I have had lots of pets in my time, but never one as unique as Bo-Beep. Bo-Beep was a Spruce Grouse that flew into my life in the early Sixties, and came along with my on some of my adventures up in Northern B.C.
When I worked for the B.C. Ministry of Forests in the 1960’s, I would practice a technique that I now know is called “slipping”. With a piece of string and a shoelace, I could catch a live grouse. I was pretty good at “slipping”, so I never hurt a grouse, and I always released it unharmed.
Normally, when I caught a grouse and released it, it would fly off into the nearest tree branch and watch me from there, or it would continue flying into the forest. Bo-Beep, however was different. He was not like any of the others.
When I first caught him, it was just like all the other grouse. I snuck in underneath him, chirping like a grouse, dangled the noose just underneath him, and then started to make agitated grouse sounds. Bo-Beep, like all the other grouse I have caught, stuck his head through the noose, and was yanked straight down off his tree limb. I removed the noose, checked to see if he wasn’t hurt, and then turned him free.
Instead of flying off, he cocked his head and looked at me. I walked right up to him, and picked him up off the ground. He didn’t struggle, but started to chirp contentedly.
I knew he wasn’t hurt, so I think that he must have still thought that I was a friend, rather than a predator. It also meant that he was an extremely stupid grouse, for which the spruce grouse are noted. Any bird this stupid would be wolf, coyote, or owl bait in very short order. Well, I couldn’t just leave him there. So I opened my shirt, tucked him in so that his head was sticking out of my shirt, and went back to work for the rest of the afternoon blazing trees. I thought that eventually he’d fly away, and I tried to let him loose a couple of times, but he never flew away. He just sat there, extremely happy.
Over the next few days, Bo-Beep came with me as I finished the timber cruising job I had been hired to do. My tent mates watched us and shook their heads. They thought he was really something. They’d never seen anything like it! When it came time to leave, since Bo-Beep still would not fly away, I decided to take him home with me.
When I took him to my Jeep, he flew right to the top of the bench seat, and perched there. He sat there all the way home, chirping and looking out the window at the passing scenery. Once home, I picked Bo-Beep up from the bench seat, and carried him into the house (much to the surprise of my wife), he flew to my lampshade and made himself at home.
After that, where I went, Bo-Beep went too. I provided him with a little saucer of water from which he would drink and splash around in, amusing us all. He even came with us when we went to my parents for supper. He would fly into the house, make his way over to my mother’s lampshade and sit there and chirp and doze until we were ready to leave.
In the time that he spent with us, I was able to learn many things about the spruce grouse. The first thing I learned was that they were very stupid. There were many times I had to save Bo-Beep from another mess which he had gotten himself into.
I also learned about the feeding habits of the Spruce Grouse. I tried feeding him lettuce, cucumber, and other types of food while he stayed with us, his favorite was the evergreen needles which I brought him. But with the food also came the bird poop. Bo-Beep loved his lampshade, and only made his messes around it. However, my wife and my mother were not amused by cleaning up after Bo-Beep. Eventually I found some newspaper, and put it under the lampshade for him, and then everything was fine.
But Bo-Beep was a wild bird, and had his own agenda. One day, I opened the front door to my house, and Bo-Beep took off from the lampshade, and flew out through the door into the nearby forest. While I never saw Bo-Beep again, sometimes I imagine I see him in the faces of all the grouse I have observed since. I have never come across another grouse quite like Bo-Beep