The Turkey Hunt

I remember when I was about 12 my father tried to get me to go turkey hunting. Being the smart-mouth city kid that I was and am, I said, "Sure Dad, are we going to lure one into our oven with a bowl of cranberry sauce? Are we gong to force feed it dried bread and butter?" He said, "Son, you have been watching too much television," "Let me get out my turkey record and play it for you." "You're kidding, right? You make fun of my music and you've got a turkey record -- c'mon, Dad," I said. Well, sure enough he did have a turkey (calling) record and to my city boy surprise, I found out that turkeys don't "gobble" as much as they "cluck." In fact they sound just like scraping chalk the wrong way on a black board. Not coincidentally, turkey calls are often made of a piece of slate and a plastic rod about the size of a piece of chalk. The turkeys my father still hunts in the backwoods of Missouri are the real thing. These are the noble, cunning birds that Benjamin Franklin wanted to designate as the national symbol. The chubby dumber-than-a-fence post, wide-breasted behemoths suitable for basting are really expatriates. The sleek wily turkey my dad hunts is native to North America. The rotund version was developed in captivity and perfected in England. My Dad says he can tell the age of a wild turkey by the length of its "beard" -- a peculiar gray plumage on the breast of the male wild turkey. Farm turkey's don't live long enough to have beards. Most go from egg to roasting pan in a mere 17-23 weeks. My last encounter with turkey's outside the freezer section was when I was in college. The local marathon course outside Columbia, Mo. went by one of the largest turkey farms in the Midwest. We startled the flock as we ran by. We were confronted with a sea of curious featherless red heads atop white bodies all looking our way. We had 10 miles to go. They stared at us. We stared at them -- each wondering who the real turkeys were.

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