Wild Turkey Bowl

It’s possible that we conjure more descriptive words about the wild turkey than any other

pitch it!

pitch it!

bird that I can think of. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be America’s national bird, preferring it over the bald eagle, as one that’s both respectable and native, vain and silly, but ultimately courageous and worthy of our deep regard.

Others among us have come to view the bird as… noble, comical, magnificent, omnivorous, adaptable, aggressive, shy, sagacious, and, for the carnivores among us,  tasty… You name it. Perhaps more than any other of our avian species, the wild turkey allows us to see reflections of ourselves beneath those matted feathers. Okay, so this trim and graceful creature has a scrawny neck and an ugly head. We can’t all be as good looking as we dreamed to be.

from an Audubon print

from an Audubon print

On a frigid day in snowy winter, a couple dozen turkeys amble toward the house where it’s easier to scratch up food than in the usual fields and woods. They hunt for seeds and grasses near the backyard stream, their interwoven movements like a dark dance on the whitened landscape.

Some heads point at the ground; others peer upward and out for danger. One old hen seems dejected, as if longing for warmer days and easier foraging. Another bird holds a yellowed foot above the surface of the snow. A neck is twisted to the right, then snaps to the left for the bounty of brittle stalks. A grumpy adolescent shakes his face as if to say, “I can’t believe we came all this way for one stinkin’ lump!”

wing formation

wing formation

A neck is retracted for whatever warmth the feathers might lend. Chest and shoulders fluff themselves against the cold. The dark vertical striations seem to offer the depth and character that a watcher might enjoy.

Careful! A hungry turkey lumbers forward, ready to battle whatever comes its way. Magnified, the bird could be a rare rhinoceros charging a group of tourists.

They wander back and forth at varying speeds. They jostle, as if in a game, for undefined DSCN3283positions… Why, it’s the Super Bowl of Turkeys! One bird holds an acorn for a ball. The teams and players seem indecipherable– until we get a closer look.

Their action has a soundtrack in my mind. Whereas I’m tempted to orchestrate the feeding with a bit of classical elegance such as a Bach concerto, I actually hear a decent rock band from the 1970s– Wild Turkey, a spin-off combo from the early Jethro Tull. I hear the instrumental “See You Next Tuesday” from the album Turkey, 1972. [youtube.com/music; wild turkey/see you next tuesday]

up the middle

up the middle

I hear five minutes of pedestrian, barnyard rock-and-roll (Glenn Cornick’s bass, drums, slide, piano, and guitar) followed by two more minutes of (finally) inspired, break-loose guitar– an uplifting and melodious solo where it’s easy to imagine that the turkey shuffle in the snow takes wing. As the birds leap up and begin their long flight across the hollow, the hair on my neck electrifies. The Turkey Bowl is over.

See you next Tuesday!

And everybody wins.

i'd rather eat

i’d rather eat



out of bounds

out of bounds

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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2 Responses to Wild Turkey Bowl

  1. Like most other turkey hunters, I could conjure up some very descriptive words about turkeys for you! I’ve never tried to put a mental soundtrack to their bobbing and weaving, but I’ll give that a shot next time I see a bunch. Thanks for sharing the story and photos.

  2. I’d love to hear a hunter’s description of the bird, especially of those mean Floridian swamp-dwellers, Jim, and what kind of soundtracks are evoked. Sincerely!

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