Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment. When I left the house I noticed a bunch of turkeys in the backyard. Most of them were eating at the feeders, a few were standing around preening and/or dozing in the rain. A weird black mass lay several feet away from them, on the grass. It looked sort of like an empty trash bag. The day was gray and windy; perhaps something had blown out of the recycling bin? I was pressed for time, and the turkeys weren’t paying it any mind.. so I left. When I returned an hour later the turkeys were gone, but the *whatever it was* was still there. I squelched across the muddy yard to find..
A large male turkey sprawled stiff on the grass, surrounded by scattered feathers. He hadn’t been dead long. I wanted to touch him to see if he was still warm, but thought better of it. Frankly he looked a little scary. And I was in shock. I know these turkeys are wild creatures, but feeding them day after day, tossing them stale bread, addressing them as my “turkey friends” – well, they feel a lot more like family. I am so glad I hadn’t gotten round to naming any of the turkeys other than “Gimpy” (a small female w/ a bum leg). Makes it so much easier to say goodbye.
And so I did the only thing I could think of. I went and got a trash bag. NOT to dispose of the dead turkey – oh, no – but rather to move him to the ice drift by the back door of our house. As I said, he was a little scary (read, Bloody) and I was reluctant to simply pick him up and you know – touch him with my hands. I wrapped the bag around him like a blanket and cradled him in my arms. He was heavy and still. I felt the need to protect him. I don’t know why either – he was after all a dead turkey. But having him nearer to the house (without actually bringing him inside) felt right. It seemed like I was honoring his loss. He was some turkey’s son and I wanted to be respectful. I also wanted to ensure no other creatures would have their way with him before my husband got home and could check him out. The ice would help preserve him, and his proximity to the house would fend off intruders.
When my kids got home (along w/ one of my daughter’s best friends) I felt compelled to tell them what had happened and show them the body. They were grossed out and fascinated all at once. My husband, when he got home, was too. But all our dog wanted was to eat the poor beast, so we thought it best to dispose of him properly. So we did what anyone would do. We tossed him into the compost ravine. Well, more like “gently placed” him near the top of the compost ravine but slightly more in the yard so our neighborhood scavengers can use his body as food but we won’t have to watch it unless we want to. We are talking about a turkey here. Deliciousness itself. And since you’re surely wondering, Why Yes, my husband did at first suggest we eat him. Which struck me as equal parts savage and sensible, but altogether too messy for words. Having to pluck and clean this turkey out? No thanks. I myself considered dissection. I mentioned it to my older daughter, purely for scientific study. But we decided against that as well, more b/c of the mess than anything.
So, of course, the dead turkey reigned high on the list of last night’s topics of conversation. My husband suggested he was killed by a hawk. We do have several of them living in the woods behind us. But no savvy predator would kill and leave such a banquet behind. Besides, if it had been a hawk, the other turkeys would have been traumatized. Surely they would have FLED! not been stuffing their faces and napping. No, I knew this turkey had been killed by his comrade/s. Who had unleashed their fury, then turned to feast on the freebie buffet provided by yours truly..
Over the past few weeks, the males have begun warming up for spring. And by warming up I mean PUFFING UP. As in displaying. Like most testoterone ladden males of all species, the turkeys want the fairer sex to notice them. So they have been making themselves known by fluffing up their bodies, fanning their tail feathers (much like peacocks) and – well, to be honest, putting their manhood OUT THERE. Not their private parts, more like their public parts. Those sac things on their faces, those dangling gobblies, yep. Red as fire engines on some, swollen like (ahem) scrotums. This has been going on since the beginning of February. I actually noticed around the holidays the males faces looking redder & redder. Now it is even more pronounced. And like hormonal human males, some of them have taken this displaying even further. This weekend, John saw them fighting. Really going at it. But I’d never imagined they’d actually kill each other. SURPRISE!