Saturday, 24 March 2012

Lola's and Valerie's Pets


Lola's and Valerie's Pets
By A. Hyatt Verrill
Photographs by the Author
From Everyland magazine, Nov.1918; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, Mar. 2012.
OF course many readers of EVERYLAND remember Lola and Valerie, the girls who traveled through the West Indies and wrote about their trip for Everyland. Since then they have lived for nearly two years in British Guiana in South America, and while in that faraway land, they had some of the most interesting and curious pets you can imagine.
Of course they had parrots, for Guiana is famous for its great variety of parrots. Even right about the big city of Georgetown and in the public gardens, you can see wild parrots and parrakeets flying about among the trees. Lola's and Valerie's parrots were not the common green Pollys which most people see, but were gorgeous birds of many colors and with the funniest and most interesting ways.
First there was Caesar, a little green and orange parrakeet that Valerie bought in the big Georgetown market on her first visit to South America. Caesar has made the long journey back and forth between New York and South America four times; and when his mistress is in the United States, Caesar travels everywhere she goes in the motor-car; so he has toured all over New England. He is so accustomed to traveling that he knows he's going on a trip just as soon as his mistress commences to pack her trunk, and he gets excited as a child. Unlike most parrakeets Caesar is a great talker. He's never tired of saying “pretty boy," "bad boy," and "pretty, pretty, pretty." and when he's excited he cries "Hurry up! Hurry up!" or "Come on! come on!" over and over again. He also yells, "Hip, hip hooray!" and whenever he sees wagons passing he calls, "Cash paid for rags." He is very tame and likes to be petted and fondled, but he is terribly jealous and is as peevish as a spoiled child if he doesn't receive enough attention.
Lola's first parrot was Boy Blue, a lovely bird with blue back and purple breast, and with the most beautiful scarlet and blue wings and tail. He has traveled almost as much as Caesar, and he talks almost as well, and he whistles like any schoolboy. But while Caesar's voice is shrill and harsh, Boy Blue's is soft and low. He has great, mild, brown eyes and looks very gentle, but he has a bad temper and snaps and bites at strangers although he lets his mistress handle him and play with him by the hour. Then there was Robert, a huge blue and yellow macaw, who was a perfect baby in his love for being petted and who constantly begged everyone to "scratch pretty Robert."
But the funniest parrots of all were two roly-poly creatures which the girls called Tweedledum and Tweedledee. These little chaps had green backs and white breasts with orange-yellow necks and black caps, and a little band of yellow across the chest and on the legs; so that Valerie used to say they looked exactly like little dwarfs dressed in green coats, yellow trousers, and yellow cravats. Tweedledum and Tweedledee couldn't talk, but they mimicked every bird, beast, and sound they heard like regular mocking-birds, and they were as frolicsome and playful as little kittens. They rolled over and over, pretending to fight each other: they hung head down by one leg and spun round and round, and chased their own tails in the funniest way. But strangest of all, they always slept snuggled down side by side on the floor of their cage.
Last, but by no means least, was Juanita, a magnificent sun parrot. Juanita had a green back and a purple breast and a gray head, but on the back of her head was a wonderful crest of crimson and blue feathers which she could raise until it formed a gorgeous, fan-like crown. Juanita could not talk well, but she was very gentle and lovable, and best of all, she could do all sorts of funny tricks. She stood on her head when told to, or she lay on her back and played dead, and then, when she was told to "come to life," she hopped up and raised her lovely crest and whistled, as pleased as could be at the fun.
But the parrots were not the only bird pets which Lola and Valerie had in their South American home. There were Toto, the toucan, whose story has been told in Everyland, and two other big, black, white, and scarlet toucans, besides two smaller ones with soft green and brown dresses. The toucans were always amusing, for they looked very droll with their enormous beaks, and the girls never tired of tossing them bits of food or paper balls, which they always caught in their big bills. Toucans are very funny birds and sleep with their beaks buried in the feathers of their backs and with their tails folded up over all, so they look for all the world like round balls of feathers. They are very lively, active creatures and make the funniest barking and yelping sounds, just like puppies, and they are always hungry. They are fond of bananas, and it is very funny to see one of these queer birds swallow a whole banana at one gulp. Whatever a toucan eats he first tosses into the air; then he catches it in his beak and gulps it down, and he is just as expert in doing this with a tiny seed as with a big banana.
