Why did the wild turkeys cross the street? Because it is Thanksgiving, and they have a long memory. Turkey is on the menu, and the Pilgrims’ ancestors live here.
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors,” wrote Pilgrim Edward Winslow to a friend in England in 1621. “The four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.”
To celebrate that first Thanksgiving Day, hunters went out into the vast forests and fields and returned with turkeys, which were abundant in their neck of the woods, as well as wood pigeons, partridges, geese and ducks.
Living in rural southern New England not far from Plymouth Plantation, we see and hear wild turkeys every day. We brake for flocks of them, taking their sweet time as they saunter across the street. They forage in our yards or visit our bird feeders. The other day one of them climbed the brick path to our front steps, and I was waiting for the bell to ring.
We awake most mornings to the familiar gobbling sound, which can be heard a mile away. They roost at night in the top of the one-hundred-foot pine trees, where they sleep protected from prey.
Those who have only seen turkeys wrapped in white packaging in the frozen food section of the supermarket would be amazed at their size. They are huge. Males span four-feet high; and females, three-feet. They have powerful legs and can run up to 25 miles per hour. In flight they can travel top speeds of 55 miles per hour.
Frankly, we give them free rein because if we confront them, we fear they will remember the Pilgrims and plot revenge.
One of my neighbors, a kind woman and animal lover, lost her flower garden this year when they gained ground. She told me that she carries a big red rake that she waves at them in defiance, trying to shoo them away.
Consequently, they move on temporarily but seem to like her place best, climbing or flying over the fences to recapture the territory.
This Thanksgiving turkeys are everywhere, but most often found on our plates.