I see I've already covered cooking the beast (oh! the mess!) and what happened the year four dogs (why blame it all on my pup?) decided to help themselves to carcass and juices (oh! the mess!).
This year it's my intention to focus on the bird after which I figure I've probably had my say on the subject.
Oh, yes, the bird that runs like a scared flamingo and flies surprisingly well. And always fools me for I never expect to see a bird that huge perched that high in any tree.
The turkey is a reasonably rare bird around my house so any sighting is occasion to come running, hoping always that the camera is not too far from hand. I have seen single birds and flocks parading through, even once a hen with a young brood. Any and all are welcome though Minor sometimes has his own noisy opinion about who stays and who goes.
According to the National Geographic (I never dreamt I had so much on turkeys!), "The turkey, strictly North American, was domesticated by the Aztecs of Mexico hundreds of years before Spanish conquistadores took the bird home with them in the 1520s." Feathers and the eggs were valued as much as the meat. By 1540 Henry VIII was feasting on "turkie-fowle."
When the first explorers reached our shores, they found turkeys ranging from Florida into Canada. Its flesh was such a treat and the bird itself so much larger than the English Turkey that it was hunted nearly to extinction. Before that the birds had been so plentiful that a forty pounder might bring no more than four shillings.
I'd like to quote parts of a diary entry written by William Wood between 1629 and 1634. The Turky [sic] "hath the use of his long legs so ready, that he can runne as fast as a Dogge, and flye as well as a Goose; of these sometimes there will be forty, three-score, and a hundred of a flocke, sometimes more and sometimes lesse; their feeding is Acornes, Hawes, and Berries. . . In the winter when the Snow covers the ground, they resort to the Sea shore to looke for Shrimps, and such smal Fishes at low tides."
Dossenbach tells me turkeys don't mature for two years. Then, in the spring, when they're ready to mate the males begin their courting call, which, the book assures me, sounds like "gobble-gobble-gobble." Hence the name Gobbler. (Wow! What we don't know!) But once the hen picks up the call and approaches, he turns his back and ignores her completely. She must "literally prostrate herself" before getting his attention. (Haven't we women all known that kind?)
While the Tom remains polygamous, continuing to gobble away I'm sure, his hens will brood close together. Occasionally two or three will even share a nest, pooling their eggs until they have developed. She can lay eight to twenty at a time. Imagine a nest shared by three with that amount of eggs! This is the only time that the hen will remain on the ground.
The chicks (called poults) are ready to fly two weeks after they've hatched and will immediately follow mom into a high tree to roost there from then on. Another source says only eight to fifteen eggs at a time and twice as long to incubate.
I'm told they like tubers, grasshoppers and beetles, berries, grapes, seeds, even grass. Acorns seem a favorite and one stuffed (and how!) bird was found to have 221 in him.
If a bird gets lucky it can survive for 12 years. We can presume it wasn't the one who devoured 221 acorns.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org