Four wild turkeys – a tom and three hens – have been hanging around our neighborhood the past couple of weeks. The first time I saw them, they were strutting in a perfect line between our house and our neighbor’s house to the south. I was at the mailbox, my mini-dachshund on a leash at my side, when I saw them all looking at me. And the dog. Normally, Truffles (who is only mine because she couldn’t go to college with my daughter) would have barked at these creatures so much that her feet would have left the ground.
But she did not see them. Rather than question how that happened, I grabbed my mail and turned Truffles back toward our door. Her nose never left the ground; something delectable was down there. Those turkeys kept their eyes on us the whole time.
After that, the turkeys appeared often. They strutted across our front yard, paused at the street, then crossed with a deliberateness that would challenge any vehicle headed their way. They looked both ways as they crossed, their big feet placed just so as proof they own this street. They meandered through our back yard, scratched at the dirt, pecked at seeds and whatever else looked good to them. They raised their wings, gave a few flutters, shook off some dust. They took over our driveway twice – once when my daughter Abby was leaving for work and once when my partner Mick and I returned from the store.
Never did they scramble to get out of our way. To be fair, we approached them with respect and caution. We – well, Mick and I – love these creatures. Abby doesn’t. She thinks they’re mean.
If they are mean, I don’t mind. I’m amused by their giant birdiness, their surprisingly pretty feathers, their obvious intelligence. These are not domesticated turkeys whose wiliness has been bred right out of them; they know enough to close their beaks and get out of the rain. These birds are the bad boys – and girls – who can take care of themselves, know when to hit the road. They own it.
Benjamin Franklin thought the wild turkey was an appropriate national bird. (You can read about that here.) I could see that. Turkeys may not soar high in the sky like eagles, but they are nevertheless proud. They don’t look down on us from above. They meet us, face-to-face, in our own back yards.
I like that.