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Saturday, April 5, 2003

Here's some advice, if you happen to be a turkey: Never forget that you're a turkey.

I was peacefully watching the ballgame early this afternoon, as one is meant to do on a Saturday in April, when I heard a great fluttering of wings and a startled squawking in the garden. I turned my head in time to see only the shadow of movement. Well, I can't let something like that go, so I hurried to the window.

The first thing I saw was the cream-colored cat looking up at me with the most satisfied expression. Smug it seemed, as if it had just fulfilled a nefarious lifelong ambition. Of course, as all bullies do, it scurried away as soon as it saw me move toward the door. The next time I saw it was hours later, and it was harassing the finches and sparrows as usual. Punk.

Then I looked up into the massive old oak behind the garden, and on one of the higher branches I saw a turkey, still flapping its wings excitedly. This turkey (or one of its co-turkeys) is in my yard nearly every day lately.

It usually just wanders around aimlessly. When it finds itself in a corner where there's no easy way out, it will sometimes fly up to the top of the low fence post, look around for a minute, then fly on down and be on its way. That's as high as I've ever known any of the local turkeys to get, until this incident today.

It's hard to tell what was on that turkey's mind once it found itself in the top of the tree. I'm sure it wondered how it got there, even before it could ponder how it might get down. For the longest time, the better part of an hour, it hardly moved at all. It would stretch a wing out halfway every so often, then pull it back. It went so far as to lift one foot and scratch its head, but it seemed mostly glued to the limb.

I began to wonder if there was something I should do (other than the obvious, grabbing a camera). I almost hoped a buzzard or hawk would come by and frighten it down. I knew if it could fly up there, it could fly down, but I didn't think it would do it without some incentive. I thought I might toss an oak ball up in that direction, or maybe even phone the SPCA (imagine how that call would go). It probably would have been startled if I'd merely walked out close enough for it to know someone was there.

It was hard to tear myself away from the show, even though the Giants were beating the Brewers in frigid Milwaukee. At long last it gently picked up one foot at a time and turned itself sideways on the branch. Then, after testing its wings once or twice, it flew in a relatively dignified manner (considering it was a turkey) to the ground below.

It immediately started strutting away as if nothing in the world had happened. In its mind, nothing probably had. The whole affair was already in the past, and what's time to a turkey after all?


Find the turkey in the oak tree.
(For entertainment purposes only; no prizes will be awarded.)

We probably should draw some kind of lesson from this, don't you think? But for the life of me I can't come up with anything. If you're a turkey, stay out of the treetops. Maybe that's all there is to say.

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My inclination is to make a political metaphor out of the turkey incident. Maybe an epic poem about thinking things through before flying blindly into unknown territory. Trouble is, nothing rhymes with "Rumsfeld."

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Out on the road that lies before me now,
There are some turns where I will spin.