Yes, I mean real turkeys. Out in the wild. Which in my neighborhood means toddling across the road. In truth, one is more likely to see turkeys in Northern California when out hiking around the foothills, but it seems the foothills are so full of turkeys that they've spilled out into my neighborhood.

Here's my first impression: they're huge. Thigh-high on me and I'm not a small person. They're also incredibly handsome birds, all dark feathers interspaced with paler bits for contrast and interesting patterns like the intricate Shetland wool sweaters my mom used to knit back when the summer and winter Olympic games were packed all into one year.

Okay, they're incredibly handsome so long as you don't see a male face-on. That red pulpy thing trailing down their foreheads and over their beaks is, in a word, ugly.

Anyway, my point is not to try to explain -- badly -- what a turkey looks like when I know any idiot can look up a picture in an Audubon guide. My point is to clear up a few things about turkeys. Because I know, deep down inside, this is why readers come here, to the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writer's blog. In the desperate hope someone will finally confirm or deny whether or not turkeys really make gobbling noises.

They do! And it's crazy cute. Imagine yourself on a walk along a dirt path in the woods—la la la- when you hear gobble gobble gobble! Exactly how you'd expect it to sound. And then you turn and see a male turkey with the full Thanksgiving fanned tail thing going on, wings so laden with gorgeous masculine plumage they fair trail upon the ground as he struts along.
And then you wonder: what the hell is he doing that for?

So you do a 360 and find after 180 discover that there's a female nearby. Maybe 15 feet away and… not showing the least bit of interest in the male. I mean none. Zip zot zero.

Because she has eight tiny fuzzy turkeys (turkeyettes? Turklings? Chicks?) bouncing about her ankles. And then, she notices you, makes a frantic clucking noise and all eight fuzzy things are suddenly in-flight balancing on a branch up in a tree.

Up in a tree!!

Turkey's fly! It's true! Granted it was a bit like lobbing wiffle balls. And maybe their tree branch of choice was only 6 feet off the ground. But given the angle of ascent, they probably flew 10 feet to get there, which was at least 20 times their body length. That's like flying up and over a house for a full grown turkey. Unfortunately, while I've seen an adult turkey "fly" through the underbrush, it's really more of a long-winded, 5 foot hop.

It seems somewhere along the path of growing up, they get too much ballast and become ground dwellers. Which, so far as I can tell, doesn't seem to bother the turkeys, because who needs to fly when the good food is a scratch away on the ground?

To me this is an important lesson about life: Like a turkey needs to be close to the ground to get to their proffered food source, writers need chocolate. Or they write long blogs about flying turkeys.

So this is all really a back-handed complaint that my local See's candy shop closed its doors, unannounced and without fanfare, a few weeks ago. I noticed when I and a friend walked by it one night recently. I stopped, confused, when all I passed was a strange white, unadorned storefront. It took me a moment to realize it wasn't there. But I am still, even as I write this several weeks later, sad it's gone.

Liz Jasper is the award-winning author of Underdead and Underdead in Denial. She is hard at work watching turkeys fly into trees.

14 comments

  1. Barbara Monajem // May 12, 2009 at 7:06 AM  

    Heh. Sorry about the candy shop. I've seen wild turkeys fly in the woods in Louisiana, too. I must be a noisy walker, though -- all I ever get is a glimpse to accompany all the flapping.

  2. Terry Odell // May 12, 2009 at 7:13 AM  

    We've got turkeys around here (after all, if there's a park named Turkey Lake Park, someone must have seen a turkey there) but I've never seen one fly.

    What we have in our neighborhood lately are grops of ibis poking their long, curved bills into the lawns. As someone who grew up where the sight of robins on the lawn was about as exotic as it got, I still slow to watch these birds on their morning forage stops.

  3. Edie // May 12, 2009 at 8:19 AM  

    We have wild turkeys in our neighborhood, too. I've seen them fly and it's funny because they're so big. At the same time, it's heart-lifting.

  4. Judy // May 12, 2009 at 9:42 AM  

    Liz, I loved the way you parleyed the subjects of turkeys into the need every writer has for chocolate. Very cute. Every once in a while, it's a necessity. Yes?
    Sorry about See's being closed and thanks for the info on turkeys.

