Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing Inspiration from Turkeys and Other Living Things

In a recent post, "Freelancers: Where do you get your ideas?" fellow blogger Jennifer Lamont Leo listed suggestions for finding writing inspiration. I'm lucky in that ideas come running down the long, curving driveway to my house each morning ... my turkeys.  I just watched a squirrel play with one young family of turkeys.  The squirrel scared the younger ones and enjoyed making them run, chasing one after another.  But the tables turned and the mature turkeys put him on the run.

 Watching nature at play in my front yard on a beautiful September morning.  What fun!  Then I remembered that turkey hunting season is another September tradition ... a tradition of which I am not fond.  I wrote the following column for The Spokesman Review in October of 2007.  I hope you enjoy reading about my feathered friends and recognize the natural writing opportunities that surround you no matter where you live.

North Idaho Garden Art

I prefer my turkey alive and well, thank you.

Where did all the turkeys come from this year?  It seems like North Idaho, from the Canadian border to the Palouse, is being overrun. All summer we have had to dodge slow-moving groups of turkeys on the road in front of our house. They are everywhere. A small flock slowed me down when I went to visit a friend on the other side of the mountain recently, and we’ve seen dozens of turkeys alongside the roads and in the woods during our summer rides.

For years, we’ve enjoyed our feathered visitors, but this year they have become a nuisance. Flocks of 10 to 50 turkeys visit our house several times a day, slowly pecking their way across our yard, leaving little presents in the grass, and nesting in my garden.

So, when I heard it was hunting season, I thought, “Thank goodness!” And, I understood when the Idaho Department of Fish and Game responded to reports of high turkey populations and earlier landowner complaints, by extending the length of turkey hunting season this year and increasing the limit from two to five, with properly purchased “special unit” turkey tags.

But then I saw how serious these hunters were. They geared up for opening day on Sept. 15. They sighted in their guns, stocked up on ammunition, and bought those extra tags. They scoped out their area, double-checked their licenses, and gassed up their rigs. There were legions of them – all heading for the hills (my hill) in their camouflage-colored shirts, pants, jackets, bib overalls, boots, hats, and gloves. Some are just readying themselves for their big game hunts by taking out a few turkeys, while others are avid bird hunters.

With great hearing, amazing eyesight, and a 270-degree range of vision, turkeys aren’t easy targets. But they are vulnerable if they run into any of these gun-toting enthusiasts. They even have to watch out for bow hunters. These guys arm themselves with compound bows (often camo, of course), and
barbed arrows that would scare the turkeys to death if they just saw the lethal-looking things, let alone got shot by one of them.

That started me thinking about my turkeys. I find their awkward gait endearing as they run down our driveway, and their calls keep me company while I garden. I like to watch a stately group of nine toms I call the “Graybeards,” and I’ve enjoyed watching one harried hen carefully herd her babies around all summer.

The other day, my husband had to shoo one curious gobbler out of his shop, and not too long ago we spotted a turkey in an apple tree just about 20 feet from our house. Turkeys are thought to be dumb, but this turkey balanced shakily on a small branch, then pecked at apples until he made them fall ... to the waiting turkeys below, who, well, gobbled them up.

Then I started thinking about all turkeys.

Did you know they have scouts: dependable, loyal turkeys who watch for trouble while the others eat? Did you know they sleep in trees at night, or can fly up to 55 miles per hour for short distances?
In fact, they are quite amazing birds. Did you know they can run up to 25 mph? It makes me wonder how the one with the crippled foot seems to keep up with the others – do they wait for him? Then there’s that brilliant one that fed the others – what about him? He must be a turkey genius – maybe a turkey Einstein. 

Just thinking about him made me realize, I don’t think it’s fair that hunters sit quietly in a turkey blind and use turkey calls to call in an intelligent bird like this, or any other unsuspecting family of turkeys, just out for an evening stroll. I don’t think it’s fair there are hunters out there, just waiting for the chance to kill my favorite North Idaho gobblers.

So, I guess I don’t really mind dodging those turkeys in the road, or those droppings in my front yard, after all. And to all you hunters out there, please don’t shoot my turkeys.

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