Tom Sees Bunny
Off The Wall, July 09, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve been down in the Unity Township woods. Most of it has it do with too much to do on the home front. With that said, you may remember back in October 2009, I interviewed Delbert, a white-tailed deer. In a story titled, “Come to mama,” he told me the many things about his family I did not know.

I then moved on learn all about rabbits. Thanks to Bunny Whoople in a column headlined, “Buck teeth,” he informed me all about rabbits and their habits.

Well today, I moseyed down to an area near Creekside Park and who do you think I met – Bunny and Mrs. Whoople. After spending a short amount of time with them, I was informed that they had someone special for me to greet. I couldn’t wait. Hopping over to a clearing, I followed them slowly. All at once they stopped and pointed their noses in a forward direction. Ahead of them were three turkeys. I was taken aback by what I saw.

Bunny called out, “Tom, do you have a minute? I want you to meet somebody.” He looked over our way and stared. “It’s OK,” Bunny exclaimed. “He’s our friend!” With that Tom wandered over to us. “Tom,” Bunny said, “This is Paul. He wants to learn about turkeys. Can you help him understand all about your heritage and other facts?” “Sure Bunny. I’ll do the very best I can,” he said. And so he began.

“Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and our ancestry has been around for over 10 million years,” he began. “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 peacock. He therefore called it ‘turka,’ which is ‘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 is something I bet you don’t know. 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”, our bearded friend said.

After hearing this, I thought, “How can anyone call anyone a turkey, if this bird once was considered to be our national bird?” Of course, I didn’t tell Tom what I was thinking.

Continuing on, Tom looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “Do you realize that we are the only breed native to the Western Hemisphere?” he asked. I shook my head, no.

Standing proud as a peacock, he strutted in my direction, edging a little closer and stopped. All of a sudden Tom turned his head slightly and commented, “Are you aware our hearing is super, but no external ears? And get this. We have great eyesight, and can see in color concerning a large distance around us. So when many creatures try to sneak up on us, we have our own built in warning system and are alert and ready.”

Lowering his head, our fine-feathered friend admitted, “We have a poor sense of smell,” but perked up when he announced, “But an excellent sense of taste!” Keeping within that same frame of mind, “I got my name, Tom, because of being male. I gobble. My wife is a hen; She makes a clicking noise. The gobble is a seasonal call during the spring and fall. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds or settle in for the night.

“Where does your family sleep?” was my next question. “We sometimes spend the night in tress,” he informed me. I felt foolish asking if he ever fell out of a tree while taking a little shut eye. Even though I did felt a little smart-alecky, I whispered in a low voice, “How many feathers do you think you have?” “Well, Paul, a mature bird like me has somewhere around 3,500. I can’t be sure, but that’s what my daddy taught me.”

“How fast can you fly, Tom,” I asked. “We can travel for short distances at speeds up to 55 mph. We can also reach 25 mph on the ground,” he noted.

Realizing it was getting late, I thanked Tom and his family for taking time to talk to me, and also extended my appreciation to Bunny and Mrs. Whoople for taking time out their busy schedule to get us together. It was definitely time well spent.

(Facts taken from www.baltimoremd.com and www.infoplease.com)


- Paul J. Volkmann
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