It was during an early morning trip out to the chicken yard that I first saw the peacocks that were to settle in for a long visit at our place one summer. I was carrying a bucket of scraps for the chickens in each hand, and when I spotted those two strange birds with the long, drooping tails in the chicken yard, I dropped the buckets in my surprise.
They were surprised, too, and they took to the air, startling me even more. These birds were larger than pheasants, but they sure could fly, something their chicken cousins could never do—at least, not like this. The pair flew several hundred yards across our place, then across the road and up, up, up into the tall elm trees surrounding our neighbor’s house. I couldn’t believe it! I hurried back to the house, to share the experience with my kiddos. “Peacocks can really fly, guys! And by the way—there are peacocks in the tops of the neighbor’s trees—and they flew there from our chicken yard!”
The kids didn’t believe me. They’ve only seen peacocks in the zoo, and in the zoo, peacocks don’t generally fly. They strut, they preen, and they stroll. The males spread out their beautiful tail feathers and may even shake them impressively, while those watching fumble with cameras and oooh and aww.
But fly from the chicken yard high up into the neighbor’s trees? Nahh—couldn’t happen.
But it did happen, apparently. The next day, the peacocks were back, although I should probably call them “peafowl” to be more accurate. They appeared to be teen-aged birds, without the colorful tail feathers of the mature males.
The next morning they were back, once again waiting for me in the chicken yard. This time they flew out to our orchard, and I ran in and got the kids to show them. “See? I didn’t make it up!”
This time, though, little Mack happened to let the dogs out of their kennels at just that moment, and the dogs took off barking at the alien birds, and the birds took flight again.
We asked the fowl-raising people we knew in the area about them. Anybody lose any . . . um . . . peafowl? Everybody we talked to, however, was as puzzled as we were about these birds and where they had come from.
It gave our place a rather English Country Garden feel, actually, to have a pair of peafowl strolling sedately through our orchard in the early morning hours. As soon as I let the dogs out each morning, they would take off. I smiled every time I saw them. I really enjoyed our unusual and aristocratic visitors, but apparently my neighbors weren’t enjoying them. In my defense, I was unaware of what travails our neighbors were going through at the peafowls’ hands . . . er. . . feet.
I did wonder where they went during the day, and now and then I would hear their strange, piercing cries from the direction of one of my neighbor’s houses. But they weren’t my peafowl, so other than keeping my ears open in case anybody mentioned that they were missing a couple of peafowl . . . I didn’t worry too much about them. I assumed, I guess, that they were spending the daytimes roaming through the fields of GMO corn that rings our place.
Weeks passed. Summer was nearly over, and the afternoon shadows were getting longer and longer. The peafowl were still getting their breakfast at our place every morning, and then making themselves scarce when I let the dogs out.
My neighbors are the nicest people on the planet, I have decided. They are quiet, and like many people in our area, they stay to themselves and try to respect the privacy of others as much as possible. They keep their lawn neatly mowed and their cars washed and waxed.
But I wonder how long my neighbor Larry kept his peace before he finally called me.
“Hello, this is Larry. How are you, Amy?” came his cordial voice on the phone. Such a sweet gentleman he was, I mused.
“Well, hello, Larry! I’m fine. How are you?” I was trying to remember if Larry had ever called me before. No, I finally decided, he hadn’t. Whatever could be up?
We exchanged pleasantries about neighborhood doings until I really started wondering what was up. Why was he calling? Finally, it appeared that he was getting to something important.
“Amy, we’ve enjoyed having you all as neighbors,” he said. I could hear that was was taking a deep breath, as if he were girding himself up. “You’ve been good neighbors, we’ve always said that–always.” (Oh, okay, are they moving? Is that what’s up?)
“And—we’ve even enjoyed your animals. Your chickens are fun to listen to, and those ducks! The ducks are great! Sometimes they come up in our yard, and we throw them bread crumbs . . . but . . .”
(Um, okay, BUT . . .?)
Now his tone changed and it almost sounded like his teeth were clenched, bless the poor gentle man. It was paining him to say this, but he was finally on a roll. He would not be stopped.
“But . . . but your peacocks . . . are driving us . . . nuts!!” Now I could just sense the sweat running down in rivulets on the poor man’s face, and I could hear his wife prompting him in the background. “They sit on our roof and peek in the upper floor windows, and their cries are awful! So loud! They wake us up at dawn! And . . . and . . . to top it all off, we had some tomato plants potted on our back deck, and the tomatoes were just beginning to turn red when they . . . they ate them, plants and all! And their droppings! They’re all over the place, Amy, and while we don’t blame you for wanting them as pets . . . they are quite exotic and all . . . we just wonder if you could corral them and . . . and . . . keep them at home . . .at least part of the time . . . if it was even possible, I mean?”
I actually tried to interrupt the man a couple of times during his carefully rehearsed oration, but he wouldn’t pause until he had finished. I dreaded and was relieved at the same time to tell him: “Larry, those peacocks don’t belong to us.”
There was an awkward silence, and then he began stammering and stuttering all over the place. “They aren’t yours? Well, I AM sorry. How embarrassing. With all your other birds and animals, naturally, we assumed. . .”
Naturally. I assured him that no harm was done, that I was just as puzzled as he was as to where they had come from, etc. I even apologized for the tiresome birds. After all, if we didn’t keep chickens, probably the peafowl wouldn’t have been attracted to our neck of the woods.
“So you wouldn’t be adverse to . . .” he forged on, miserably, “our trying to chase them off? We haven’t done that yet because we thought they were yours. . .”
My poor neighbors! They had endured a summer of these two peafowl peeping into their bedroom windows, squawking and pooping and devouring their potted plants, and had put up with it all because they had assumed that the birds were ours.
Finally, when they could take it no longer—the loss of their precious tomato plants must have been the last straw—they had compiled their complaints and gently, gently, laid them out to us.
The peafowl disappeared a few days later, and I never really found out what happened to them. My Mom says she knows, but she won’t tell me. I guess it has something to do with an awful moment when my other neighbor, Bill, came out his back door, heard something above him, looked up, and got it in the face. You know what the “it” was, don’t you, Gentle Reader?
So that was the end of the Peacock Summer and, apparently, the end of the peacocks, too. We haven’t seen them since.
I can’t say that I’ve missed them.
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