Bird learns dirty talk

Bob Huber: Local Columist

Our son Glen brought home a baby raven one day, and we named it Weird Harold.

Glen claimed it had fallen from its nest on a ledge of the Federal Building in Santa Fe, and it was his notion to teach the bird to talk dirty by Halloween so he could dress up as Blackbeard, with a talking bird on his shoulder.

However, Weird Harold wasn’t interested in developing a dirty vocabulary. In fact, all he wanted to do was grow to the size of a big rooster in less than a month, the result of a daily diet of raw hamburger and everything else in the yard that was red.

As days went by, Weird Harold also developed the disposition of a troll and the appetite of a Bengal tiger. To feed him was to place your fingers in dire straits.

I should make it clear here that Weird Harold was not a crow. Compared to a crow, Harold was a saber-toothed lion next to your average neighborhood tomcat.

When Weird Harold was ready to eat, he crouched, opened his beak wide enough to handle a ham hock, and flapped his huge wings.

Weird Harold lived in our backyard for almost a month. Even when he could finally fly, he refused to. His mother came around occasionally and tried to lure him back to the good life on the Federal Building by vomiting on our garage, but Harold ignored her. He wasn’t dumb. We fed him better than he ever got at home.

Weird Harold was up before dawn each day, squawking for his breakfast. One time, I pounded on our bedroom window and shouted for him to shut up, the result being that I broke the window and cued the bird to our location in the house. After that he woke us up before sunrise each day, pecking at the window and squawking.

That’s when I had a little discussion with Glen. “That bird has got to go,” I said.

“But I’m on the verge of a breakthrough,” Glen said. “Harold spoke his first dirty word yesterday.”

“You have two days to get rid of him,” I went on. “What dirty word? Never mind. Two days.”

So Glen and his sisters composed a want ad. Their timing was perfect — just a few days before Halloween. It appeared in the local paper as: “Attention witches, warlocks, and friends of Edgar Allen Poe. For sale, one raven. Can‘t speak dirty, but will serve faithfully as an alarm clock. Best offer.”
That evening I answered the phone, and a lady’s voice asked, “Have you sold the raven yet?”
“We’ve had several offers,” I lied.
“I definitely want him for a Halloween party,” she said. “Can you freeze the bidding while I search the furniture for change?”

The upshot was, the woman came by the next day and counted out $8.78 in coins, all the money she could garner from her furniture. As she carried Weird Harold away, he cranked his head around, squawked, and shouted the most evil, nastiest string of dirty words I’d ever heard.

He didn’t bother the lady, but I was shocked to find out my son knew those words.

For several years, always around Halloween, I heard Weird Harold at night, pecking at our bedroom window and squawking. I would get up and pound on the window and hear the swishing of pterodactyl wings and a voice fading into the night. It said, “Trick or treat, you bleeping, bleeping, bleeping bleeper.”