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The Flight to Freedom

By Charlie Badenhop

One of the first things I noticed about my newly trained parrot, was that "Chico" couldn't fly. Before Chico was trained and he bit my finger all the time, I didn't really care about him not having flight privileges. But once Chico and I became pals and he loved it when I scratched his head, I felt sad that his wings had been clipped. Being stuck here on earth just like us humans seemed to be a dreary life for a bird.

Feeling sad for my friend, I decided to add some pizzazz to Chico's life. Once the weather turned nice I took Chico and sat him on a branch of a tree in my tiny backyard in New York City.

At first he seemed somewhat confused. He made more sounds than usual and then he walked back and forth on the branch looking like an agitated father pacing back and forth in the maternity ward waiting for his child to be born. Over the course of a couple of months he seemed to become resigned to his fate of being earthbound. I was intrigued to notice he didn't flap his wings even once in an attempt to fly. Somehow he seemed to know he was incapable.

One day as I sat out in the backyard with Chico, he got way more agitated then when I first put him out on his branch some months ago. He was pacing back and forth in an upset manner and talking up a storm. Then all of a sudden he stopped pacing and let out a spine tingling scream that I can still remember to this day. He screamed once, he screamed twice, and then he starting madly flapping his wings for the first time ever. After about three seconds of flapping, he lifted off from the branch like the Cape Canaveral space shuttle, as he let out yet another fierce scream. I was amazed and shocked.

Little did I know that his feathers had been growing back in. Just like a sly convict, Chico had been biding his time until the moment was ripe for escape!

Chico made his break for freedom on a late Monday afternoon, and it was clear by late Monday night he was not coming home. Finally, on early Tuesday evening Chico returned to the backyard, but stayed way out of reach. I talked to him and showed him some food, but to no avail. Then I took his cage inside so he would not relate coming back to getting locked up again. Finally, I made him a firm promise that if he did come back I would let him out every day the weather was fine. Shortly after making my solemn oath he flew onto my shoulder and then walked onto my hand and I took him upstairs.

From that day on, whenever the weather allowed, I would let him out early and he would fly around and be back before dark. This routine lasted for about two months and Chico seemed happy beyond compare. Then, all of a sudden one day he didn't want out of his cage, and he looked like he could barely stay up on his perch. I took him to the vet and was told he had contracted a disease from the pigeons in the neighborhood. Within a few days he died, and I mourned his loss.

Just once the thought crossed my mind that if I had not set him free to fly every day, he would still be alive. It was then that I realized the quality of one's life is much more important than the quantity of one's life. After all, what sense is there in being a bird if you can't flap your wings and fly?

Chico made his break for freedom on a late Monday afternoon in April. When will you make yours?

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