November 26, 2009 2 Comments
I was once chased by a wild turkey… well semi-wild and it wanted my soul, or something. It definitely was not chasing me down for a hug or returning a dropped wallet.
When I was a junior in high school I had an odd English class. One half of the year it was taught by a coach and one half of the year by the drama teacher. Our school was shy an English teacher for just one period. Some people thought it was awful, but I think I received the best education that year. They both had a different approach to English that was captivating and challenging. And even though I still complain a little now, I learned a lot from the Walden Pond assignment. Although, I am not sure I learned exactly what I was supposed to learn.
The drama teacher decided to have us do an assignment that he had to do in college. We were to go into nature, have no one else around, have nothing that was entertainment, or anything too civilized. We were told that we couldn’t even take fishing polls or see civilization. We also had to document in a journal all events, preferably every hour. I assumed watches were completely allowed. He wanted us to do the project over the weekend. I was wondering the entire time he spoke, “How am I going to convince my mother that I needed to get lost in the woods for 7 hours?” My grandparents and my aunt had some land in Mariposa that they shared. It was over 20 acres large and I always ended up with poison oak when I went hiking there. I still wanted to go up to their cabin to do this project.
I pondered all day about how I was going to ask. My mother had class that night after work and this bought me time to think. My mother walked in the door and before I said a word she said, “I don’t want to hear any bitching from you or your bother, we have to go to Mariposa. My teacher is making us do a Walden Pond assignment.” I found out later that she had the same teacher as my teacher had when he was in college. She and I talked for a short while on the project. She only needed to be out in the wilderness for 3 hours, not 7.
We went to Mariposa and my brother got to bring a friend to help keep him out of the way. He was 16; his Super Nintendo alone should have kept him out of the way. Before we left my aunt warned us that a guy a few roads over just let out 12 turkeys because he was being kicked off his land and that turkeys can get fairly aggressive. My mom said she wasn’t too worried, she was just going to tan by the cabin, listen to music and if I turkey came near she would go inside. I was miffed. She wasn’t going to do her assignment like she should. I had planned on doing every little bit of it (well, all but peeing in the bushes, I did not want to end up with poison oak there!). I had already decided that I would even document that. I was not going to lie.
On the windy and bumpy drive leading to the cabin a turkey ran in front of our car. It was bigger than I thought. Upon reaching our destination another turkey was in our front yard. My brother and his friend tried to chase it off, but the turkey in turn chased them. While the two boys were running all over the country side, my mother looked at me and said, “Well, that should keep the birds busy. Let’s get the car unpacked.” Never mind that there were wild and crazy turkeys out there chasing one of her children already. Was she going to trip me if the turkey came back and use her other child as live turkey feed for her own personal escape? I got out and unpacked the car. After the first load to the house, where she carried near nothing, she said, “Why don’t you bring everything to the door and I will take the bags to the rooms?” Great, I felt like she just tripped me to free herself from the turkey. An image flashed before me, my mother slamming the door closed as I’m running up to it, being chased by a flesh eating turkey, locked out and left for dead. I tried to shake the image from my head as I carried very large loads to the door all the while being rushed by my mother.
My brother and his friend ran across the yard screaming and yelled, “Are they still chasing us?”
“They?” I said as I looked behind him. There were two running after them. I yelled, “Two! Split up!”
“NO! You never split up in a horror movie!” my brother’s friend yelled while grabbing a push broom that was on the side of the house. I was as still as could be. I thought of the seen with the raptors in Jurassic Park. All I had to do was grab the one bag in front of me, shut the trunk, and make it into the house. I did it all as fast as I could move. I didn’t think the birds saw me. Once in the house, I saw my brother was at the glass back door and my mother was in the bathroom with the door shut and locked. I let my brother in but his friend was still out there. My brother ran to the kitchen window and looked out. His friend had a broom and was swinging it at the bird.
My brother and I looked at one another. “He is my guest,” he said as he went to the back door opened it and yelled, “RUN!” His friend ran for the door and once inside started to laugh like a madman.
My mother emerged from the bathroom. “Who’s next? Those long car rides just make a person need to go.”
It was near dinner time, so I would need to go on my venture the next day. I got a hold of the very cute and friendly ‘boy next door’ (next door there is about 3 or 4 blocks over). He let me know that only 2 of the turkeys were left. A few of the birds had been shot, some just died, and one was hit by a truck. From what he said it did do some damage before it went. His little sister was scared to go outside because the birds were so mean. I told him of my class project and he promised if he saw any turkeys he would chase them down the hill and not towards me. I was very leery of going into the wild wilderness now. Before my biggest worry was poison oak and mosquitoes, now I had to fear massive, freakish birds with a taste for human blood.
I readied myself the next day. I brought OFF!®, a blanket to sit on, my notebook, a pen, a few pencils, a couple pbjs, and a stick… a very long stick. I walked out the door, past my mother sunbathing and listening to old 60’s and 70’s music. I shook my head as I walked by. I went to a spot that was a little thick with brush so I would hear them if they came. There was a crib of rocks near by I could climb up and scream if I needed. I looked out at the woods. I heard birds and thought of the turkeys. I heard leaves and thought of the turkeys. Every journal entry was full of my new found fear of turkeys. I wondered back to the cabin for a bathroom trip twice in the 7 hours (my bladder was stronger then) and saw no turkeys. As it grew time for dinner I wasn’t as worried and felt I had picked a safe place. I packed up my things. I stayed an extra 15 minutes because I felt guilty about the trips to the bathroom.
I went to the cabin, nothing. I went in and made dinner. My mother sat down and started looking over my journal. The night came and went. After I had my shower my mother told me to pack the car while she took hers. My brother and his friend were out hiking to the tip of “lookout rock” to see if the day was clear enough to see Yosemite.
I put all of the bags in the car and as I shut the trunk I saw a head pop out from the overgrown grass and weeds near by. I looked over at it. It was the turkey. The turkey cocked its head at me and charged. I ran like hell screaming “TURKEY!” I ran circles around the cabin.
Soon my brother and his friend were back. They were yelling and screaming at the bird. Things like, “I’m going to eat you!” “I’ve been waiting for this!” “Your time has come!” “Luke, I am your father.” and lots of profanity. I jumped in the car and wished I knew how to drive. My mother, done with her shower, looked out one of the windows and watched.
The boys never hurt the turkey. They did scare the hell out of it and the man down the hill, with the two asses in his yard, fired a gun. My brother said he warned them first and they moved out of the way. He missed but it freaked the bird out enough for us to make our escape.
I vowed, while I was rubbing Campho-Phenique© onto my poison oak patches, that I will forever and always enjoy turkey. I will never feel guilt of any kind for devouring poultry. That year my family enjoyed turkey more than we ever had. While we sat at my grandparents table, taking pleasure in our wonderful meal, we all talked about different run-ins we had with the birds. We found out how the last one met its maker. My uncles went hunting.