Here Tom...
Off the Wall, May 21,

It was a beautiful day in the woods. The sun had just begun to rise above the ridge of one of the most scenic areas overlooking Lorraine, Pennsylvania. The Gallopavos were all nestled in their beds near a large oak tree that shaded and shielded them.

Tom was gobbling to his Mrs. about the projects of the day. Jenny and Jake knew they would have to do their chores before taking their daily walk to strengthen their muscles as growing children.

All went according to plan. Each family member carried out his or her job that lay before them. They knew by instinct what to do and did it well. Since this was the area where their ancestors lived, what they didn’t know, they picked up by watching their relatives.

By 1:30 p.m., the four sat and rested overlooking the forested hillsides. The kids couldn’t wait to take their hike along the grassy trail 100 yards up the hill. It was their way of getting out, exploring the unknown and meeting friends with whom they could pal.

In their own special way, they gobbled to their parents and away they went, enthusiastic about their travels ahead. With the sun heading toward the west, they tried to strut closer to the trees so as to keep cool.

It was 35 minutes into their journey, they heard a faint noise in the woods. Leaning over to Jake Jenny said, “Gobble gobble gobble gobble (interpreted, ‘Did you hear that?’)?” The sounds became louder. “Gobble gobble gobble gobble (‘Should we fear that?’)?” All of a sudden, they could make out yours truly calling their daddy.

“Here, Tom….here Tom, come on Tom, are you there?” I called out.

They were stunned standing very still, hoping the fellow wouldn’t see them. The pair were not aware that statewide turkey season had begun and their parents could be in a line of fire.

Since the Pennsylvania Game Commission rule states that stalking is not permitted, the only way I could talk to my fine-feathered friends was by calling them. The real trick was having them believe that I was not their enemy. The one thing I had done in the past was befriend others in my wilderness travels, so I was hoping to meet one of my animal friends who would lead me to the Hendersons and talk to them as to what it’s like to be a turkey.

I no sooner stepped over a fallen tree when I encountered Whoople, my long-time rabbit acquaintance.

“Hey Whoople,” I called out as I saw him watching from behind a bush. “Take me to the Gallopavos, OK? And so he did. Jake and Jenny followed.

When he got there, the family was perplexed and a bit shaken. “It’s OK,” Whoople said. Paul’s our friend. You don’t have to fear. “Tell me about the life of turkeys,” I began.

“Did you know turkeys originated in North and Central America,” Tom began, “and our ancestry has been around for 10 million years? Our name, ‘turkey,’ goes all the way back to Christopher Columbus. He thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, and believed the bird that he discovered (the turkey) was a type of peacock. He therefore called it a ‘turka,’ which translates ‘peacock’ in Tamil, an Indian language.”

“Hey, that’s interesting,” I told him. “There’s more,” he stated. “The Native American name for turkey is ‘firkee,’ some say this is how turkeys got their name. However, another way of thinking about it, when we get scared, we go turk, turk, turk!”

“Here’s something I bet you don’t know,” Tom said. “At one time, turkeys and the bald eagle were each considered the national symbol of America. A matter of fact, Benjamin Franklin fought hard on our behalf because he thought we were a better choice,” I was informed.

After hearing this, I thought, “How can anyone call anybody a turkey if this bird once was given recognition to such extent?”

“There is so much I can tell you, but have to leave shortly,” Tom stated. “Do you realize, Paul, that our hearing is super, our sense of taste excellent, but we have a poor sense of smell?” “I didn’t know that,” I stated.

Tom promised to meet with me soon again and tell me more. I was really excited. I thanked him and we departed.

I wish to thank Philip J. Sleber, PGC 2010 student intern, who verified the documented information about turkey facts.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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