Tale of the Turkey

Soon the amount of dead fowl being consumed will be more than the amount of living bodies thinking for themselves. It’s a frightening thought. And imagine what it is like to be a turkey right now!

I imagine some old wattle-faced wild turkey, his tail feathers battered, his wing feathers mottled like dun fern, with a young brood of jakes and jennies gathered around him, strutting in their false pride, and hens pecking into distraction, and chicks ungainly still in their baggy down. And the old Tom chews on some winterberries, casts a moony eye on the assembled clan and says, “He should have nailed that damn pilgrim when he got the chance!”

A young jenny, still in her nightgown, replies, “Oh Father Tom, will you tell us the tale of the pilgrim, will you?”

And Father Tom replies, “Indeed I will, since the moon is red and from the old wood I hear the cries of our dead kin. And with this bad eye, this seer’s eye, I see the fool of a turkey who took the seed from man’s hand. Cold Turkey I name you. You, who with your arrogance, entrapped us all. You, devil bird, usurper, mad old gobbler with no sense.

“You see it was that false gobbler who made our lives a misery. Once the pilgrim had him, he lured him back to the homestead. And our hero thought, ‘Ah, here is my chance for glory. I shall show the other gobblers that we, too, can exist like the sheep and the cows. Carefully tended and looked after. No more running around in the cold of winter hunting for a speck of dried moss or a frozen berry that the hording squirrels missed.’

“But our brother was deceived by a greater deceiver. He had no intention of domesticating and letting us strut freely about the yard. No! He wanted to smell our tender pink flesh roast to a golden brown. He wanted our breasts but not what beat within. He wanted our wings but not to esteem how quickly we could clear the yard of the silly chickens, our lesser and doltish kin. He wanted our legs but not to admire how fast we run. And our feathers? Our glorious coats that have made friends with the wind? To stuff his lice-infested mattress or to tickle the rub of love or to dip into a pot and scribble words that are worse than the chicken’s scribble.

“So in the coldest part of the barn, where it smelt of rat droppings and the stink of the milkmaid’s and the farm hand’s couplings, he took our deceived brother. And there under the arc of the fading light of day, he brought out the brilliant arc of a new light. A magnificent object, bright and sharp, like moonlight captured and wielded by a mad conjuror and cared for like a young offspring. And with a terrible ecstasy we can only imagine, the pilgrim severed our brother’s head with the new gleaming god of beauty.

“His flesh they roasted. His insides they threw to the dogs. His young bones they crunched on and spat out as if they had been poison. They pulled his wishbone and made unspeakable requests.

“And our beloved brother lay there on the table, his one wish, life, snatched from him while the pilgrims drank their fermented barley and hops and made fools of themselves. Thanked their god for the feast as though he had designed it when in fact it was the simple ego of our brethren that made the whole feast possible.

“So, my little clan, we should be thankful that we are still wild and still have a wits about us. Man may still hunt us, but it’s a fair game. Our will against his. Not tricked by unclean, New World monsters with an appetite for flesh.”


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