Peacock story

Two weeks of posting every day and now a minister has announced that these days will continue until April 15. Which is no longer tax day persons US, you have until mid-July. In an alternate reality this April 15 would have found my mother, my child and I very near the place of my birth which would have made some good inter generational stories. I fear that all of this time away from people is making my brain soupy and my personality sharper, more reactive, more prone to rage or despair. The good news is that given my very contained environment, none of these feelings stick around long. We are just missing stimulation – spice, crunch, people we don’t know, movement through space – and so emotions can provide some entertainment.

Fleeing the meringue.

Writing every day and posting it is bound to reveal some lunacy, some ick and some tipping over, like a mythical cow at night, but this is also an opportunity to see what arises.

I grew up mostly on a farm in rural Oregon. My mother loves plants and animals and so we had a bit of everything in stages. The cows destroyed our fences so that was a very brief chapter, the guinea hens were raucous and no one was sad when that chapter ended but the goats were always around. Goats are good cheer. Chickens make sense because everyone loves eggs and sheep were a lot of work and so eventually they ended. We had geese when I was little and I have an inordinate fear of them. And yes, there is a Greek word for it, and they deserve it because those sneaky little hissers loved nothing more than to hunker down, snake their necks low and stealthy and pinch/bite the ankles of children. I have also been attacked by beautiful roosters who fling their sharp talons in front of them as they flurry wing at your face.

We also had many cats and I kind of wish I had one to squeeze right now.

At some point my mother got peacocks and she still has them. When friends would come over to spend the night when I was little they would wake me up convinced that a woman was being violated in the chicken yard because of the peacock shrieks. When the males molted we scrounged all their beautiful feathers and saved them in a box in the planting shed. Peacocks are mildly more entertaining than chickens but they don’t follow the chicken rules of returning to the safety of the chicken house when the sun sets. The peacocks and their ladies, the pea hens, preferred to roost in the ancient gnarled apple trees someone had planted long ago, right after Oregon was declared free land booty for white men (only white ones).

Arguably the most generous federal land act in American history, the law legitimized the 640-acre claims provided in 1843 under the Provisional Government, with the proviso that white male citizens were entitled to 320 acres and their wives were eligible for 320 acres. For citizens arriving after 1850, the acreage limitation was halved, so a married couple could receive a total of 320 acres. To gain legal title to property, claimants had to reside and make improvements on the land for four years.

Section 4 of the Donation Law outlined the requirements for eligibility: “granted to every white settler or occupant of the public lands, American half-breed Indians included, above the age of 18 years, being a citizen of the United States, or having made a declaration according to law of his intention to become a citizen. In effect, the Oregon Donation Land Law benefited incoming whites and dispossessed Indians.

But I digress. Let’s talk about pretty birds. My mother had a system of shooshing birds out of trees after dark and herding them into the chicken coop where they would have to spend the night with the lowly chickens. Herding peacocks with their light dancing gait and their swishy tails is absurdist at best so she needed help.

You want me to go where?

She drafted me that evening and we walked out into the dark summer evening with flashlights to scare the birds into a safety they did not want. I was annoyed at this being a job for me given that these were not my birds but I stood under the apple tree and waited while my mother did her peacock shooing. Something warm and soft dropped on my head in the dark. A rotten apple falling from the tree. I put my hand up and encountered a dripping crown of peacock shit. I shrieked and cried and my mother whirled and turned her flashlight on me.

Yes I do empty my bowels when I’m scared. Like you do before giving an important speech.

My mother laughed and laughed, bent over in hysterics at the poop while I stood in the dark feeling the warm diarrhea drip down my face. And then, oh yes justice, she stood up and plop, some more peacocks emptied their cargo right on her face. And then we both screamed and ran inside to bathe. She never made me help with peacock wrangling again.

Ask not on whom the peacock shits my friend, the peacock shits on you.

1 thought on “Peacock story”

  1. I love these stories when you lived with your mom and the farm growing up. More please!! You watched your mom experiment, fail and try again. Doesn’t sound glamorous but very real and super interesting -to me who grew up with a depressed single mom in the burbs of Sacramento. Most interesting thing I could do was walk to the Lucky’s grocery store! I love to know what you learned about the animals you had to take care of, or were forced to.

    Those cat socks at the best. It’s amazing the comfort that a good cat can provide. My son is crazy about cats. I guess I am too.



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