Several weeks ago I heard the familiar gobble sound of the turkey. I went outside to look for the familiar plumage. The sound came from the back wooded area of our house and, scanning for movement, they were just barely visible. I strained to see them and suspected there were only three or four. I was all too familiar with this sound as it brought back memories from just last summer. Perhaps we were in for another repeat performance this season. Nothing could have been more unique than an entire month of daily visits from a family of turkeys.
It was late morning one day near the middle of July. I was outside in one of my garden areas pulling weeds, as usual. Our 30 pound little black dog, Kofi, suddenly began running and barking near a corner of the yard where the grass meets the woods. I went over cautiously to where he made a mad dash to see what he found. All of a sudden he turned tail and decided not to make a big deal out of a flock of birds where one big one could have easily picked him up by his ears.
The turkeys came meandering from out of the woods near the pond skirting the side yard. Their distinctive vocals met my ears when I came near. I counted what looked like two adults and four, five, nine, twelve, now wait a minute, yes, thirteen baby birds (which looked pretty big already). The male was a distinctive eastern white turkey with black feathers. The female and the youngsters were white feathered. I watched from a distance as they continued to circle the yard. It was interesting to see as the parents instructed the kids how to catch bugs, what plants to pick at all the while sticking pretty much together. They would cross the driveway not venture out into the road but stay along the inside of the stone wall. I was happy to have available a fountain with a water spout which the parents happily jumped up into splashing away. Water was at a premium as the pond had already dried up due to the dry conditions.
The same pattern happened for the next four weeks. The sound, which is really not a ‘gobble, gobble’ like you may think, is very distinct. They would arrive between 11:00 and 1 pm. Sometimes I would not see them if I’ve already left for work. Most times it was predictable. They would arrive from the same area of the forest and begin their foraging. Through the underbrush into various garden areas they would pick at bugs and beetles, grasses and berries. The loop around the house was always clock wise.
They hung out one time in the garage lying on the cool cement before continuing. They became quite comfortable over time coming right up onto the steps on the front and back decks. We got used to them as it became a daily event. Kofi knew to keep his distance sensing their potential aggressive nature. I knew they would not hesitate to chase the dog or I if they felt the need. One time a poult did chase Kofi. Amy opened the back screen as he dashed in but panicked and ran out of the room with him as the bird came into the house. How to corral a turkey loose in the house?
Meanwhile we were having our heating unit serviced. Mike, the service technician, had arrived just as the birds were looping around the house. I warned him to keep his van door closed as they probably would think it another cool place to hang out. He was nonchalant about it all, going in and out of the cellar through the bulk head until he heard our call of alarm. The turkey was trying to get out through the screen making frantic calls to his siblings outside. I had him boxed in the family room trying to figure out what to do when Mike casually opened the side door, backed away until the bird found his way to freedom. He chuckled as it became a very different day than an ordinary service call.
One other significant moment happened when Amy went to her car parked away from the house to get something. The phone rang and it was her cell number. I was a little miffed, as it would be like her to call even when upstairs. This time she sounded a little alarmed. “Mom, can you come outside?” she asked. I went out and found her in the driver’s seat with Kofi in the back. The car was surrounded by the turkeys literally boxing her in. It seemed as soon as she went out they spied her and the dog and came after her probably just to be nosy. She jumped in the car with Kofi and now was talking to me as I watched this scene. “What should I do?” I said, “Just let the dog out.” She did this and they just meandered away giving her time to get out of the car and back into the house.
Through the weeks we would see the youngsters now pretty big but sadly their number was dwindling. At the end of their visits I think we counted five poults and the adults. Natural predators were taking their toll; owls, fox, coyote, fisher cats, etc. By the time we saw the last of them, hunting season was upon us. It was an interesting time and something really special. Maybe this year we’ll see them again.
Benjamin Franklin was disappointed the turkey was not chosen as our national bird over the bald eagle as he stated in a letter to his daughter “…. a true Native to America who would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm with a red coat on.” Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving Day is such a big tradition. We do give it the honor it deserves along with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, etc.
Debbie Curtin writes stories about people, places, events and other topics of interest that engage the reader. As a member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Debbie keeps ‘in the game’ with other like minded people. She has been an artist and creative person all her life and uses the unlimited sources of inspiration that abound everywhere in her writing as another art form.