It had just rained when we arrived a little late to the Bantam Swap. Maybe many years ago it was a sweet bantam swap but no longer. The fairgrounds were heaving with the most curious and slightly terrifying mixture of peoples and animals. Hundreds of animals, birds and people. Cages piled up everywhere you looked.
It really was a market, a flash back to an old way. Everything was for sale. People were wandering about with turkeys and geese and ducks under their arms, literally under their arms. They would buy them, and pick them up and walk away.
They sloshed through the mud dragging their cages on trolleys filled with little pigs, or baby chicks. There were even a few bantams. Llamas, horses, a sweet jersey cow. All tethered or caged. This llama watched me and kept turning and posing for the camera. I don’t have enough money for you I whispered to him. I am so sorry. He turned his head silently and looked away.
The animals and birds were wet and terrified. They were for sale. They waited in tiny cages. Anyone could have them for money. I cannot find a word to describe how we stepped into another world from another time. This was the dirty end of the basic desire to grow your own food. The incredible idea that you can have power over your own food. As we walked about we became quiet, over come by the myriad of caged animals and birds. All watching. This wee goat was incongruous in his little jersey. He did not belong in this filthy place.
All the farmers had driven their vehicles into the grounds and lined them up in rows and heaved their animals out into the pathways. This fair could have been staged 100 years ago and only the hemlines and trucks would have been different. As we walked, it became obvious that here were the real people who grew their own food. And there were the people buying these animals to raise for food. These people were not pretty, or well dressed. Their lifestyles were muddy and gutsy and visceral. They did not have hobby farms or read designer magazines or have good hair. They were selling animals for the money they needed to feed their other animals. Many languages, many hard tired faces. Much laughter and ribbing across the aisles. Tough. Dirty boots and trousers held up with string. I felt the oldness of it. The struggle. The realness of this market compared to the pretty pictures we see. The pretty pictures I take.
And then I saw Kupa. He was in a cage with three other male peacocks. And he watched me watch him and ducked with my every movement as I circled his cage taking photos of him. He and his men stood amidst the baying of goats and screaming of pigs, the clucking and squawking and screeching of chickens, the shouting of men, the wild laughing of children, the squelch of mud, the honking of ducks and the gobble of turkeys. This cacophony of hysteria. A man walked past carrying a screaming piglet. Screaming at the top of his lungs. The peacocks just stood and watched. Still.
I said to John I think we will take this one home. Our John, who has said NO we are Not ever getting a peacock, about a hundred times in the past, quickly agreed. Happy to bring something bright and live out of this fierce market.
The man who had brought these peacocks all the way from Michigan was happy to barter with me and so a deal was struck. Kupa was carefully transferred to my dog box and set in the car. This man was gentle with his birds and had a wide laugh. We are hoping that next time he will bring some hens so Kupa can have a mate.
This morning Kupa is sitting in isolated splendour in the large enclosure which has been waiting for the turkeys. Last night when we finally released him into his finished enclosure in the barn, a cat came to look at him and he turned and honked at it. He sounded like a mournful foghorn, a sound from my child hood days. Hmm, John said, thats unfortunate. Well, they do get a wee bit noisy I confessed, but mostly I remember the screeching from the farms at home. What screech, said John. Um, reluctantly, it sounds like this and opened my mouth and at the top of my voice I screeched long and high like a terrified child. Kupa snapped his head to me. The cat turned tail and scarpered. The guineas peered down from their roosts. John said, Hmm. Still not convinced that anything that beautiful and that regal and that serene could make such a dreadful noise. And we went to pick the asparagus.
Good morning. All good here on this spring morning. Back home on our quiet little property. Far from those madding crowds. It feels like a little oasis after yesterday’s market. Kupa will stay in his house for a month until he knows the barn is his home, then he also will be set free. To roam the grounds. And get up to no good. Him and his mate when we find her, the man only had males yesterday.
He is a jewel of a bird, as beautiful as you can imagine.
Now I had better get out there and do all the chores I did not get to yesterday. The Matriarch and I worked furiously yesterday afternoon to get the turkey run finished while Kupa watched us from his big dog crate. So I am behind!