To Paradise, the Arabs say
Satan never could find a way
until the peacock led him in.
—Charles Godfrey Leland, 19th century American folklorist
In May of 2012, Vargo’s restaurant closes after 47 years; a year later the former ersatz arcadia is demolished to make way for a mixed-use development. When word gets out in the peafowl community that several of its members have been summarily driven from Vargo’s after a lifetime of service, a terror cell is born.
Soon afterward, news accounts of the birds wandering Fondren Rd. looking bewildered, lost, and devoid of their customary strut appear on local TV, the footage ruffling the feathers of a peacock community already on edge.
An ostentation of several dozen birds is found to dwell near Hobby Airport in 1920s-vintage Garden Villas. Residents report that the birds have been congregating there for as long as anyone can remember, apparently peacefully, although they keep mostly to themselves. A more militant group descends on Memorial and Kirkwood in west Houston, where they are observed squabbling over perches on garden walls, roosting on rooftops, and shrieking. Meanwhile, tensions near the former Vargo’s remain high. Area resident Patsy Turner complains about them on the Houstonia Facebook page, even as she claims to have several friends among the 30 or so peacocks on her street, despite not being a peacock herself. “Most people love them but some people are getting tired of the poop!” writes Turner, her frustration boiling over into calls for deportation. “I am hoping when the [former Vargo’s] complex is complete most will return to the lake they called home for 20-plus years.”
In February 2014, a rogue peacock known as Meanie begins an aerial ambush of Dale Dr. residents in Cypress, bruising and bloodying two people. Neither animal control nor a bird rescue group can help, so Billie Rumsey, a Meanie victim, summons Harris County sheriffs to the scene. Then, Meanie attacks again. Rumsey and the deputy watch in horror as one, then two blasts from the cop’s Taser fail to tame the enraged peacock. The standoff ends only after the father of Meanie’s owner walks out of his house and calmly shoots the bird with a shotgun.