TBT - (1981) "The Trouble With Parrots - Part 1: 'The Raid'".

"I love parrots in the springtime . . . when it drizzles". Some of you are old enough to remember a song with lyrics something like that. When I was running a wild animal compound in Honduras in the '70s with Charlie Mac Gowan we often had hundreds of caged parrots that would make a tremendous amount of squawking noises whenever it was going to rain. An early warning system for weather change.

Parrots had become a high demand commodity in the pet trade by the late '70s. But the growing number of regulations concerning parrots in each country of origin and the U.S., and the huge financial investment and risks associated with the parrot business turned me off from continued participation. So by 1980 I made a career change and went into the tropical ornamental foliage business. Hey - I like plants too!

A friend that stayed in the parrot business was shipping them out of Guatemala in 1981 and offered to help me look for suppliers of plant cutting for our Florida nursery. So when I flew into Guatemala City I went looking for my friend JR at the Hotel Spring - a historic colonial building run by a little old lady in the center of the city. I got a room for myself and then JR arranged for one of his locals to guide me in the countryside early the next day to look for Guatemalan plant nurseries.

The following day it went well for my search - we located several plant nurseries out in the countryside willing to export to our Florida operation. It was interesting to note that the best nurseries were in areas held by the rebels in this crazy civil war they had going down there. I asked one of the nursery owners how he managed to stay in business with all this upheaval going on for so many years. He said: "All I have to do is keep paying my 'taxes' - to both sides".

When I got back to the Hotel Spring about 7PM (there was a curfew on driving in the countryside at night) the little old lady that ran the hotel was going nuts. She said that the police had raided the hotel and grabbed up all the Americans in the place and were looking for me too since I was on the register. Then later one of JR's men showed up and told me the police had arrested JR and the others for 'Parrot Smuggling' and threw them all into the worst jail in the city.

I doubted the police would be back for me - but . . . I was staying on the alert, as usual. By morning it looked like I was in the clear - so now the question was what would I be able to do to help out JR? I drove down to check out the jail. Naw - no breaking him out of there! The jail was a real fortress. So I contacted a Guatemalan attorney I knew who had some strong political clout in the country, Julio Cintron, and he went to check out the situation at the jail. The police at the jail grabbed up Julio for back alimony and child support payments! Now Julio was in jail too! Humm . .

That night after a late dinner and a few drinks I went back to the Hotel Spring and laid down to sleep, only to be woken about 1AM with some loud music blasting through the building and into the large open courtyard. I went to investigate the source at the ground level of the hotel and found a group of Americans playing some great rock and roll on their musical instruments in a room with their door open. Seeing me they motioned to come in and passed over a rum bottle. It turned out to be the band for Ted Nugent and they were taking a break in Guatemala from their tour schedule in the States. I asked: "Where is Ted?" They said that Ted was hunting in Montana - he can only go so long without killing something - and none of the rest of the band was into hunting. They could have brought Ted with them to Guatemala if he wanted to do some killing, except the hunted shoot back down there. Just another 'Chicken Hawk'.

Next TBT - 'The Great Escape'!