I’m thankful for turkeys. Not only the big-breasted, supermarket type, brined and roasted – yum! – but also for the wild ones that saunter across our back roads. Until turkey hunting season approaches, that is. I’ve known for years that turkeys keep hunting season calendars in their back pockets.
When we moved in 14 years ago, somebody in the neighborhood told us there were turkeys on the mountain. For a few months, I dutifully put out cracked corn in various places in our woods, hoping to attract the turkeys which I had never seen up close in the wild. I strained to hear a gobbler. My feeble attempts at gobbling didn’t get an answer. I’m sure the squirrels and the deer appreciated the corn offering.
On one of our first Thanksgiving days in the house, though, No. 1 daughter Meredith took an after-dinner walk up the mountain and flushed a turkey somewhere near the top. I was amazed. To this day, I’ve never hiked that far up the uneven ground, and probably never will.
A number of years ago when we lived in Madison Heights in Amherst County, north of Lynchburg, I saw way off two grown wild turkeys and 10 or so babies in the neighbors’ pasture. They were so far away, I wasn’t sure they really were turkeys.
I’ve seen small flocks of the birds at unexpected times at other places – off Franklin Road in Salem near where a new large-lot housing development is planned – and once, a single turkey high up in a hardwood tree over the street. Or maybe it was a turkey buzzard. Hard to tell while driving a curvy, narrow road.
Then wonder of wonder, the neighborhood flock made themselves visible a couple of years ago.
“Oh, yes, they stay in our yard,” one neighbor told me when I remarked I’d seen turkeys crossing the road.
This year, when I’d see the doe with her two fawns on another neighbor’s grassy area, when I looked behind them there were turkeys among the fallen trees.
On Nov. 15, I slowed down for five half-grown turkeys. The fan belt on my Durango was squealing so much that the birds had plenty of warning I was coming. They didn’t hurry, but I couldn’t grab the camera fast enough to get a closer image of them.
Still, that’s the point, isn’t it? I had to slow down. And even though I was on the way to work, thinking of all that I had to do that day, I stopped.
Again, I’m thankful for turkeys.