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'Mr. and Mrs. Peacock' have a hobby aside from their birds: Filming Iowa's 'hidden treasures'

Minden couple spotlight state's oddities, rarities, historical sites

Dennis Fett, also known as “Mr. Peacock,” holds Buddy, a peacock, at the Peacock Information Center he and his wife, Debra Buck, operate near Minden in western Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Fett)
Dennis Fett, also known as “Mr. Peacock,” holds Buddy, a peacock, at the Peacock Information Center he and his wife, Debra Buck, operate near Minden in western Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Fett)
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MINDEN — The Iowa couple known as “Mr. and Mrs. Peacock” also have a side hustle — filming and promoting Iowa’s “hidden treasures.”

Dennis Fett and Debra Buck married in 1980 and bought three peafowl eggs on a whim.

That whim eventually turned into the thriving Peacock Information Center near Minden in western Iowa, where their 4 acres are home to around 75 peacocks and peahens. They’ve had up to 250 birds in the past.

Fett, a retired clarinetist and music educator, and Buck, a part-time secretary at a local church, sell a variety of peafowl-related products, including eggs, feathers and “Wacky World of Peafowl” books.

They have served as peafowl consultants for clients in New York, California, Tampa and at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

“In a quick sentence, peacocks are much more difficult to raise than chickens, geese or turkeys,” Fett told The Gazette. “There’s extra care you have to do, and you can’t just let them run wild.”

Peafowl are native to India and Malaysia. Peahens can lay from three to 28 eggs a year, which must be incubated around 28 days at 99.5 degrees to hatch. It takes the chicks about three years to mature, which is when the male birds grow ornate tail feathers. The birds can live more than 20 years in captivity.

FILMING TREASURES

It may be that dealing with those feathered exhibitionists convinced the couple to seek out Iowa’s more subtle treasures.

Since 2014, they have sought Iowa’s “hidden treasures” — historic attractions, oddities, rarities and ghost towns that, unlike the Field of Dreams or the Amana Colonies, might not register on the average tourist’s radar.

The two have driven more than 20,000 miles around the state, and sometimes into adjacent ones, to film those treasures. They upload the videos of their findings to their YouTube channel, dmfett.

“A lot of times, we’ll find things on the road when we’re traveling, and we’ll go ahead and feature it,” Fett said. “Any time there’s a roadside historical marker, we’ll check it out.”

The only restriction? Every trip can be no longer than one day. Fett and Buck have to get back to Minden to care for their peacocks and peahens.

ONE-DAY TRIPS

The couple’s stops have included Heritage Rose Garden in Gray, population 58; the 1933 shootout site for Bonnie and Clyde’s gang in Dexter; and a Dr Pepper soda machine chained to a front yard tree in Elkhart.

In the Corridor, Fett and Buck have visited The Flying Wienie hot dog restaurant in Cedar Rapids; Marion’s “Cornhenge” sculptures; the Iowa Firefighters Memorial in Coralville; and Iowa City’s sitting Buddha statue and World’s Largest Wooden Nickel.

“I’ve lived in Iowa all my life, and I didn’t know any of this stuff existed,” Buck said. “Abraham Lincoln — who knew he owned parcels of land (in Crawford and Tama counties) in Iowa? I didn’t.”

Iowa ‘staycations’

Fett said he hopes his and Buck’s videos inspire Iowans to check out some of the sites for themselves and also foster interest in Iowa “staycations.”

The couple’s YouTube channel has around 3,300 subscribers, and “hidden treasure” videos typically gain several hundred to a few thousand views.

That’s not a lot in YouTube land, but Fett said he enjoys seeing positive feedback from viewers, including those who might have grown up in and moved away from the featured towns.

”I get a lot of ‘That’s my hometown, I’m so proud, I haven’t been there in years, I miss it,’ ” he said. “It’s like they can’t get there, but they can see it on video, and it reminds them and brings back good memories.”

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Of the channel’s focus on underexplored sites, Buck added, “maybe (people) don’t care, but I think they should, because it’s history.”

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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