September 19, 2008

You Little Turkey

That's what Grandma Irene would say whenever she discovered that I'd chewed up all of her Big Red or ate the rock hard Twinkies straight out of the freezer, but other than hanging out with my bad-behaving self, I've never spent much time with a turkey. Nana Pat had an old domestic guy named Tom who strutted around the yard, but we mostly avoided each other.

Today, taking that same circuitous route to the hair salon (where I got a fancy new do), I passed a rafter of wild turkeys-- that's what the group is called, a rafter; I had to look that up-- and stopped to watch them comb the grass in front of the farm house. At first I was mystified because the birds are long and sleek with their feathers flat and don't look much like the cartoons I know.

Here's what I've learned about the bird, from Wiki of course:

They're much smarter than their domestic cousins; It's probably best that the cousins be a bit slow anyway, given their fate.

They are agile fliers and usually fly low for no more than a quarter mile.

The males are polygamous, and usually have a harem of five hens. Lucky boys.

They mate and are hunted in the spring. Wild turkey hunting is quite a racket, apparently.

Here's my favorite part-- According to Wikipedia, no one's sure if Ben Franklin publicly advocated for the wild turkey as our national bird, but he was not at all happy with the choice of an eagle. Here's 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."

I never knew the Bald Eagle was a thief. It seems that instead of calling me a turkey, Grandma should have said, "You little Bald Eagle!" whenever I pilfered her sweets.

No comments: