Friday, September 19, 2008
WHY DID THE TURKEY CROSS THE ROAD?
The sound woke me from my deep and needed slumber and I tried to sift it into a recognizable category. It sounded like a yelp, but not. It sounded like a croak or a bark, but different. Unable to make the sound familiar from my pillow, I pushed myself to the window to find the source. As soon as I saw her, I knew the sound by name; loss.
The wooded areas around our property bring nature up-close and personal. In the spring, two of the wild turkeys from the local flock became mothers. They split off from the group and wandered solo, each followed by six or eight fuzzy little replicas. With an open field beside us, old barns and wooded land behind, there seems no logical reason for them to strut across the asphalt to wander behind the houses on the other side of the road, and yet, cross they do.
One early morning as I returned from dropping a child off at school, I stopped just before my driveway as Mama Turkey stood on the curb preparing to cross. She hesitated there, her fuzzy crew huddled behind her. I waited as she took her first step into the road and I looked ahead for oncoming cars. I was startled, as was Mama Turkey, by the sound of a horn and I saw the big black Mercedes with tinted windows behind me; short tempered man gesturing “Move already!” with his hands. I frantically pointed to the turkeys so he would understand, but he pulled out to pass me with speedy annoyance and I cringed and closed my eyes. Mama Turkey stopped; her fuzzy crew like a shadow and turned back to where she had come from.
As summer passed, the number of babies dwindled. The two mothers banned together, each with one remaining baby and the foursome spent most of their time in the field beside our home. The babies, now strong and sturdy, were almost half the size of their mothers. Through my window, I watched as Mom and baby pecked through the grass in the morning dew, the other mother walking head high, calling her grieving sound in the field.
The day before, we passed something dead on the roadside and I worried that it was our cat. I turned my car to make another pass and saw that it was a baby turkey. The two mothers and remaining baby were wandering there on the other side of the stone wall. I wondered if they knew the sad sight on the other side of the wall, or if they were simply looking for the missing baby. Hearing her calls in the still of morning was heartbreaking.
The mothers and young one have now rejoined the flock; big male standing proudly on the hill flapping his enormous wings reigns over the twelve. Each morning, my turkeys wander through the yard and into the field as if they know that they belong. I can see them from my office window and am moved from my seat every once in a while as I see them heading for the road. Walking up the curb, I head them off saying “What have I told you about the street?” shooing them back to safety.
Early this morning, Trevor walked into my office to say “Bye Mom,” and strode out to the bus stop. I told him to have a nice day and opened my office door. My flock was across the street heading towards us down a long driveway, Big Daddy nearing the curb. I stepped outside with Trevor, who looked at me in my pajamas and glanced down the road looking for the bus. “Mom, go back in.” He said, eyes wide with the horror that I may be seen by the bus.
“But the turkeys…” I began.
“I’ll cross them. Just go back in.” He said, walking slowly toward the street. Five had crossed and more about to step into the road, Trevor drives them back until the cars pass. Once the road is clear, he gives them space and four more make their way across.
The bus squeals to a stop and the remaining three hop into the brush. As the bus lumbers away, the three stick their heads out; Mama and baby are among them. Cadence and I rush out to watch for cars and Cadence skips down the curb once all are safely crossed, herding them like an old pro deep into the field.
I don’t know why the turkeys cross the road. Perhaps it really is just to get to the other side.
I don’t know why I feel responsible for them; running up the street in my PJs, risking being seen by passing cars as I stand in the road talking them back from the curb.
I do know that I will keep crossing them, silly as that may be, even if the neighbors are talking. Thinking of ordering a road sign...