Will Hart loves his pet cockatoo Geronimo enough to risk life and limb. So when the bird escaped from its cage Tuesday, he went after it all the way up a tree, 75 feet above the ground.
"I raised him since he was 6 weeks old," Hart, accompanied by 6-year-old Geronimo, told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "I ... hand fed him, as you would a child, every three hours. He just is, like, a part of my family, as one of my kids … I mean, he's priceless to me. I'd do anything for him."
Hart, of Porter, Texas, chased Geronimo around the yard for a couple hours until the bird finally settled in a tree. Hart thought he could bring the bird down and shimmied up two different trees — he jumped from a smaller tree onto the larger and finally managed to grab his bird. But with Geronimo in one hand, Hart, was unable to make it back down safely.
Relatives called the local fire department, but their ladder was not long enough. Then the Houston Fire Department brought in their helicopter, but the rope was too short. Eventually the Coast Guard was called.
"I realized I just got in a bad situation," Hart said. "I could possibility come back down, but not with him in my arms. I just didn't want to let him go. Like I said, he was like one of my kids."
Petty officer Chuck Medema, the Coast Guard Rescuer responsible for Hart's rescue, had never been involved in a tree rescue before and had certainly never seen anything quite like this.
"Well, basically, we just got a report and we went out and we searched and we seen him in the tree on a branch," he said. "We just tried to come down next to him, like about 10 feet off the tree or so, and work our way into the tree so we could actually get to him. And then we just tried to hook our rescue equipment around him and pick him up off the tree branch."
All the activity scared Geronimo. Hart said the bird is protective of him and tried to bite Medema. Hart tried to cover the beak but then Geronimo bit him — all the more reason for Hart to be grateful to Medema.
"I just thank him for jeopardizing his life," he said. "I mean, just thank him. I mean, it's been a dreadful night if I had to stay up there all night."
Hart's son plans on enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard.
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