Peacock Hunting

I have been working diligently on the sequel to Almost Human.

Finally, I’m close to finishing More Than Human. Over the last six months, personal matters side-tracked my progress—well sort of. So, I’ve set a goal of a thousand words a day no matter what. I’m pleased to say it is working. I am several weeks into this endeavor.

Writers, write.

Often, I’m asked what inspires me to write. For me, the answer is simple. I strive to live a life worth writing about. Now this motto may just be an excuse to go off on an adventure. Either way, the payoff is grand.

I just finished a scene which comes early in the story that actually happened to me many years ago. Maybe not exactly as I wrote it. I changed the names of the characters and some of the setting but the action really happened. I’m sure this will resonate with some of my fellow writers. We writers are sponges, magnets. We collect snippets from our lives. We write to share them and make sense of it all.

I decided to include this scene as a posting. Consider it one of those postings an author does to feature an excerpt from his upcoming novel. It is rough and I am sure it will change by the final draft.

I have never tried something like this before but here it is.

(Excerpt from Chapter 2, More Than Human)…There was a chill and dampness in the morning air as Dr. Chris Raven leaned back in his chair sipping coffee on the porch. He loved the morning as it was the only time he had to himself. This was when he could enjoy the fruits of his labor, his wild animal compound.

It was fall and the days were growing shorter. The first snowfall had already whitened the surrounding mountains and the breeze coming out of the Northeast brought a chill. The Santa Ana winds would be coming soon bringing the first freeze. Tonight, he would have to make sure his trainers added extra bedding for the animals. Cold weather was the great leveler. If he did not prepare properly, animals could die.

This was the time he was able to watch his animals wake and greet the sunrise. By listening and watching, he was able to observe more of their wildness and less of their adaptation to captivity.

The first stirrings broke the morning stillness. A lone lion roared in a succession of moans and growls that he likened to someone sawing wood. A peacock sent out cries that reminded him of a woman crying for help. The monkeys chattered like birds. But the chimps were still sleeping.

He stretched out his long, lanky frame until his legs hung over the railing. He rocked his chair onto two legs in rhythm to his breathing and closed his eyes. In spite of all that had happened, he was at peace.

For months, his trainers had been noticing that something was eating the peacocks and other fowl that roamed the compound. The only evidence left of the missing birds was clusters of feathers blowing in the wind. Everyone had theories of what was eating them that ranged from coyotes to thieves. But today, he was sure he had solved the mystery.

“Good morning!” Dr. Ken Turner stepped through the french doors onto the porch. His boots echoed off the wooden planks. Raven placed his finger to his lips and whispered, “Shush, watch this.” Pointing across the front lawn, in the direction of the chimp cages, he continued, “So, I think I’ve solved the great mystery of the  missing peacocks.”

Turner scooted his chair next to him and looked in the direction he was pointing. Several peacocks were feeding near one of the chimp enclosures. This was not surprising as chimps had sloppy eating habits and often left an abundance of scraps for the birds to find.

“Look how close they’re getting. Usually, they’re more cautious than this. Those scraps must be tempting,” Raven said.

Turner leaned forward placing his elbows on the railing, almost spilling his coffee, and said, “It’s a good thing the chimps are still bedded down. Those bars are wide enough for one to grab anything within reach.”

Raven grimaced, deepening the wrinkles across his cheeks and said, “I know. Chimps prefer to eat fruits and vegetables but they’re not above enjoying a little fresh meat. Some of my crew have learned the hard way. We put that small fence around the cage as a sort of warning. The handlers can get so wrapped up in their work they forget they’re within reach.”

“Well, I don’t think these birds got the memo,” Turner replied.

They both watched as the peacocks pecked and scratched to the very edge of the bars.

“I think we’re about to see what’s been going on,” Raven whispered, pointing to what appeared to be a large pile of blankets that the chimps used for bedding and continued, “At first, I couldn’t understand why they were getting so close—but watch. This has been going on all morning.”

