  I’m quite certain we obliged.

There’ll be more about Pepper another time – until then, I’ve said enough. . .

P.S.  I may be skipping posts a time or two in the coming week.  I simply HAVE to get some other work done!

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