The Great Greenville Peacock Plumage Caper


Near Darke

By Hank Nuwer

Female peafowl are peahens. Male peafowl are peacocks. People who molest the birds are peabrains.

This tearful tale of tail-feather thievery began late in the night of July 24, 1970.

Greenville police got a call that the birds were strutting loose about town. Vandals used wirecutters to snip the fence around their pen.

As the birds stepped out of the opening, the peabrains set to work.

The thieves yanked long feathers from the peacock tails as a souvenir of their “fowl” deed.

Park commissioner Dwight Brown concluded the poor birds felt stressed. He said police found they had dropped additional feathers as they traveled.

The search went on for most of the next week. Three balding male birds were found hiding in an alley behind a shoe store on Broadway.

The identity of the peabrains was never learned.

The feathers grew back.

For this column, I decided to do some deep, intensive search on peacocks. For example, ahem, I read up on peacocks in Wikipedia.

Just kidding.

Local media interest in peacocks went back to Aug. 28, 1884. The Darke County Democratic Advocate reported that peacocks had value as a killer of snakes and potato bugs.

The New York Sun in 1912 reported that Solomon, the wealthy son of David, imported peacocks from India and China.

The Greeks revered the peacock and associated it with Juno, the goddess of women.

Peacocks were especially treasured in China.

Great 19th century Chinese statesmen such as Li Hongzhang were permitted to wear an iridescent peacock feather with two eyes as a sign of eminence.

Couch potatoes know that the NBC peacock was first used as a logo in 1956 as black-and-white TV went the way of the dodo.

If you are a movie buff, you know that the slinky dress Hedy Lamarr wore as Delilah in the 1956 epic Ten Commandments was constructed out of peacock feathers.

However, you may not know the peacocks were raised on moviemaker Cecil B. DeMille’s ranch.

I can just see those poor peacocks scrambling for cover when old Cecil came near them.

It is not uncommon to see peacocks strutting their stuff on farms. In Darke County last century, a conservationist and farmer named Ira Warrick kept a large flock.

Famed Georgia short story writer Flannery O’Connor kept dozens on Andalusia, her dairy farm.

The Greenville Daily Advocate of 1963 reported that peacocks can get aggressive. The paper quoted a naturalist who said they were “as sinuous as a snake, as stealthy as a cat, and as wary as an old bull bison.”

In the wild, peacocks prefer to roost in trees. They eat bugs, berries, greens and grains.

In captivity, they consume food pellets, lettuce, cracked corn, boiled eggs, and cooked rice.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that the blue peafowl hails from India, the green from Java.

Much rarer is the Congo peacock. It wasn’t even discovered until 1936.

The Congo peacock was discovered in the Congo. What a coincidence, huh?

Although peacocks are hardy birds, they do best in rainy and snowy seasons having a protective pen such as the metal-roofed one in Greenville.

Keeping them boarded up too long is a bad idea. If one gets a disease, chances are other birds will also.

Back in 1966, the Greenville park pen was along Park Drive. Residents claimed they couldn’t sleep. Males over four years old in mating season make screeching sounds like a buzzsaw or fingernails on a blackboard.

They also made a lot of noise the night their pen was raided. Frightened peacocks can make an incessant racket.

Aristotle said the birds have the feathers of an angel and the voices of a devil.

In fact, a couple Greenville peabrains driving past the old pen discovered they could get the birds yapping if they lay on their car horns.

That doubled the earache pain of residents.

So, the pen was moved to its present location. My wife Gosia and I get to the pen by crossing the quaint bridge over the creek.

Getting to the peacock pen does present a challenge. The flocks of Canada geese are quite a challenge for us to pass.

Plus, they can turn our boots into a sticky, gooey mess if we aren’t careful while walking.

The Daily Advocate once said this about the old saying, “proud as a peacock.”

“A peacock does not strut because it is proud.” He struts because his heavy, spreading tail “makes him clumsy.”

Imagine how you would walk if you had 30 extra pounds in the caboose.

Oops, you DO have 30 extra pounds in the caboose?

You have my condolences.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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