Photo by Jill Benton Glass
Humphrey was a gorgeous big male peacock with a tail he loved to fan out, the sunlight setting fire to each brilliant color. But he was more than just a bird; he was the coolest peacock around, our free-range Wal-Mart greeter, our welcoming ambassador to the world. Butler Greenwood Plantation B&B guests enjoying morning coffee on their galleries were often joined by Humphrey, who graciously accepted bits of croissants eaten right out of children’s outstretched hands, although he was actually partial to dry catfood, blueberries fresh off the bush, and the occasional tomato worm. He also especially loved when the bug collectors from the Audubon Insectarium stayed with us and set up their blacklights over white tarps to attract insects at night; Humphrey was the ant at the picnic.
He knew how handsome he was; he would perch on the B&B porch railings to let his tail hang over the side and admire himself in the glass panes of the French doors. And he also loved to get on the roof above one of the Jacuzzis; the modest bathers below didn’t realize he was only looking at himself in the skylight. He was a strong flyer and roosted nightly in the live oak trees.
He had a pet duck he bossed around, but it was only in springtime that he longed for love. I think he remembered that at his first home, some 20 years past, he’d had a mate, and there were cows nearby. There are cows across US 61 from our place, and each spring Humphrey would go to the edge of the highway and call and call across. The sheriff’s deputies got tired of running him back, and everybody who drove by would telephone to tattle on him, “Humphrey’s out by the road again.”
For two decades our guests looked forward to seeing him on every visit. When something big and wild (bobcat? stray dog? alligator?) killed him in the night, our Facebook page overflowed with heartbreaking posts from grieving fans, recalling how toddlers who had fed him were now college kids, how morning coffee on the porch would never be the same. Humphrey was given a dignified burial in the garden, the moving remembrances led by a beloved Baptist preacher conducting his first peacock funeral. We all loved Humphrey, and we hope there are plenty of mirrors or glass panes in peacock heaven. RIP.