This Thing Called Courage

Monday, March 13, 2006


I FIRST SAW THEM a year ago this past fall as I was pulling into my driveway. There were five of them, grazing on the lawn next door, and I nearly pulled every muscle in my neck doing the double-take that I did-- for just one split second it seemed like aliens had landed next door. The last thing I was expecting was wild turkeys, and when you see three-foot tall, bizarre-looking creatures huddled together and moving in the odd way they do, you don't know what to think, at first. So this was November of '04. I saw them once after that, then they seemed to vanish; later that winter I saw one on the other side of the woods behind my house, alone and shivering in a snow-storm. I assumed the coyotes or raccoons-- or humans-- had gotten the rest of them. I didn't see them again over the winter.

Then one hot day last June, I saw one big-old turkey (the mother) and behind her came scampering, in a line that was somehow comic, TEN young baby turkeys, or pullets as they're called. What a thrill to know that at least one of them had somehow survived the winter, found a mate, and now was successfully raising a brood. As the summer went on they would visit every other week or so, and it was amazing to see how quickly the young'uns grew. By summer's end the poults were as big as their mother. About two months ago they began going further afield, and splitting up a bit-- but three males (or Bob, Joe, and Mike as I call them) have remained inseparable, and visit nearly every day, looking for their dinner. Last Monday when they came to call, one of them had a terrible limp, and the next day it worsened-- it was so touching to see how the other two waited on and encouraged their hurting brother. The limp is due to some cist or growth on one of that turkey's feet. Prayers and obseiences were offered up to Saint Francis, and I am happy to report that the limp is much better this week, and the cist or growth or whatever it is is somewhat diminished.

I have tried to capture with the camera them doing their 'male' thing-- the extraordinary expansion of the chest, the display of the gorgeous feathers-- the amazing, Tai Chai-like walk--but no luck so far. They sometimes go into the front yard and challenege the cars whizzing by. This we discourage as best we can if we are home.

This morning they came earlier than usual-- maybe because of the rain-- and have stuck around since then, just kind of hanging out. I took this picture of them five minutes ago, int he driveway. I hope they find mates, though I'm not sure how the will. But obviously their mother did.

Sometimes it seems as if I have my own private animal menagerie here, between the birds, the raccoons, the turkeys, and the squirrels. I can't say how much this brings to my life. And today's Globe has a story about the population growth and habitat expanion of our native Black Bears. Haven't seen any of them yet but I suppose it's only a matter of time. The four acres of woods behind my house is separated at the other end from the 3000-acre Middlesex Fells Reservation by only one street and an apartment complex, so I suppose this is where the wildlife unmltimately comes from, and returns possible. I have seen deer int eh Fells but not for a while, as well as the elusive Fisher Cat.


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