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Rediscovering AnimalsĀ 

What is wild? Thinking of Mr. Peacock

He wasn't very wild. He wanted to be in the pen with the other birds, waited on the hen house roof until I filled the water troughs and put out the lay pellets and corn. 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...extravagant,...storm"...and "arbitrary equivalence..."

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 laid over the pen.

Okay. He was not domesticated, quite, but he was not "living in a natural state," either. Not at 7200 feet in New Mexico. Peacocks are tropical birds, but hardy, they say. Hardy enough for a 14 degree night.

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?

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. But 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 there wild, even if they have enough sense to build space ships?

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