Another funny bird the girls owned was the sun bittern, a dainty creature with mottled brown, yellow, and black feathers, and red, yellow and black wings which he spread out until they looked like a rising sun. He had long, slender, yellow legs and the slenderest neck you could imagine, and he walked mincingly about like a dainty lady. When frightened, the sun bittern crouched down, opened his sharp bill, and swayed his neck and hissed just like an angry snake, but he was really a very gentle, harmless creature. The sun bittern loved insects, and he spent most of his time catching flies. It was very funny to see him stalk silently toward a fly until within striking distance; then out darted his slender neck like a streak of lightning, and Mr. Fly disappeared as if by magic. Sometimes, too, the sun bittern stood for hours motionless, with the tip of his bill against the ground, or he would stand quietly and sway back and forth on his slender legs like an elephant in the zoo.
Valerie didn't care so much for the sunbird as for Peter. Peter was a funny, white-headed tree-duck, a real live "Quacky Doodles" only he never quacked like ordinary ducks but whistled in a queer, plaintive way.
But the most interesting of all the bird pets was Warri, the trumpet-bird. He was a very sleek, genteel-looking creature with a soft, gray back and velvety black head, breast and neck, and with a little spot of metallic green and purple feathers on his breast. He was about the size of a Bantam hen, with long slender legs and a slender neck and with the biggest, brightest, black-eyes you ever saw.
He was very tame and wandered at will about the yard and house, and whenever any one appeared, he came racing forward with his wings half spread and making a queer, deep, trumpeting noise in his chest. He loved to take charge of the chickens and bossed them about like a regular tyrant, and strangest of all, he was terribly feared by even the most pugnacious old roosters. If a strange rooster appeared, the trumpet-bird instantly rushed at him, and although he didn't have spurs, he could strike so hard with his big feet and peck so viciously and was so swift in his motions that no rooster could resist him. He would attack a marauding hawk, or even a dog or cat, just as readily. For this reason the natives of South American countries always keep trumpet-birds with their chickens, for they feel sure that as long as one of these creatures is on guard, no enemy will dare molest the fowls.
Besides all these birds and several others I have not mentioned, there were the four-footed animals, some of which could scarcely be called pets at all. First, there was the armadillo, a stupid but funny beast. His only ambition was to be left alone, and he slept nearly all the time. It made every one laugh to see the queer chap burrow into the ground, for he could dig so quickly that he disappeared almost instantly, and it was all a person could do to pull him out again.
Then there was the huge ant-bear which the girls named "Fluffy Ruffles." I doubt if there is any stranger animal in all the world than the ant-bear. It has no neck, and its head is all nose, while it walks with its huge front claws bent back, and when it sleeps it wraps itself in its enormous bushy tail. The ant-bear has no teeth, but it has a slender snake-like tongue nearly a yard long; with this it laps up the ants upon which it lives, while its powerful front feet and strong claws are used in digging out the ants and tearing their nests to bits. Nature created the ant-bear to feed on ants, and it is proof against their bites. It also has a very ugly and unsociable disposition and a most uncertain temper. Sometimes Fluffy Ruffles would let a person stroke her head, but at other times she would rear up on her hind legs and strike viciously with her front claws. When an ant-bear does this, it is very dangerous. Even the big, spotted jaguars fear it; so you can imagine that Fluffy Ruffles was not a favorite pet with the girls and that they always kept well out of her reach.
Very different was Jimmy, the tapir. Jimmy was only a baby a few weeks old, a fawn-colored chap spotted with white, and the dearest little fellow you ever saw. He followed the girls about like a dog, answered to his name when called, and just loved to be petted and stroked. The only sound he could make was a low, shrill whistle, and his favorite food was bread and milk. His body was short, but his head was large and it tapered into a flexible nose that was shaped something like an elephant's trunk, only very much shorter. Do you wonder that Jimmy was a constant source of amusement and pleasure for the girls?
Of course Lola and Valerie could not take all these strange pets with them to the United States; so they decided to keep just Caesar and Boy Blue, and the others were sent to the Zoological Park in New York. If any of Everyland's readers visit Bronx Park, they will see Juanita and Robert and Toto and all the rest—even Jimmy the tapir, although you'd never recognize him, for he has lost his pretty white spots and has grown to be a big, brownish-gray beast altogether too large for any girl to hold in her arms.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.