The early evening was glorious, the air crisp and clean. The perfectly angled sunlight streaming into the still heavily laden red and yellow leaves of oak brush and wild maple visually set the fall foliage on fire. My wife Laurie and I, along with our three young children and Grandpa and Grandma Washburn, tromped through the few dead and down leaves in search of wild turkey feathers. We were exploring on my in-laws' property, which is located on the east flank of the Blue Mountains, just above Monticello. It was one of those autumn afternoons poets, the likes of Robert Frost and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, could only do justice through well crafted verse. We could hear Merriam turkeys chuckle across the way, but could not see them for the thick brush and stands of aspen and pine between us. We knew those wily rascals roosted nearby, because they left behind tufts of fluff and feathery fringe.
Navajo Turkey Carving
Laurie had a fistful of the flat-topped, white-tipped tail feathers and several striped brown, black and white wing plumes. The brown tones in the feathers were coppery and iridescent when viewed through the refracted light. Every time Spenser, Alyssa or McKale found one they would sprint to their mother, pass off the treasure and fan out in search of more. Because of his sharp eyes and intimate knowledge of terrain, Grandpa had a small handful of pompons himself. Grandma had even fewer finds because she and Laurie were more interested in the flora of the mountain lands. Earlier they had gathered a small sack of seeds from the dry pods of columbine in the nearby meadow. More often than not, mother and daughter were bent over some plant or bush, plotting a future of replanting their yards. I had the fewest finds of all, because I was more interested in antagonizing the kids than plundering plumage. Much to my wife's chagrin, I am the instigator of mayhem in our home. In an effort to teach them to predict the unpredictable, I do my darnedest to keep our children on their toes.
As we probed deeper into the stand of oak, we came upon a grouping of trees 8-10 inches thick, hefty for oak brush. The trees rose 6-8 feet, arched overhead and created an woven mesh of branches. With the mass of colorful leaves lit-up as they were, the place impressed me as a natural cathedral enhanced by a leafy version of stained glass. We stood there silently in the midst of this sacred place, embraced by its splendor. Just then the breeze picked-up and the dried seed-pods resting upon the columbine stalks began a woodsy harmony as they bumped and scraped against each other. Further back in the trees the wild turkey joined the concert with their deep throated verse. It must have been Alyssa or McKale who first discovered the mother load of turkey plumage, because I heard a loud squeal of excitement. Grandpa exclaimed, "We found their roost!" The happiness in the children's voices as they laughed, scrambled about and let out exclamations of pleasure added harmony to the coral arrangement. To my ears there was no more beautiful sound in the world.
As I stood there watching, wondering, enjoying my family and listening to the chorus, a group of does and fawns filed out of the trees and began feeding in the meadow just below us. They seemed completely unperturbed by our boisterous presence. The deer were within 50 yards of us, and I could see their brown eyes blink occasionally, as if they wondered at the awkward, loud nature of human beings. In spite of everything, they seemed to accept us. As I stood taking in the scene, I heard rustling in the bushes to my right. Slowly moving in that direction, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare and unusual tassel-eared Abert's squirrel. I slowly rounded a group of three closely grouped pine trees and spied a couple chipmunks frolicking in the leaves. I bent over, plucked a stalk of crested wheat grass, leaned against a tree and chewed the stem as I watched Chip and Dale play. Behind me I heard more rustling. Leaning forward slightly and looking through the trees, I spied my son Spenser intently scanning the ground for feathers. He passed my position without noticing me and turned his back as he began to move away. "Time to disrupt!", I thought to myself. I moved as quietly as a cougar preparing to pounce; sure of my prey. When I was in position I let out a roar like a grizzly bear and charged the boy, expecting to have him in my grasp in no time. Somehow Spenser anticipated my attack and took off on an all out sprint, quickly outracing me. "The little Bounder!" As I pulled-up winded and spent, laughs and cheers erupted all around me, Spenser had outwitted his maniacal old man. I guess I was, deservedly, the turkey of the day.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.