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Peacock Pick me Up

  “Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern
resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”
— Leonardo da Vinci

 When some girls feel blue and need a pick me up, they buy themselves a new pair of shoes.  Me?  I’m not the shoe type.
I did, however, find something to buy today to lift my spirits.

    Mark and I went to the flea market with Ronnie and Louise; a couple we’ve become good friends with, who also happen to be true flea market aficionados. Denver’s never been too see the massive flea market hidden some 1 ½ hour from where we live, so we dragged her out of bed at 7am to join us. Neva always tags along so she can do her monthly begging for a miniature goat (and yes, I’m weakening as the memory of our first goat and all the trouble he caused fades). Kent – well, Kent is sixteen, so he won’t get out of bed for anything on a Saturday, ESPECIALLY something as mundane as a flea market.
    It was overcast and cold, so there weren’t many vendors. Even the produce aisles seemed lacking. I didn’t find a single interesting bottle for the three new liquors I have ready to rack (cranberry, kiwi, and lemon – all in anticipation of having some light flavors to spike summer tea with in a few months). There were no interesting books to buy or huge boxes of produce to drag home for wine making, or odd little knick knacks that can be used to make something interesting. It was just one of those off days when you figure it was a wasted trip.

    But it wouldn’t be a day at the flea market without me checking out the livestock area. This, as you can imagine, is the great attraction for Neva and I, and today, perhaps because spring is around the corner, the market was loaded with fowl. There were cages and cages of chickens, fighting roosters (hate that), geese, ducks, and rabbits. All of these are usually bought for eating, I’ll have you know, so Neva and I shop in this area with the same intensity of a person visiting the pound determined to bring home a puppy to save him from death row.
    While I was admiring a bunch of huge, exotic turkeys, Denver nudged me and said, “Um… mom….. check out the bundle hanging on the truck.”

   At first I thought the seller was displaying just a bunch of feathers, but on second glance I realized it was a peacock. His body was trussed up and hanging by a cord, like a broken arm in a sling, except his tail was hanging free and unencumbered. They often transport peacocks this way because, when put a cage, the birds move around nervously,  and that will destroy their tail as it brushes against the bars of the confinement. Peafowl also happen to have huge talons that can hurt you if you try to handle them when they are feeling frantic. so keeping them immobile makes transportation easy. 

    I asked how much she wanted for the trussed up bird, then said, “I’ll take it.”
I told the woman about my misadventures with trying to raise peacocks.
She said, “It’s always hard to get them through the first year, but if you can make it ‘till they’re one, your good to go.”
I told her how heartbroken I was when my four month old peacock, hatched by hand in my incubator, passed on.
She listened politely, and then said, “I have something special in the back of my truck. I was saving them for a fellow who came by here a few hours ago, but he hasn’t come back yet. Now, I’m thinking you seem like the person meant to take home these special birds . . .  that is,  if you want to take a look.”

Well, no harm in looking.

   She showed me two more trussed up peacocks. They were both three years old, which meant they had just reached full maturity – peacocks don’t even start getting their tails until they are two years old and they don’t lay until they’re three. These two happened to be a mating pair, and man, were they beautiful.  The male had a full, iridescent tail filled with gold and the deepest cobalt blue head. The female’s neck feathers were lime – the rest of her, like all female peacocks, is pretty much gray. They were healthy, strikingly beautiful and she was selling them (to the right person) for half what an adult peafowl usually costs.

     I fell in love instantly and fumbled in my handbag for the “emergency cash” I have hidden deep in a secret compartment – you know that 100 dollar bill you tuck away for that day when your car breaks down in a bad section of town and your charge card is declined and it’s a dark and stormy night, but you will be prepared thanks to that bill you tucked away and forgot for just such a purpose.

I scraped together all the cash I had and it was just enough….

Denver and I carried the birds to the car, making up probable excuses for why I had to purchase these peacocks. We figured it was likely Mark would kill me, but hey, some things are worth the risk.

