Sticking Your Neck Out

Just up the creek from the cottage, there's an old farmhouse that sits on a sharp bend in the road.  A little gravel lane runs from the main road, along one side of the house, through a snippet of forest, to the local cemetery and beyond, leaving the farmhouse on a pie-shaped wedge of property.  The house sits slightly up above the roadway and is bordered by a decades-old, sturdy stone knee-wall.

The paved road in front of the house, twists and turns down the mountainside, following the creek-bed.  Because of the angle of the bend, its impossible to pass by the house, without slowing.  I've often thought it a wonder that nobody's driven straight through the front door on a foggy winter evening, but then, that's probably why the stone wall was built.

Aside from its peculiar placement along the roadside, there's nothing too significant about this particular wooden farmhouse, with its replacement windows, and patchwork of mismatched clapboards and shingles.  What catches my eye each and every time I drive by, is the collection of untethered, unattended farm animals that spill beyond the little stone wall and onto the roadway's grassy shoulder.

On any given day, a passer-by may encounter a small flock of assorted roosters and chickens, pecking absentmindedly through clumps of tall fescue, a goat or two, climbing along the old wall, or a calf nosing idly across the side drive.

Last Spring, on return to the cottage after an unseasonably cold and snowy winter, a hand-painted sign rested along the gnarled wall, propped by a broken tree branch.  It read, Please don't shoot the tame turkey, he has no beard.   My curiosity piqued, I went back and looked for the turkey, and eventually found it amongst the hens, chicks and roosters, contentedly pecking across the front lawn.

I considered whether or not he knew he was different, and how he came to be part of their clutch.  I certainly understood the angst of the person that painted the sign, fearing he'd fall between some hunter's sights.  Thereafter, I made it my business to look for that turkey, each and every time I'd pass by, and considered it a personal triumph to find him safe with his adopted flock.

The summer passed, and I saw less of the turkey and company, as they seemed to prefer the shade of the backyard to the heat of the front.  Then, on a cool fall day, as I rounded the bend, and narrowly missed a stray hen, I caught sight of not one, but two large wild turkeys, peering down off the lawn.  And between them, pecking feverishly about, were five turkey chicks.  I slammed on the brakes, pulled off to the side, and pulled out my camera.

I'd thus far been unable to photograph the elusive single turkey, but considered my odds considerably improved, as I sat there, in front of the house in my convertible coupe.  They saw me, I knew, and were wary, of course, but they pecked their way closer.  I clicked away, scarcely able to breath, for fear that I'd spook them, and frighten them off.

The chicks were by far the hardest to shoot, as they darted and dashed, this way and that.  Unlike the slow-moving cows, of previous photo safaris, the turkey's proved themselves unwilling subjects, refusing to still for even a second.  Frustrated, as they moved toward a hedgerow, and out of my view, I moved the car closer.

In a defensive effort, they positioned themselves behind a screen of tall grass, so I sat very still, camera to eye.  Every so often, a neck would stretch-out, and a curious head would pop up from behind.  When it did so, I clicked.  It was a game that we played for quite a long time, until a pick-up came blasting between the turkeys and I.  It was then, that they turned tail and fled, across the side drive to the henhouse out back.

I've since stopped, and spoken to the woman that lives in that house, and inquired about the turkeys that live in her yard.  She just shrugged and said that they moved in one day, first the one, then another, now a whole flock's about.

Now it's that time of year, when the big boys are out, searching for trophies, and hunting for sport.  Silly turkeys, I worry, will stick their necks out, as they peck through the fescue and gobble about.  If I could, I would tell them to keep their heads low, lest they end up without them, trussed, and stuffed on a plate.

I realize we're not all that different, the turkeys and I, living just this side, of our comfort zone, and I know like the turkeys, I've a few things to learn about taking that risk.  You make a good target when you hold your head high.
All photos taken by Mrs. Green Jeans, 2010 

1 comment:

  1. nature has so many lessons to teach us about life. good for you taking time to listen and just watch the stories unfold.