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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Voices from the Wild

Talking Turkey

By Tamia Nelson

November 26, 2002

Some days, ya wanna stay in bed. Ya know what I mean? But a guy's gotta eat, right? And us turkeys ain't any different. We gotta scratch for a living, just like you. It's bad enough we don't get no respect, already. Turkey. It's like a sick joke. Some schmuck screws up and somebody else says, "Jeez, what a turkey!" And then everybody starts laughin'.

Well, I got news for you, buddy. Us wild turkeys ain't no turkeys, if you unnerstan' what I'm saying. We're smart. We're sharp. And we're quick on our feet. It's either that or dead. I gotta thank Tamia here for givin' me a chance to set the record straight. Us turkeys have gotten a bum rap for too long.

Tom's the name, by the way. And don't confuse me with that sorry dude in your freezer. I'm a lean machine, not some hormone-injected factory reject who's never seen the sun or stretched his wings. Of course, it's not the freezer dude's fault that he ended up where he did. He didn't grow up wantin' to come to dinner at your place, did he? No way! It's like ya made him an offer he couldn't refuse, right? Ya better believe it!

Us wild turkeys, now, we're something else. Just ask any hunter. Those crazy nimrods drop thousands of bucks on camouflage clothing and calls and shotguns, and then they spend their evenings and weekends tryin' to learn to make noises like a horny hen. And why? So they can sit outside for hours every spring, cluckin', yelpin', and freezin' their butts off. Can't see any sense in it, myself. Most of 'em come home with nothin' but chapped cheeks and bad attitudes—and those are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones end up in the ER, waitin' for some guy in a white coat to pick number-four shot out of their necks, at about a thousand bucks a minute. Go figger. It sure don't sound like fun to me.

'Course it can always get worse, can't it? Every year, a few hunters' luck runs out for good. Instead of the ER, they end up on a slab. Then they're…whaddaya call it? You know…. Collateral damage.

So ya gotta wonder who's the real turkey. Us, or the nimrods dressed up to look like oak trees. Ya ask me, I'd say it's no contest. Yeah, I know. It's their funeral. Except mostly it isn't. And that's my beef. I ain't happy at the idea of being somebody's dinner. You can unnerstan' that, can't ya? Sure ya can.

I gotta admit that us wild turkeys owe the hunters a lot, though. Not too many years back, we were history, almost. Down for the count. And then the hunters stuck their hands in their pockets and came up with big money to bring us back from the brink. It worked, too. It's a return-of-the-native thing. So now the hunters want to see a little interest on their investment. "Harvesting the surplus" is probably how they'd put it. It only makes sense, I suppose. To a hunter. But you have to figger that us turkeys will look at things a little differently. Gratitude only goes so far, right?

Anyhow, it's good to be back where we belong. Didn't old Ben Franklin want us for America's national bird? Ben was one smart guy. A real…a real turkey, you might say. But did Americans listen to him? Hell, no! They chose the bald eagle instead. Can you believe it? The bald eagle! America coulda had a hard-workin' team player as its national symbol. Instead it picked a damn garbage-eater. A lazy loner that ain't done an honest day's work in his life. What your Jeff Norman calls a "beautiful bully." Jeez. Gimme a break!

Now maybe you might say I'm prejudiced, right? And maybe you'd be on to somethin'. That don't change the facts, though. Even if the Founding Fathers wouldn't listen to Ben, we turkeys are real red-white-and-blue Americans. Just take a good look at us toms in spring, when we're wearing our colors and spreading our tails, stampin' and struttin' and showin' off for the ladies. If we ain't genuine Yankee Doodle Dandies, I know don't anybody who is.

Our love life ain't bad, either, if you'll pardon my French. Ben woulda noticed that. Well, yeah, sure, the jakes—that's what ya call the young toms on the make—they have a hard time gettin' any action. But they're only kids. We big old birds do more'n all right. And we've got the harems to prove it. Could be that's what gets the nimrods so worked up. After all, they're sittin' alone under drippin' trees on cold spring mornings, trying their damndest to sound like a hen turkey, while all around 'em us toms are gettin' it on. Maybe the hunters are just jealous. Hell, I can unnerstan' that. It's only natural.

But spring's a long way off, ain't it? And right now love's the farthest thing from my mind. Winter storms are already hittin' the north country hard. Take it from me—when you scratch for a living, snow ain't your friend. Getting enough food is Job One all winter long, and my love life's on hold till the sap starts to rise. In these dark, late-November days I'm already back to basics. Hunkerin' down and hangin' tough. Diggin' for food all day and roostin' high in the big pines at night.

Why go high? Come on, guy! It ain't rocket science. Just think like a turkey. The ground's no place to hang out after the sun goes down. Too many hungry meat-eaters in the shadows, all of 'em with sharp teeth and squirmin' appetites. So when the light sinks low, this bird gets high—real high. My momma didn't raise no stupid boys.

Which brings me back to that rock-solid dude in your freezer. His big day's coming up, ain't it? Poor bastard! Thanksgiving? Yeah, sure! He ain't got much to be thankful for, has he? Of course, to be fair, he never missed a meal. Never shivered through a thirty-below-zero night. Never had to dodge a starving fox or a load of number-four shot. He had it pretty easy, in fact. Can't say I envy him, though. I'd rather take my chances. Like it says on the license plate, "Live free or die." That's my motto, too.

And speaking of life and death, it's gettin' late. Daylight's fadin' fast, and I still got a lotta scratchin' to do if I want to keep my strength up. There's a long winter ahead, and I don't want any young jakes putting the make on my harem of hens come spring, do I? Not hardly.

Damn! Almost forgot my manners. Sorry about that. Thanks for the Thanksgiving invite, Tamia. Much appreciated. You'll unnerstan' if I can't make dinner, though. Not really my scene. It's like they say: A bird in the hand…. But us turkeys kinda take the other view, if ya know what I mean.

Anyway, it's been fun. I always like talkin' turkey. See ya round. Or not. Dependin'. Now I gotta go.

Copyright 2002 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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