“Why are the bedding blankets laying outside getting damp?” Turner asked.

“Just wait and see,” Raven answered.

Turner knew it was standard procedure in chimp facilities, the world over, to provide dry blankets every evening. Chimps would go to great lengths to make warm, dry sleeping nests in their den boxes. But, not this morning, the pile lay in a damp heap next to the bars. But he had not long to wonder. From within the folds of the pile a biscuit of monkey chow arced in the air landing on the ribbon of cement that surrounded the cage. Something had flipped it into the air. The peacocks raced each other to get to it and in their rush were within reach. The winner pecked and scratched the biscuit in earnest.

“I don’t think it will be much longer,” Raven said. He had no sooner whispered when the blur of a large hairy, black arm shot out from between the bars and grabbed the peacock. Mayhem broke out as a chimp leaped up scattering the pile of blankets as the other peacocks took flight, in all directions.

The chimp hooted in piercing wails running bipedal, back and forth, dragging the struggling bird against the bars. The rest of the chimps ran out of their den box adding to the chaos, hooting and screaming.

Turner realized that they had not been sleeping at all but had been hiding in wait. Finally, the chimps settled down to feast, plucking the bird as it still struggled. They grunted as they tore the peacock apart, fighting over it more than sharing.

Raven jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “I’ve always known chimps were capable of planning but this takes the cake!”

“This reminds me of observations in the wild, of chimps stripping the leaves off sticks before licking them, and putting them down into termite mounds to—to termite fish, but in this case, I guess we just witnessed peacock fishing or more accurately, hunting,” Turner said.

“Yes, exactly, I would say the score is chimps one, peacocks nothing,” Raven said. They headed out to check on the aftermath. As they passed the big cat arena, Raven continued, “It is interesting how much there’s still to learn from working with these guys.” He stooped to pick up a clump of feathers blowing across the walkway and said, “They have as much food as they could ever want. Yet, the desire to fish, or hunt, is still so pre-wired in them, they’ll go to great lengths to work at it. It’s amazing.”

Turner stood watching the chimps from across the walk and said, “I’m reminded of something Lester once told me about chimps, though I think he was referring to his chimp, Girlie—but I have to say, it applies to all the chimps we work—no matter what the circumstances.”

“What’s that?” asked Raven.

ken-and-moja.jpg“Our chimps have a foot in two worlds, ours and theirs. They have to balance the behavior they’ve learned to cope with us; with the behavior, they bring from their world, their instincts—It’s got to be hard for them,” answered Turner…

Author: Baja Moto Quest!

I am an educator who came out of retirement to consult with school districts, but I also live to ride my R1200GSA motorcycle as much as I can especially in Baja! In fact, without those adventures into the outback of Baja, I wouldn't be able to give my all at work or write. I've written a novel, Almost Human which was published recently and am working on the sequel, More Than Human.

8 thoughts on “Peacock Hunting”

    1. Many thanks for the kind words, Susie. This excerpt is in Chapter two, Of More Than Human.

      This scene is based on behavior I actually observed one morning. This was back in the eighties, when I owned the Wild Animal Training Center. Working with chimpanzees was one of the most wondrous times of my life.

      You really had to work at being smarter than the animal you were training, especially when it came to chimps.

  1. Omg! That was hilarious! Not for the peacock of course, but these chimps are creating their own enrichment. Gotta hand it to them- clever beasts!!

    1. I not sure I’m much different. I have all the food I could ever want by just going shopping at the supermarket, instead, I go to great expense and lengths to get on my moto to go hunting and fishing….. 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement, Joanne.

  2. SOOO glad to hear your writing goal. I’ve been wanting to ask but know you have a lot of other irons in the fire.

    1. I’ve cut a few out to get More Than Human done. I’m writing every day (1000 words). I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up over a few weeks….. My goal is to have the rough finished by May 30, 2017.

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