By Nancy Coggins
November 28, 2005
Once you're inside the gate, the action begins.
You hardly have time to admire the vibrant greens of the huge rhododendrons or ask about all the animal holes that are at the base of the spruce trees because you're receiving an outstanding welcome in the form of a barked chorus from their four dogs. They all want to jump up on you at once, showing they appreciate your visit. Their actions say, "We're so happy to see you!"
Photographs of these two as peachicks were recently selected for publication in an upcoming book "Colorful Peacocks" by the Lerner Publishing Group.
Photograph by M.C. Kauffman
Observing that these majestic animals allow the human touch, you begin to see the bond these animals have with Mary. You know--the kind of feeling among best friends.
Now here's a switch! It's not the groups of animals that are fenced in. It's the plants and small trees that have wire fencing around them as protection from the animals that like to nibble their succulent leaves.
After roaming around among the fenced-in plants and small trees, you come upon the mallard ducks, swimming in their pond at the far corner of the yard. You begin to wonder how much land there is--considering each animal has plenty of space!
Next on this exciting walk comes the building where the animals sleep and can seek shelter at any time. Basically, the animal pens and nests inside are in sections of what used to be the garage--with some add-ons. You notice that the outside of the animal-pen complex has an entry even big enough for the beautiful peacocks. That's right. Peacocks in Alaska! There are two adult males, with their four-foot-long showy tail feathers, two adult white females, and seven offspring. Inside, one female peacock patiently and lovingly tends to her five chicks, while a few feet away a large brown rabbit busies herself eating. The other bunnies are apparently hiding somewhere in the fresh hay enjoying a snooze.
the chicks are as large as their mother.
File Photo by M.C. Kauffman
All in all, you figure there must be 20 or more pet-like animals, which doesn't even include the one or more elusive cats. In addition, there are the totally wild birds and animals such as innumerable hole-digging red squirrels.
You wonder why is there no barn-like smell? First, you realize there are no chickens. Then, you recall Mary's words about the animals' pens being cleaned every day and their getting a new supply of fresh food, fresh lettuce and fresh water. And, their hay is changed daily. These factors make the whole experience with its clean animal smell very enjoyable.
This collection of animals is there simply because Mary and Dick love animals, especially helping ones who are or have been in trouble. They both have backgrounds rich in farming. Many of these now-healthy animals are here because at one time they had been wounded or abandoned. This couple, through their care and kindness, has helped them regain their strength and return to good health. Each animal, you can see, is treated as a special favorite pet.
The climax of the animal part of the visit becomes a show put on by Mr. Prissy peacock, performing his courting dance. Mr. Prissy alights from his nearly four-foot-high platform, from which his tail feathers almost touch the ground, and comes over to find out what is happening. Almost as soon as Mary asks him to dance, this peacock brings all his trailing tail feathers up into the shape of a fan. He holds that position for more than a few minutes, and then when Mary asks him to turn around, he does just that. He reveals not only his fluffy body feathers but also his foot-long gray flight feathers alongside them. He uses these flight feathers not only for flying but also to vibrate his fanned tail to make his courting noise which sounds like a rattle. The female is unresponsive, merely observing his courtship from her perch on the porch railing. However, undaunted by her current apathy, Mr. Prissy Kaku continues his courting dance and will dance day after day until she gives him the signal that she's interested and sits in front of him. He dances endless long hours just for these few seconds of their mating.
Fall Photograph by M.C. Kauffman
You'd think that bears and wolves would snatch the animals, but without a stream running through their property there is neither attraction nor reason for those predators to encroach. And rodents do not bother these property owners either since the wild red squirrels and domesticated cats help keep them in check.
Going inside the "people" house serves as a welcome break from so much close animal interaction. You know, wall-to-wall rugs are so much different than hay; plush couches, than perches; wind chimes, than the wind in the trees; and incandescent lights and candles, than bright sunlight. With a cat sitting in the window of an adjoining room and seemingly ignoring us, there is time to reflect and share, sitting in the sunroom.
The sunroom serves as the site from which the SitNews material is prepared and published. What a room! It's a glorious space Dick and Mary had designed to contain as many windows as possible, each bringing the outdoors indoors. The sun streams through these windows including one with large cathedral-glass shapes. Looking out the glass door, one of the peacocks is stretching his neck as high as possible to help himself to the bottom leaves of a plant that should have been out of his reach in its pedestal. Reveling in this wild splendor, you just want to stay and stay and stay. The house is truly one with nature.
Yet, according to the saying, all good things must come to an end. On the way out, alas, there is Dick who has returned from the grocery store with his truck full of boxes of lettuce for the animals. And his school-age helper is there to assist him in unloading and distributing the roughage to each of the animals. But this process with the lettuce has to wait until the young worker gives a blow-by-blow description of the animals' pens. He props the bunnies' lift-up doors to a certain height so they are able to get into their penned area at night--perhaps with the assistance of a gentle nose-nudge by one of the dogs. Then comes his complete description of all the details of how he helps clean out the pens. He talks excitedly on and on about his thoroughly interesting job. Obviously, he plays a very important working part of this home for animals that are relatively free roaming.
So, that's a capsule of the unusual retired lifestyle of the couple who records, transcribes and publishes current stories in SitNews for their readership. Now, when you read SitNews stories, you'll be able to visualize the source of all these stories--Dick and Mary's gorgeous home complete with animals they love.
Yes, that's the oasis beyond the gate.
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