Thursday, April 22, 2010

Turkey Talk, Trot and Plot

Turkey Talk, Trot and Plot
By Brenda Black

Turkey talk. The term was first recorded in U. S. history in 1824, but may have initially been spoken during colonial shindigs with the original Americans. It's meaning shifted slightly down through time, first meaning to speak agreeably or to say pleasant things and later indicating frankness, hard facts or getting down to serious business.

I'm pretty certain the evolvement of the word had something more to do with hunting the wild turkey than handling boardroom decisions, since I've been in the woods this week listening to my sons trying to talk turkey with the natives themselves. Purrs, clucks, putts, gobbles and raspy old squawks rattle the timber and shake up nerves at the crack of dawn. After listening to a flock of hens offer their assorted, and often grating, cacophony, the big boys themselves reply cordially with thunderous gobbles that rumble one's stomach like a big bass drum if you happen to be sitting quite near their roost.

My sons have talked to the turkeys with gadgets in every shape and size. Diaphragm calls they wet and waller, then cup their mouths and belt out a song. Box calls were their beginner tools a few years back and I suffered through the fingernail-on-chalkboard screeches they produce. There are button-push plastic calls that creak and catch and slate calls made of glass and aluminum across which one drags a carbon stick. I used to think they sounded awful as they practiced under my roof, until I heard the real deal delivered by a real hen. Even a flub up sounds pretty accurate to the range of calls vociferated from the woods.

But it takes more than talk to get a gobbler interested. It takes outsmarting a dumb old turkey. And that's hard to do when they rule the roost and we have to spot them before they spy us. Now a turkey can detect motion at about 100 yards in the daylight. However, the human eye can decipher 7,000,000 colors and can see an almost unlimited distance. Why, on a very clear night, we can detect the Triangulum Galaxy that's positioned about 3.14 million light years away. The Andromeda Galaxy is also sometimes visible and it hangs out in heaven 2.5 million light years yonder. Granted, what our human eyes truly see is the light from the far away objects rather than the items themselves, still, that light has come quite a journey by the time it hits our optic nerve. One would think with such adeptness, humans would have the supreme advantage.

We forget to factor the fright and flight mechanism innate to the largest North American game bird. Turkeys can take off like a helicopter, nearly straight up. They can fly forward as fast as 55 miles per hour! Even on the ground, they can outrun an Olympic athlete at 18 miles per hour. I'd sure like to see “Dancing with the Stars” contenders take a stab at that fast of a “turkey trot.”

After the talking and the tracking and the calling and the planning, it comes down to this during turkey season – the birds have home court advantage. Their plot is survival and they play the game well with coy disappearing acts where striking feathers and vibrant flesh magically disappear into green-carpeted, giant wooded hollows and glens.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin may have eaten turkey in foil packets for their first meal on the moon. Big Bird may don the donation of 4,000 turkey feathers dyed yellow for his costume. And six hundred seventy-five million pounds of turkey may be eaten each Thanksgiving in the United States. But I'm pretty sure those space snacks, fowl feathers and juicy slices didn't originate in my neck of the woods where the turkey population does a superb job of winning at being elusive.

The win or loss of a turkey trophy does not change the wonderful memories amassed while traipsing through tall, wet grass at pre-dawn with someone you love and with whom you enjoy spending your time. It won't diminish the strategic planning whispered or the rapid breathing heard from your shooting partner as he anticipates his aim. And nothing is sweeter than knowing that it's worth three 4:00 a.m. mornings to be there when your hunting buddy achieves success and tells you it means just as much to him to have shared that moment.

God is good. His creation incredible! He dazzles us with ebony nights dotted with shimmering stars and wakens His world with a brilliant, glowing ball. God gifted a million different birds with individualized melodies to wake the world in harmony. He designed the deer to stand elegantly silhouetted against that morning light. And He taught the turkey how to trot and spit and drum and fan his feathers like a Broadway dancer. But best of all, he gave our family time to enjoy it together and I am supremely grateful. It was a day I would have missed if I had stayed in bed. Christ came to give us life and more abundantly. I think three days this week were some of the sweetest yet.

**Special Note: With the pleasure of enjoying God's creation comes the responsibility to help manage it. Yes, on day three, my youngest son harvested a 24-pounder! A species that was once nearly banished from our land is now so well established that the population needs to be thinned in order to keep the birds healthy and prolific. Thanks to Missouri Conservation laws, turkey hunting in our state is both a treat and a challenge under such premier wildlife management.

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