Saturday, July 4, 2009

Escape from Parrot Mountain

My day yesterday didn't go quite like I thought it would. I had planned to go have a touristy adventure of the World's Largest Ten Commandments type, giggly and sneery and kind of cute all at the same time, but for some reason it didn't quite happen.

My plan seemed to be off to a good start. My friend Bryan agreed to go with me, imagining a day of wacky tourist fun, and we hit the road only ten minutes late and following our plan. To start, we had a world's largest,in this case the World's Largest As Seen on TV Store:

largest as seen on tv store

Yes, just when you thought Pigeon Forge couldn't get more awful it still manages to surprise you. They're also currently building a Titanic "museum and attraction" that's actually shaped like the Titanic. It already looks like the kind of over the top tacky that makes you wonder why people come to Pigeon Forge at all, and I can't wait to get a picture of it. I might even visit.

After driving past the World's Largest something, we also had breakfast at a pancake house:

the Little House of Pancakes

This is what you do when you visit Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. You pick a pancake house and pull in for a pancake buffet, and once that's over, you head for your wacky adventure. Our planned destination was Parrot Mountain.

Parrot Mountain stumbled onto my tourist radar once before, and managed to fall off again without being visited. Last year when my friend Lauren and I went to Dollywood we noticed this sign high above the parking area:

parrot mountain?

Lauren had never heard of it, and I kept meaning to look into it, but never got much further than, "It's a bird place, like a zoo." Zoos don't have signs like that, though. Homemade Americana tourist attractions have signs like that, and I love those places. Like I said, though, I never got around to looking into it because I got busy and I sort of forgot about it until someone left a comment on my photo last week:

"Parrot Mountain is beautiful.It has all kinds of Parrots"

This intrigued me, so I went to look at their website. I was promised baby birds, lots of parrots, and a prayer garden with a replica of Jesus' tomb.

"Wait, what?" Bryan asked.

"It's a religious themed bird sanctuary!" I explained excitedly. "Look! Look at the coupon I found!"

expiration date

"We are totally going on Friday, as long as Jesus doesn't come back by then!"

See, I was expecting a homemade extravaganza full of snake handlers, but with parrots instead of snakes. That's not quite what we got, but you couldn't tell at first from the entrance:

Parrot Mountain

Angel statues and the sounds of shrieking birds greeted us after a sketchy uphill drive through the backwoods, but once we paid and got inside, we found birds. Lots of birds:


gray parrot

red parrots

The birds seemed well cared for, and had perches and cages and educational signs. We learned about habitats and tourism and what they ate and whether or not they were endangered, and we kind of forgot that we were looking for cheesy and possibly deeply religious tourism. Even when we actually did wander into the prayer garden, it was kind of peaceful:

Jesus in the Smokies

So, planned or otherwise, we did actually learn about birds. For one thing, we learned that they bite:

birds will bite

In the absence of fingers, they will also bite the hell out of signs:

ripped sign

We learned that toucans:

toucan pair

another toucan


will eat insects, amphibians, small lizards, and other birds. This carnivorous fact has never, ever been shared on the side of a Fruit Loops box, but now that I know the truth I can never look Toucan Sam in the eye again.

We also learned that birds are just a Hitchcock movie waiting to happen. I was innocently watching the Sun Conures groom each other:

sun conures

When suddenly one flew up to the front of the cage:

sun conure attack

Then another:

sun conure attack (2)

And then they were swarming!

sun conure attack (3)

sun conure attack (3)

They were biting and clawing at the cage and I swear one of them wanted me to put my fingers inside!

Amused and disturbed, we wandered away to the rest of the garden:


yellow crest

red closeup


sleeping yellow birds

It was while we were wandering the garden that this one talked to me:


He said "Hello", so I said "Hello", and then I was reading the sign explaining that Parrot Mountain is also a sanctuary for birds that have been abused, neglected, or whose owners can no longer care for them, and I realized the parrot knew how to say "Hello" because he used to be somebody's parrot and he had a home and a family and now he was all alone at Parrot Mountain with all the other parrots saying hi to random people who maybe reminded him of his lost family and I was stuffing a dollar into the donation box and somehow I stopped being a sneering tourist and I turned into a bleeding heart parrot saver and I'm not sure how that happened or what happened in between.

But the birds sure were pretty:

mottled green bird

Thank God I got out before I accidentally bought one.


Todd said...

"...and somehow I stopped being a sneering tourist and I turned into a bleeding heart parrot saver and I'm not sure how that happened or what happened in between."

What happened is that the Lord spoke to you through the beauty of His creation and has begun the holy process of melting away the cynicism and anger that has encased your heart lo these many years.

Joel said...

I'm not sure I'd phrase it like that, but it's true that I felt friendly and kind for the rest of the day.