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My Life’s Birds: #109

July 23, 2008

December 1, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – Wild Turkeys are not, by any means, rare in Southwest Missouri. The vast oak hickory forests of the Ozarks apparently provide precisely what the big birds need in the way of expanses of woods interspersed with open fields and an abundance of hard mast for them to feed upon. For that reason, I have a hard time remembering the specifics of my first listable turkey sighting. Up until that point I had seen so many turkeys in my life the sightings just began to run together. It wasn’t a matter of whether I’d get that first bird, it was a matter of when. So with that in mind, I’ll recount a particularly vivid turkey experience, which might have been the one listed, but might have not.

On a day that may have been December 1, my dad and I were heading into Springfield for some reason or another. At that time the family car was one of those Dodge Caravans that were so popular in the gas-drenched early 90s. The old Linden house sat at the top of a long gravel driveway off of a fairly busy rural highway. It wasn’t the safest place to consistently pull on and off of, especially as the mouth of the driveway opened onto a blind corner at the bottom of a rather steep dive down into the river valley. Cars would whip down the turn at a good rate of speed so we had to be careful. Especially when we’d head into Springfield, which required a hairy left turn. It was too easy to surprise a inattentive driver, or animal.

On this ordinary day, my dad pulled out onto the highway, and began accelerating around the corner up the hill, when suddenly an explosion of feathers burst out of the ditch on the side of the road. A turkey, a big one (but aren’t they all big?), scared out of its wits decided the best way to escape was to cross from left to right across the road. Being a bird, with the implied lack of well-developed reasoning skills, this course of action put it right in the path of our vehicle. So in this split-second we were suddenly faced with 25 pounds of onrushing turkey. And by the good fortune of the gods, or the vagaries of chance, my dad and I watched, wide-eyed and open-mouthed as the bird deftly brushed the front windshield and continued on into the woods on the right side of the road.

Of course it’s not hard to imagine what would have happened had the turkey’s instincts kicked in only a millisecond slower. I expect the result would have been, at best, a dead turkey in our laps and a few hundred bucks for a busted windshield. And with Thanksgiving the week before, even the timing would have been bad. But we were lucky, and the only thing we were left with was a memorable encounter with a common bird. One I still carry with me today.

photo from wikipedia

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