Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, I wanted to write about a turkey, but all I got is a pheasant. Close enough.
This isn’t just any pheasant, but a white ring neck, coveted by game bird hunters and feather lei makers on our island. I saw this fine fellow across a crowded room where he perched majestically on the branch of an ‘oh‘a tree, beak open, eyes focused, wings spread.
His intense commitment, his stunning plumage — it was love at first sight. But after a few discreet inquiries, I learned he was not available. Shucks.
Some days later on my morning walk, I passed the place where I first saw the dazzling bird. As I was mourning our star-crossed fate, a car pulled up next to me. I recognized the driver as the owner of my feathered infatuation.
“Are you the lady who asked about the pheasant at my garage sale?”
“Yes I am,” I quickly responded, heartbeat accelerating.
“Well, he’s yours if you still want him.”
Mine if I still want him? Of course I still want him. He’s the most beautiful pheasant I’ve ever seen! He’s also the only pheasant to cross my path dead or alive, but never mind that. All my life growing up in Hilo, I’d heard about these fabled, foreign fowl, topping the list of exotic winged creatures along with peacocks and flamingos.
“Stop by the house after your walk to pick him up,” she said.
“How much do you want for him?” I offered.
“Nothing. He’s free.”
“But but … .” I sputtered. But what, am I pupule? I’m going to turn down a free pheasant?
I finished my walk in record time, jumped in the car and careened to her house. She was waiting and led me to the spot where I fell in love, and there he was, in exactly the same lofty pose as when I first laid eyes on him.
His soon-to-be former owner told me that her son bagged this bird on Maunakea 20 years ago, and to celebrate his first white ring neck, they had it stuffed.
She held off all inquiries about the pheasant at her garage sale (actually, mine was the only one) because surely her son would want to keep him. But no, he said no room in the house, and the wife … well, you know how that goes. She remembered someone asking about it, then saw me walking past her house.
As she ceremoniously handed me the pheasant, we both bowed slightly in reverence.
Then I made a fast exit before she changed her mind. “Mahalo nui,” I shouted over my shoulder.
I drove home slowly, not wanting to jostle Phrancis. This was his new name, because calling him “the pheasant” just wouldn’t do. He was now Phrancis the Phabulous.
I took photos to send to kids flung across the continent. I try to lure them with reminders of life in these islands, hoping that one day they will move back. On their end, they like to tease me about my garage sale finds: the singing fish, the armadillo purse, the sheep’s hoof. But Phrancis took me to another level. A white ring neck pheasant from the slopes of Maunakea. Ha, HA! Beat that if you can!
Immediately, they texted and emailed:
— They should have just eaten that fat bird.
— Where I live, if somebody drove up to offer me something, I’d run in the other direction.
— What do you feed your stuffed pheasant … stuffed worms?
You can tell some members of my family did not grow up on Hawaii Island. And did I detect a whiff of condescension and derision? But that’s OK, because eventually, they’ll get it.
No, really. They will get it when I name them in my last will and testament as caretakers of Phrancis, this noble and magnificent white ring neck pheasant from the slopes of Maunakea.
Who’s laughing now?
Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com. Her column appears every other Monday.