Friday, January 22, 2016

Manley Pointer II: The Prince of the King of the Birds

I had forgotten to commemorate the occasion properly at the first of the month, but it’s been right at a year since we held our first peacock funeral, very nicely summed up here by Kay Powell for the Bitter Southerner.  It was rainy last January, too, and likely as cold.  Fresh off the first Sunday of my tenure as interim choir director for the First United Methodist Church, I led a rather rainy, squishy processional to the burial site and was deeply unprepared for the challenges in walking and singing while being out of shape.  Nevertheless, I was pleased that those in attendance were familiar with the first two verses and refrain of “I’ll Fly Away.”  Even the cadre of collegians from Mercer who braved the unfortunate weather were undaunted by the ways of their cousins from down the hill in Milledgeville. It was indeed a situation right out of an O’Connor story, and I wager she’d have had a chuckle or two at us had she been in attendance.

Since then, Manley Pointer II has taken up the place of his namesake and is proving to be as big of a hit with our guests. Manley II is young yet; I’ve seen him doing laps around the aviary, and I know now how the assessment of Flannery’s visitor so many years ago came about: “I bet that rascal could outrun a bus.” Joy/Hulga, older and no doubt well-versed in the ways of aviary life, tends to give him sidelong looks and is no doubt bemused at the ways of her new companion.  He has opened his tail once while I’ve been on duty at the farm; the feathers are short and his strut is a bit too exuberant to be called such. But the sight is remarkable nevertheless—no doubt practice for Spring and a new crop of feathers.

The prideful ways of the peacock are a frequent topic in Flannery’s prose, but I believe that the pride of a peacock is in equal share a projection of our pride and self-assurance onto the bird putting itself on display in its strut.  I think here of Father Flynn in “The Displaced Person,” who is so deeply in thrall to the display of feathers that divinity is made anew each time he sees them, when he clearly has a decent grasp of God’s nature if his discussions with the troubled Mrs. McIntyre are any indication. We relish the peacock’s confidence, even moreso if it’s a display by one so young and brash. In that spirit we at the farm are proud indeed of Manley II, and for the growth yet to come for him and for Andalusia in 2016.

Daniel Wilkinson is a Visitor Services Assistant, Man-About-Town, and Bon Vivant at Andalusia. He is no longer choir director at First United Methodist Church, but has his baton at the ready if duty calls once more.


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