The Peacock Incident

Two days before Thanksgiving, I was following the historic walking tour of Fox River Grove when I stopped to take a photo of Grove Market. It wasn’t on the tour, but it looked old and interesting.

A woman who appeared to be in her mid-70s was getting out of a cargo van in front of the store. She asked why I was taking the picture. I told her my hobby was local history (which is somewhat true and a lot easier to explain than the longer version). She said she could “give me a tour.”

I followed her into the building, which is now an upholstery shop. The inside was interesting — a narrow aisle led between piles of chairs and fabric. A large dog came walking to greet us, then settled back on its bed and ignored me.

The tour didn’t amount to much. The woman explained that the room I was in used to be a grocery store while the other room next to it had been a meat market. The building has been there since 1924 and her store’s been in it for 35 years. She claimed she was “the only hold-out on main street.”  (I can believe it. Many of the storefronts are empty and others have changed hands several times since I’ve lived in the area.) She showed me a photo of the store in the early days and let me take a picture of it.

She kept coming back to why I was interested. I think she found it amazing that anybody would care. I pulled out my brochure and showed her the walking tour. She pointed to the castle and asked if I’d seen it. I told her I’d walked past, but had never been inside. She said she was good friends with the man who owns it and she’d talk to him and maybe he’d let me come take pictures. She had me write down my name and phone number to give to him. (I never heard from him.) Then she asked me what I did for work. I explained that I was a writer and what sort of writing I did. She got it in her head that I was writing about her store for work, and that seemed to worry her some, but I promised I wouldn’t.

As we were talking, I heard footsteps coming from the meat market side of the building. The woman got a sheepish look on her face. She stepped aside and there, in the aisle behind her, was … a peacock.

I hadn’t expected that.

At first, she tried to tell me she was going to eat it for Thanksgiving (which was two days away), but then she explained that she had a farm in Wisconsin. The bird had been the last to hatch in its brood, and the hen had already left with the other chicks. She had no heat in her farmhouse, so she brought it to the store to keep it warm. It was very tame and let her pet it and pick it up. I asked if I could take a picture of it. She again expressed concern that I would write about her for work. She said she’d get in trouble for having the bird in the store. I assured her that I was just pursuing my hobby, so she said OK.

We talked some about caning chairs (it costs $3.50 a hole to re-cane an antique chair) and how she couldn’t keep an upholstery shop going if she just relied on local business but she gets some corporate work from outside town. As I made my way to the door, she followed me and asked me several times to stop back in. I think she was lonely.

Ever since then, every time I’ve passed this store, I’ve wondered how the peacock is doing.

And in case you’re thinking of reporting the woman to the police, I waited to post this until a couple weeks after the date when she told me she was taking it back to her now-heated farm.

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