Barnyard drama is free and fun

April 26, 2012|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

When I was a girl, I used to watch "The Young and the Restless" with my mom.

She didn't feel good about it, but it was the one hour out of her hectic day as a working wife and mother of five that she indulged herself in a guilty pleasure.

I guess the benefit of escape outweighed the concerns. Nikki Newman would head for the shower with an illicit lover sporting nothing but a carefully placed bath towel.

"Don't look," my mom would say. "That's why kids shouldn't watch this."

From the time I can remember, I knew the names and serial marriage histories of the characters. It was ridiculous, preposterous and enthralling.

I gave it up when I went to college. As an adult, I've never had cable TV and I rarely go to the movies. I never set out on a Hollywood embargo. I just seldom found it to be worth the price and I would rather do something else.

Just recently, I stumbled upon a spectacle that reawakened in me that silly, soap operatic delight of old. I observed the exhibition with awe, and found myself talking about the characters, the scenes, the triumph and folly for days to follow. Drama and comedy played out not on a TV screen or at a movie theater, but in the most unlikely of places — a barnyard.

My 5-year-old son had been invited to the farm by his friend, Benjamin. I knew it could be educational. I knew there might be fresh eggs or a bird for cooking. But I couldn't have imagined the entertainment value of farmyard antics.

Ben's mom, Stephanie, provided me with some background as the show unfolded. The lead characters were the brazen Joe the Peacock and his austere wife Celeste. Joe is a breathtaking blue, green and gold specimen with a 7-foot tail spread and a predilection for chickens. Girl chickens.

Plain brown Celeste doesn't mind. She tires easily of Joe's egotistical tail fanning, dancing, and "mow-mow-mow" ing. He'll show off for anything, Stephanie said. Even rocks.

Across the meadow live a flock of hens and a centurion rooster named Sparky. Sparky spends his days pacing the façade of the chicken cabana, keeping at bay any other poultry who might look twice at his lady chickens. When other roosters approach, Sparky advances in a beady-eyed convulsive strut and they flutter away like nervous little capon nerds.

Meanwhile, Joe the Peacock crosses the meadow. He plants himself square in front of the hens, rustles his ample plumage and fans his feather train. Something about Joe's display causes the usually potent Sparky to lose all composure and he flutters off with the nerds. The hens, on the other hand, roll their eyes, singularly unimpressed.

"They think Joe is ridiculous," Stephanie said. "They don't want anything to do with him. They completely ignore him."

Until he is good for a laugh, that is. Because when the wind is right, Joe the Peacock will catch a gust coming around the corner of the barn. His tail acts like a big sail, and it sets him spinning. It's very uncool with the ladies and very humbling.

Which might be why Joe has been known to go tooling about the neighborhood with a gang of turkeys. That's another story line. One that, like those of the "The Young and the Restless," is ridiculous, preposterous and utterly enthralling.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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