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The Late Early

I am deeply, morbidly depressed. Melancholy beyond description.


Early died.  Herein, I guess I have to refer to him as “the late Early”.
 
Yesterday, when I went to let him out of the cage to roam freely around the barnyard, he seemed oddly quiet. He remained laying in his nest. I stroked him and picked him up for a bit of tender fawning, wondered why he was being so calm. Then I placed him back down, and watched him settle back into his comfortable position by the food bowl. Humm…. Odd.


Mark and I took his mother out to lunch, and the subject of peacocks came up. I gushed about my affinity for this bird and how he has touched my heart more than all the other animals I’ve been working with. I have no qualms about my favoritism.  Early is representative of many things. He is the first creature I hatched on my own in an incubator. The only surviving egg out of two big batches of peacock eggs, which makes him seem more precious and rare. Unlike the chickens, he is stoic and delicate – exotic as he gracefully struts about in his regal way. His tail is filling out and getting long. He looks otherworldly out there in the midst of everyday chickens. Early seems a tangible symbol that even though I’ve embraced this world of mud and outdoor living, I’ve kept an element of elegance in the package. I simply adored this bird, both because of his personality and the meaning I attach to his existence. 
 

But when we came home from lunch, he was dead, lying peacefully by his bowl. Clearly, he’d been sick and that was why he’d been so quiet that morning. I was grateful he hadn’t died because a dog attacked or he had been eaten by a opossum or fox. I don’t know if I could’ve handled that. Nevertheless, when a pet dies because it’s sick, I wonder if I could have prevented it. Did I feed him too much or the wrong combination of nutrients? Was the water I provided tainted? Was the cage unclean? I go above and beyond to create a clean environment for my animals, so it is unlikely I could have done anything more to keep him healthy.

Nevertheless, I feel so badly when I lose them. I was at least grateful he died peacefully, nestled in the place he considered home. Even though the pen was open and he could have crawled away to a quiet dark place, he felt secure there in that familiar place.


We inspected the bird, just to assure ourselves that there was no foul (fowl?) play, and speculated on what happened.


Mark said, “Maybe it’s the heat.”


The fact is, it’s been over 100 degrees outside for about two weeks now, and the animals have been suffering. I shaved my angoras, worried about them getting heat stroke, and I’ve been stress out about the llamas because they are dearly in need of a sheering (the man to do the job right t is out of town for one more week). But the fact is, Early has total freedom during the day and usually spends his time in the barn or under the workmen’s truck in the shade. Besides which, peacocks are tropical by nature. You have more problems keeping them healthy in the winter than the summer.


We decided he was probably just sick.


The peacock eggs in my incubator were due to hatch several days ago, but it looks like they were unsuccessful.  Bummer. If they hatched, I could imagine Early’s little soul winging it over to an egg – then it would be like he was staying with me. But no. I am a peacock-less girl now. The elegance in my world was fleeting. 


Mark said, “Don’t be sad. I’ll buy you some healthy, grown peacocks. No more guessing or dissapointment that way.”

“I don’t want adult peacocks,” I said, (This felt not unlike someone like telling a little kid you will buy them a puppy moments after they discover their dog has been hit by a car. Beloved pets are not so easily replaced when you have formed a relationship with them). “Adult peacocks are aloof because they don’t imprint on you.”


“I’ll get you young birds.”

“How do you expect to do that?”

“I’ll find them,” he said.

i don’t think he can, but I felt the sentiment was sweet.

Later that night, we heard the dogs suddenly barking like crazy. Mark gets up out of bed, gets his riffle and stomps out into the night.


I knew what he was doing. He thought that if something was coming to eat my ducks again, this time he was going to blow it away.


I said, “Don’t accidentally shoot Cheese or Crackers! Or the dogs!”

“Don’t worry.”


Now, I’ve never seen my husband shoot a gun, and I’m not convinced it’s as easy as he says, even though the gun he bought was chosen because it has a powerful aiming scope, and when he tried it, he hit the target every time. He says its user friendly. Nevertheless, the idea of my ballerina boy wielding a gun is too weird to accept. This is beyond the scope of my husband definition. I mean, the guy is multifaceted, true, but blowing little animal’s brains out doesn’t seem to fit his image.  I waited, wrestling with a sick feeling as I listened for the sound of that gun going off. I had pictures rolling around in my head of my husband hopping back into the bedroom because he’d shot off a toe or something.


I imagined he was thinking, “After the peacock, I’ll be damned if anything is going to pick off any more of my wife’s birds. Lord knows, it will send her into the brinks of despair – then who will do the laundry?” 

So, I took his willingness to get up out of bed to go hunt the poultry enemy as an act of love, even though it did feel like I was in an episode of the twilight zone.


It was a false call, thankfully. In the morning, the ducks were well. Out by the barn, something had eaten one of my guineas however. I haven’t mentioned it, but the five babies wandered away and became wildlife dinner days after we got them, but my adult guineas have been loyal, recognizing home and sticking close. Alas, now I am down to two game birds. If they are male and female, (I’ll check it out) I’m going to cage them together so they can have some babies. If not, I’ll wait until spring to try game hens again.


Mark said, “when the barn is finished, we will get the electricity installed and we can put motion sensors and lights out there. That will make a big difference and you won’t have to worry so much about predators.”

I’m sure he is right. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m having a bad poultry week now.
 

I am really upset about the peacock. It feels not unlike when a beloved dog dies – I miss him dreadfully. I even cried thinking about him, about his cute little peeping the day he hatched and how he reacted in such an excited, attached way whenever I came near the cage.  I know it is silly, but I formed an attachment to that dang bird – which I’m careful not to do with the farm animals (For practical reasons. After all, they are not like the domesticated pets in the house. Horses are the exception of course. And donkey. And the llamas. Oh, why not admit it; I grow attached to them all.)


I will miss the late Early. I’m not giving up on peacocks, but I will take my time finding new birds to give that touch of elegance to my existence. I will wait until the barn is finished and we have a perfect peacock pen built. And then I will look at young birds and see if they take to me. When I see one with that special look in his eye, I’ll think “bingo.” And I’ll probably name him just that.  


 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

14 responses »

  1. I am so sorry to hear about Early! :-(Hope he is enjoying bird heaven.. or being reincarnated as a wolf or something…My condolences for your loss. We were all rooting for Early.

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  2. Ginny,Like Jessica I am so sorry! I know what it feels like to lose a little one (animal). I just recently lost one of my ferrets and was so devestated that I was having a hard time with the other ones. But I know that they are in a better place! Lots of love.

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  3. HAHAHA the LATE early….hehehe…..I am only laughing now because I believe the mourning period has endedps. i miss you

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