How the Hen House Turns: What is Wild? Thinking of Mr. Peacock

How the Hen House Turns: What is Wild? Thinking of Mr. Peacock
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

Mr. Peacock wasn’t very wild. He would not let me approach, though he was very young, but he obviously wanted to be in the Hen House pen with the other birds. Every day, when he came over from the neighbor’s yard, he would wait on the Hen House roof until I filled the water troughs and put out the lay pellets and corn. Then he would hop down and play the “shy new kid on the block” for the day.

So what does wild mean? Number one in my dog-eared American Heritage Dictionary says it means, “occurring, growing, or living in a natural state; not domesticated, cultivated, or tamed.” The definition includes a lot of other things, too, like “savage, unruly and extravagant.”

Mr. Peacock, though gradually getting used to me, was a bit arbitrary. He allowed me to guide him into the dog igloo for safety at night, but he flew out of the pen and into the unsafe Ponderosa when he saw me coming. The Ponderosa was not safe, I realized too late, because one branch lay too close to the chicken wire that made a flimsy roof over the Hen House pen.

He was not domesticated, quite, but he was not “living in a natural state,” either ─ not at 7,200 feet in New Mexico. Peacocks are tropical birds, but hardy, they say ─ hardy enough for a 14 degree night and they can fly high into a tall Ponderosa tree.

Enough for Mr. Peacock, rest his gentle, hardy soul. I’m glad I knew him briefly. However, the question remains. What does it mean to be wild? Lucy and Bobbi geese hate to be petted, not even touched, though when I grab them to treat an injured foot, they quit struggling and complaining. They understand I’m trying to help them, like the lion with the thorn in his foot.

We have assumed, in much of our literature  that aliens ─ living beings from some place not Earth ─ are out to capture us, eat us, mangle our cars, and smash our buildings. They might be cultivated, but they don’t seem to be domesticated or tame. At least they don’t obey our traffic laws.

Is that the way it has to be? Would we go to some other planet, find some intriguing life forms and proceed to capture them, eat them, mangle their hydrogen buggies, smash their adobe huts and tear up their hammocks?

Are we that wild? Is everyone else out in the galaxy wild, even if they have enough sense to build space ships? I don’t think so.

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