When I wrote a few weeks ago about how much I missed the shrieking peacocks that used to live across the Intracoastal Waterway from my condo, I had no idea that so many people had very strong pro-peacock and anti-peacock feelings. Someone at my condo clipped the column and posted it on the downstairs bulletin board. Someone else ripped it down.
But the positive response far outweighed the anti-peacock faction.
I received telephone calls from a half-dozen people who wanted me to know where there still were peacocks in Pinellas County. Indeed, one woman, a tour guide at the county's Heritage Park, called to tell me about the coincidental arrival of a pair of peacocks in her area following the removal of the peacocks that had for so many years inhabited the Indian Shores Tiki Gardens attraction.
She said she was sure these were the same peacocks I used to hear serenade me from out of the dusk.
Perhaps more poignant was the mail I received.
One woman anonymously sent me five color snapshots (dated October 1982) of peacocks preening and posing. Three of the shots show the fanning tails in all their rich-colored splendor.
Her note read: "Your article in the Times this morning gave the impression that you enjoyed the peacocks almost as much as I did and do. Hopefully good homes were found. These photos are of some of the "Tiki Birds.'
I still have the photos. They're framing my computer terminal as I write this, along with the three peacock feathers she enclosed.
Another reader with a Clearwater address sent me one large peacock feather, carefully protected in cardboard and cellophane and stitched by hand to the cardboard so it could not slip and bend and break. Such care.
What she wrote touched me even more, so very much more:
"I was touched by your column in the Clearwater section (of the Times). I thought you would like to know that one of those peacocks has found a home.
"He came by one morning in early June. I was thrilled and certainly surprised. One does not usually have a peacock in the back yard but there he was. He eats right out of your hand and makes a little clucking sound when you talk to him. I named him Pasha.
"For several weeks, he was happy to live in my back yard. He would fly to my roof and then into some tall pines to roost at night. In the morning, he would glide down from his rather lofty perch like some lonely kite falling to the ground. I wanted him to keep to himself in the yard for fear some criminal-minded person would take shots at him.
"He was not to be put off and he now walks through our neighborhood getting handouts and eating the insects in all our yards. The neighbors have adopted him and a single honk of danger from him will call out a brigade of caring individuals. He will come to no harm if we can help it.
"It is a given that my house is his home. When people ask about him, we are referred to as his "owners.' But this is not so. He is a gift. We neither own him nor will we be able to keep him.
"Like a fine breeze or a refreshing rain, he is a part of life we can appreciate but never hold. We can only embrace the moment _ lightly.
"For as long as he is here, he will be guarded and loved. Have no fears for him. I, too, hope that others of his kind have found a friendly patch of ground _ someone else who will watch over them. But I can only hope and care for this one, our Pasha.
"He is the strong, silent type. He only cries out in situations of danger. Once, when his cries were loud, constant and very agitated, I went out to see a bobcat in my yard. Pasha was safe on the roof. The bobcat went away and has not been seen since. Pasha stayed on the roof or up in a tree for two days!
"We live next to an area where there will be a nature park. He will always have a safe haven and a tree to sleep in. I send you a small token. Perhaps if you hold it and listen _ like the seashell _ you will hear the cries of your friends again."
I cry when I read this.
Fred. W. Wright Jr. is a free-lance writer.