Canary Tales

09 May

My wife and I have been married since 1973. Unbeknown to you, after I typed that date, I had to quickly run into our bedroom to renew my acquaintance with a certain framed wedding invitation that is kept on our chest of drawers for occasions when I forget important dates. Lately however, it is not only I that forgets important dates. Dutifully checking, it is 1973. In any event, ever since that fateful day 37 years ago, canaries have been part of our life. My wife is a singer; first in Sweet Adeline’s female barbershop quartet and then into church choir for many years. She is inspired to sing in hopes that it will coax song  from her ever present canaries. You are all familiar with the birds of which I speak….the ones that never sing of course. Before W5PG was on the scene my wife was given a singing bird  and sadly it departed prior to my arrival. I have been assured this bird was a virtuoso of song. However, ever the optimist, we have been finding non singing birds for low these 37 or so years. I think we have owned about 6 or so to date and even moved one from California to Texas in the back end of a large Chevrolet Suburban of undetermined vintage, along with a trash bin full of water and tropical fish sloshing around and battery powered air pump huffing along with three (at that time) youngish girl babies. Since arriving in the Great State of Texas we have continued the tradition of buying non singing canaries for all of our 20 or more years here. They come, they go but let it never be said that they sang. Not a peep out of the lot of them.

Recently that all changed. Our last foul bird died suddenly as canaries are prone to do. From whatever the cause- bad air, mites, broken wing or whatever it most definitely was not for lack of attention or coaxing from us. So with grandchildren approaching for Sunday supper and no desire to have them witness a corpse in a cage, the erstwhile bird was rushed off to its utter end via a concerned grandma and a desire to shield small minds from fits of tears and gnashing of milk teeth. With the deed done and grandchildren installed in their rightful posts atop the kitchen bar one little tyke suggested that the empty cage was obvious to her and oh by the way, where was the bird? So much for best laid plans….that was all last Sunday. One week before a spring ritual known hereabouts as MD.

With all of that as a backdrop and knowing that, in America at least it is Mothers Day today, one sees a stage set for another wretched bird tragedy. Surely with W5PG on the case one would expect that Pop could secure a singing canary bird the likes of which has never graced this estate and well before MD at that. First things first, engage the children in the plot. Second, find a bird shop where new accouterments could be secured. Third, and most importantly, find a suitable fowl to grace an newly renovated barred cabin. Step one and two were easy. Step three sent shudders through my soul. For it was only when I arrived at step three that I found out that birds are not generally available at this time of year, and if they are, you had better be prepared to bring along a mortgage payment in bills to pay for it. Sorry sir, no checks only cash. Meet me in the parking lot at so and so avenue and we will exchange bird for money- after dark. Good grief. Whats this then? Illicit bird napping? Short of that its 300 dollars at a bird shop no guarantees on songs. Okay so shame on me, I went for the low budget solution and dutifully met the lady at the Sears parking garage at the appointed hour. We made the exchange and I went home secure in the knowledge that feathers will again grace our sunny home for another few years of chirping bliss, for by this time in my life I had no expectations of a singing bird. History taught me to expect less and you will never be disappointed.

The bird was installed in it’s barred and swaying cave near our kitchen in a sunny and bright part of the house. When I brought him in he did as expected and sat around looking for his first of a zillion free meals which would be delivered by naive hands expectantly waiting for bird song. By now the secret is no more and a smiling Grandma is floating around the kitchen looking after her new charge whistling and singing in an attempt to coax a song from this: a guaranteed singer.

Nada. No song. No nuthin. Hours pass. It is such a pretty green. Its active enough. Finding reasons to enjoy it even though we know it will never grace us with song. Ever the optimist, my wife suggests to my son to find some canary song on the internet. There on You Tube, are hundreds if not thousands of canary songs and movies. The MacBook begins an encyclopedic presentation of whole families of bird song. Nuthin. Yes, history has taught us not to expect much.

Lest the day be a total loss I went into the next room to begin my usual abolition’s to prepare for daily code practice. Ive been having issues with a paddle I bought and so I was fiddling with it and quite unintentionally unplugged my headphones with the speaker at high volume… and so began my sonata with key and bird! Lordy sakes! Then damned bird likes Morse! There for a good 1 minute and 30 odd seconds this gentle creature takes off with little or no encouragement from my paddle and begins a sonorous concert in our living room. What hath God Wrought indeed. After the first short burst I had to try again and so began pounding away on the key and much to my amazement it began again. Lordy sakes! Well now!  This all happened on Thursday afternoon. Since than I have tried KSM, WWV, some contest exchanges and other random Morse conversations. “The Bird” seems to have a propensity to sing more consistently with 20-25 words per minute and paddling rather than straight keying, and I attribute this more to syncopation rather than a bias toward key types. Much later I found that if I listened to SSB  conversations I could or should plan on “The Bird” being out of song service for at least an hour. SSB could put him down for possibly more than an hour although I am not in want of testing its mettle just yet. We need to make it through Mothers Day before I try anything even slightly dangerous, for after 37 years of searching we now have a singing bird!

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG


Posted by on May 9, 2010 in Family, Radio


3 responses to “Canary Tales

  1. Julian G4ILO

    May 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    A canary that preferds CW? Obvoiusly a discerning bird.

    I wonder what would happen if you played some RTTY or Olivia?

  2. w5pg

    May 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Like the bird that lays eggs, the color of which is dictated by the color it happens to be looking at; I fear stripped gears in our canary as in the hen that was looking at a plaid table clothe when laying its egg.

  3. Ian, Whitney, Hannah, Chloe, and Jackson

    May 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    What a nice read! I wish I could’ve been there to go get the black market singing bird!! 🙂 I love reading your little tid bits on life. It makes me feel like I am there!

    I love you very much,


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