Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkey

We are staying a few days with a host family that lives along a creek bottom in the farm lands of Nebraska. They have a small produce garden and milk cows located near their home. The lady of the house gets up early every morning to feed the cattle and clean the corrals. She shared that she likes to do it before the sun rises; otherwise she has to contend with wild turkeys underfoot.

It seems that as she is pitching hay from a “jelly-roll” hay bale, the turkeys swarm in and scratch and throw the hay in all directions in search of food. Although they are wild, they have learned that newly pitched hay is easy pickings. Normally wild turkeys are very wary of humans, but have become very trusting around this lady and her husband. My wife and I went out early to watch the spectacle, but the wise ol’ birds scattered immediately as we approached. They knew that we were strangers, so ran to safety. Wild turkeys are very cunning birds.

The North American wild turkey is nothing like the domesticated turkeys you buy in the grocery store. The wild turkey has a longer neck and legs than the domestic, and can fly. Domesticated turkeys bred for the table have large, heavy breasts which makes most of them incapable of flight. Author G. T. Klein said the true American turkey was “wild and wary to the point of genius.”

Ben Franklin thought the North American wild turkey should be the national bird. He expressed his feelings on the subject in a letter to his daughter:
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…. I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Eagles, King Birds, or wild Turkeys … all are marvelous creatures that God has created.

Lanny Johnson

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