    When we met up with Mark and Ronnie a few minutes later, Mark said, “I thought I’d find you at the livestock area. I was sure you’d be buying birds.”
    “I did,” I mumbled.
     “Uh Oh. What did you buy? Not those awful geese – I told you I hate geese. They’re mean.”
      “Now, would I buy birds knowing you don’t want them around our home?” I said, blinking innocently.
      “Crap, don’t tell me you bought one of those dumb turkeys.”
     “Of course not. I was fascinated by them, mind you, but I know you’d make me eat them eventually, so I just admired them from afar.”
     “Well, you have 60 baby chickens on order, so I know you aren’t purchasing chickens. What did you buy?”
      I confessed. Not like he wasn’t going to find out soon enough.
      Mark rolled his eyes, groaned and said, “This is the LAST TIME. If this doesn’t work, you have to give it up. Raising peacocks is just too expensive because they don’t make it.”
      I explained that because these peacocks are mature adults, they would be hearty and we could count on them surviving (other than if they get eaten by a bear or something). Furthermore, I got a great deal on them. But I promised that if they didn’t survive, I would forget the entire peacock ordeal. Heck, I don’t want to live with the guilt and disappointment of running a peacock graveyard.
     “As long as we’re agreed,” he said, mumbling about how he was going to buy himself a load of wood if we were just going to indulge ourselves without spousal permission nowadays.
   I guess it is only fair that if this peacock adventure doesn’t work, I give up on the idea of gracing my barnyard with delicate, exotic birds. But honestly, I can’t imagine my ever giving up now that I’ve got my mind set on peafowl, and I’m sure Mark is thinking the same thing. I happen to be someone who rarely throws in the towel. Each time you fail, you learn something from the experience, and that brings you closer to accomplishing your heart’s content. Makes quitting anything rather impossible, because in your heart and head you can’t help but think, “If I can just get one more chance, I’ll get it right.”
    We drove home with the peacocks sitting in Neva and Denver’s laps – it was a great ordeal to position them to keep the tail intact. Denver said, “Life is so interesting now. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a peacock. I mean, you see them at Bush Gardens and places like that, but how often do you have one sitting on your lap so you can stroke the feathers and look into their eyes. It’s weird, but cool.”
     I was delighted not only that my kids are exposed to novel experiences, but that they notice and appreciate the opportunities that come from trying new things.

     For those of you who don’t know… peacocks stink. I don’t mean they have that sour, odd smell of chickens cooped in a cage for a bit, or a litter box or something. I mean Peafowl smell so badly that when you’re in the car with them, everyone starts gagging and coughing and their eyes tear up. Obviously, the fact that they were confined inside tight packages with their waste for hours on end didn’t help. Of course, it didn’t bother me because I have no sense of smell. I just sat there smiling at the little fellows, marveling at their beauty and their gentle, graceful mannerisms and planning what I’ll do with the tail feathers as they shed.
    All the way home, I listened to the family members with working noses complaining about the hardships of peacock transport. Mark drove with a hat pulled over his brow and his shirt pulled up over his nose. All the windows had to remain open, despite the freezing cold. Nothing like a little dramatic interpretation to gain sympathy for all the hardships loved ones endure when humoring you.
    Meanwhile, we tossed names out for discussion, considering everything from the names of the characters in my books, to re-issuing past peacock names to honor those  that didn’t survive. We ended up giving these two original names. We are calling the male Prism, partially because of his colors, but also because it was the name of a dance Mark once choreographed that we have very fond memories of, and the female will be called Jewel. 

Can’t wait for my first peacock eggs. Shall I eat them, hatch them, or sell them on e-bay for some crazy schmuck like me who can’t resist a challenge? Heck, if this mating pair lays well, I can do all of the above.

At home, we released the new members of the Hendry flock into my big chicken run. They will have to stay confined for two months until they learn this is home, and then they will have the run of my barn and pastures. They seemed grateful to finally escape their straight jackets, and they just mosied around the perimitor of the run curious to figure out where they were. The chickens and guineas, while a bit leery, didn’t seem all that bothered to share their digs with two oversized birds.

Knowing peacocks like to perch high, I dragged some big, fallen tree limbs into the run and wired them to the posts in the ceiling. The peacocks ignored these new roosts, but my guineas were delighted. (Just two days ago, I spent an hour with leather cleaner working on the coat I wear around the barn. Don’t ya know, it is now covered with mud again. Why do I bother?) As the sun went down, I visited the barn to feed the horses and to check on my new birds. All the other fowl was tucked in bed in the chicken house. The peacocks were still roaming. I guess they won’t be visiting the chicken house for awhile even though they will fit thorugh the door. I’m sure curious about where they’ll sleep this first night. I’ll sneak out there at sunrise to spy.  
    The way I look at it, if at first you don’t succeed, approach your goals from a new angle. I tried hatching peacock eggs. Tried raising peacock babies. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon the opportunity to bring home less fragile, mature birds. With all I’ve learned and all I’ve experienced, I think I’ve finally figured out how to have coveted peacock buddies to keep me company and to inspire reflection.      

    Wish me luck.   

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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