Sunday, August 25, 2002

My father-in-law keeps a floating population of peafowl on the farm. I haven't done a head count recently, so I can't give an accurate figure. At one time there were over a dozen peacocks and peahens strutting around the place, shrieking and stealing cat food off of the in-law's kitchen porch. Their numbers are somewhat reduced, but they are still a visible and audible presence. Our house is about forty acres north of theirs and we have been spared the peafowl infestation, until now. First, the five geese that are the remainder of my father-in-law's more traditional poultry flock moved down to our barnyard. (They sneak in and eat the spilled grain from the sheep troughs when they are not honking and squawking like old church ladies mad at the minister.) Now one of the peacocks, apparently unhappy with his standing in this year's mating competition, has joined them on our side of the farm. We first realized he was over here when we began finding shed tail-feathers around the place. He has tried to move into the yard, much to Charlie, the house dog's disgust. Sheep he is used to. Llamas, he has adapted to. Peacocks are just too much. At the moment they are in a kind of stalemate, the peacock coming in under the fence rails when Charlie is inside, retreating down the hill to the barn when he is out.

Peacocks are remarkable creatures, hardy, but weirdly impractical. They grow those giant tails every year for mating displays, only to shed them at the end of the summer and start the whole process over. My boys have grown up gathering two and three foot long radiant rainbow-touched tail feathers off the ground every August. We have bundles of them stashed around, like summer sunlight stored in quills. It almost makes up for the trial of living with them. One would think, after seeing a male in full display, that these birds must have the most beautiful of all calls. Wrong. Imagine, if you will, the sound of someone crushing a cat under a giant rusty hinge, echoing off the hillside. Multiply that by the total number of nesting peafowl and you have our night time music when they are disturbed. Makes a great alarm system though.

Our friend is an India Blue Peacock, the kind usually raised domestically, but still found in the wilds of Southeast Asia. Susan commented today that, since he seems determined to stay, he should have a name. Being fresh out of ideas, I am taking suggestions. Drop me a line or leave your pick in the comments section!