  5. debjulienne // May 12, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

    We had a funny situation happen with my boys this year...and turkey's...it was about a week before the opening of turkey season...and down out private little road, her comes, no less than 25 turkeys, prancing and posing right in front of the house....like they were taunting the boys...I could just see the boys flexing their trigger fingers....one week later there wasn't a turkey to be found...I'm still laughing about it...they're not.

  6. Liz Jasper // May 12, 2009 at 12:31 PM  

    Hi Barbara, I'm sure the reason why I had ample time to get a good long look at the turkeys is because they were distracted by all the turk-etttes.

    Terry, you must stop all writing immediately and go lurk in the park until you see a turkey fly.

    Hi Edie,
    I know! It IS heart lifting to see them fly. As much as I hate to admit that...

    Hi Judy,
    I'm pretty sure it's in the writer's code somewhere that everything must eventually link to chocolate. Why else would we do this?

    Hi Deb,
    Go turkeys! Nice to see a bunch of boys outdone by a gaggle (group? mess?) of turkeys. Wish I could have seen it.

  7. Mary Marvella // May 12, 2009 at 1:16 PM  

    Liz! You cracked me up! I've never seen turkey's fly and likely won't. There aren't any in my neck of the woods. (Suburban Atlanta, sorta)
    Now deer are a different story.

    Watch out for the turkey droppings.

  8. Mary Ricksen // May 12, 2009 at 2:28 PM  

    Liz you have an amazing mind. I live with a turkey, but he can't fly anymore either.
    I don't think I have ever seen a wild turkey. I wonder if they taste gamy?
    As far as the candy shop. Go online and look for the Vermont Country Store. You can get all the cool candy from childhood.
    I have a canary, he can fly, but there is not much meat on him....
    And he can sing beautifully.
    This post was a nice change, do more Liz.

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel // May 12, 2009 at 5:31 PM  

    What an interesting story! We have deer, buzzards and rabbits, but no turkey! The buzzards are so ugly!Have you ever seen the face of a buzzard? Yuck!

    Scarlet

  10. Toni V.S. // May 12, 2009 at 5:45 PM  

    I remember once when driving in Kearney, Nebraska, I had to stop my car to allow a dozen full-grown turkeys to cross the road. (Is there a joke there?) They took their sweet time. Didn't hurry a bit! And speaking of chocolate, I just bought a 3.5 ounce bar of Lindt dark chocolate and chili. Now there's a combo that'll perk you up!

  11. Mona Risk // May 12, 2009 at 5:46 PM  

    When I was ten, my grandpa bought a turkey a month before Easter. He wanted to fattten it to cook for Easter. The problem was my cousins, my sister and I named the turkey and played with her for a month. We spend Easter Day crying when we heard they killed her and we all threw up,when it showed up on the table as the main dish.

  12. Liz Jasper // May 12, 2009 at 7:05 PM  

    Mary M., glad I gave you a laugh and appreciate the (big) (sorry, couldn't resist) reminder about turkey droppings.

    Mary R, what a nice thing to say, especially accompanied by directions to more chocolate.

    Hi Scarlet, I think I have seen a buzzard and rather appreciate what Disney did to pretty them up in Dumbo. Or were those vultures?


    Toni, I saw in my supermarket a chocolate bar that had bacon and the checker swore they were flying off the shelf. At $6.95 a pop!

    Mona! Eeew! Now I have to go run out and cover the poor little turkeys' ears. Um, where are they on their heads? Anyone?

  13. Mary Marvella // May 12, 2009 at 10:27 PM  

    OMIGOD! Anyone remember the song "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley"?

    Well, someone gave my family a turkey to fatten for Thanksgiving. My sibs and parents fed the bird and named him Tom Dooley. Daddy lopped off "his" head. Bro and Sis wouldn't eat Turkey. I did, despite their singing the song. I didn't feed the bird, or name it, or watch Pop kill it!

  14. Nightingale // May 14, 2009 at 2:33 PM  

    Liz, a witty post as usual. I laughed aloud and really enjoyed a chance to laugh. Yeah, the male turkey face on is pretty unattractive.