It’s time to talk turkey. Like how much we love to eat it? No. That’s a given. How lame it is such a delicious bird that is indigenous to our continent is named for a country straddling Europe and Asia? Well, that is curious, and a truly dorky name, too. Just the sound of the two syllables fits as a descriptor of something or someone that is one step off the sidewalk. But, no—again.
Besides being the feathered feature of our feasts every Thanksgiving, the turkey has more association with people than you’ve been led to believe. Some of their behavior mirrors ours so much, it makes me wonder if someday anthropologists will find a bizarre common ancestor. Kind of a turkey-man hybrid. Wouldn’t that be cool. Maybe this hybrid creature could fly.
By the way, contrary to conventional wisdom, turkeys can fly. At least the wild ones can, up to fifty-five miles per hour for short distances. They can outrun us, too, capable of up to thirty miles an hour for 100 yards. For the record, that absolutely destroys Usain Bolt’s standing. (He could only sustain such speed for twenty meters.) The domesticated birds meant for our dinner tables, though, can’t do any of that. They are like the fattened pampered humans in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Or the plump and coddled humans in WALL-E. Eating and napping are their big challenges. Also just like humans—after they eat turkey. Hmmm . . .
If you squint a bit, the turkey is rather beautiful. The broad spread of tail feathers, the rust and bronze highlighted upper body feathers, the stylish white stripes on the wings. The squinting helps when you get to the head. It has wart-like growths, called carbuncles, all over it. A long red thing dangling from the forehead resembles, in shape and movement, the icky congealed mucus blob swinging from the nose of a sick toddler. That dangly bit is called a snood. As if that weren’t gross enough, they also have a wattle—another dangling bit, this one from the chin. And the toms (males) have sharp spurs for fighting. As in one to two inch spikes. Protruding from the back of their ankles. Do not mess with them. They are powerful. Yes, the American wild turkey is a badass, the Liam Neeson of the bird world.
Studies have shown the toms (males) with longer snoods have more success at mating. Much like their human counterparts, toms most likely give those studies a lot of weight. They probably get envious of each other’s snoods. The hens (females) probably snicker at such tom-foolery, then go back to taunting them. It may be difficult to disrespect the males for long, because—also like humans—related toms will band together to approach the females and court them. They have literal wing men. Only one of the toms gets to mate with the female at that time. Don’t waste your tears on the others. The whole lot of them are as randy as lust-driven teenagers and mate as often as they can get away with it, with any bird who’ll let them. Borrowing from The Bachelor, they don’t even pair up for a single season.
Turkeys eat insects, seeds, and berries. Even aging, fermented berries. That could explain a lot. Turkeys get beer goggles. Just like us.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.