Friday, April 25, 2014

Turkey Talk

Earlier this year Grandma Washburn gave me one of Grandpa's old box type turkey calls as a gift. I was dying to try it out, so last Sunday I snatched the opportunity and escaped into the Blue Mountains. Laurie and I arrived in Monticello around 2:00 p.m. and I promptly dropped her off at Grandma's house, making a beeline for the big hill. Arriving at the family's mountain property, I parked at the lower gate, grabbed my day pack, hopped the fence and began walking in a southwesterly direction. As I trekked along, the crisp alpine air refreshed me, and the aroma of giant pine trees were enticingly aromatic. At 8,000 feet there was no snow remaining on the ground, the still leafless oak brush looked gaunt and haggard and, often, busted-up from carrying an overwhelming load of snow from earlier in the year. Struggling up through a carpet of pine needles, cones, dead and down oak leaves and a variety of other ground cover were young and tender shoots of grass. Interspersed among the new growth were gorgeous miniature blue bells, and what I less than scientifically determined to be white phlox.
Navajo Wild Turkey Wood Carving - Marvin Jim (#348)
When I discovered a promising location, I would back into it, sit down and talk turkey for a few minutes. Although I had previewed several You Tube videos on the subject and "practice scratched" on the box at home, this was my first attempt at reaching out to the freaky looking fowl on their own turf. As I somewhat silently made my way through the property, I gobbled out declarations and listened for a response. There was none. In high school Coach Bayles counseled me on the negative effects of walking and talking at the same time. Maybe it was simultaneously walking and chewing gum? No matter, the implications are the same. He and I never did get along well, and our win/loss record on the gridiron reflected that painful reality. Who was responsible for that downward spiral has never been finally determined, but I am certain my inability to do two things at once played a relevant role. Even if I was not effectively communicating with the turkeys, I afforded the local deer population a bit of comic relief. I am confident this is the case, because a small herd kept circling my route as if they could not get enough of my ongoing act.

On one occasion I found myself sitting on a large lichen-encrusted rock which rested beneath an overhang of mangled oak brush. There were a few turkey feathers scattered about the ground, and I picked one up to inspect it. As I did so, I recalled Navajo legends concerning Turkey. In one, Turkey was created by deities and is mightier than eagles and far more benevolent. Because the supernatural beings provided Turkey with many types of seeds, he is charged with teaching humans agriculture, and is in turn responsible for bountiful harvests. Turkey carries white corn in his tail feathers and blue corn round his neck. Yellow corn he hides in the small feathers above his tail and mixed corn is on his wings. Squash he keeps under his right wing and melons under his left. Tobacco is under his tail and beans are kept in the piece of flesh that stands on top of his beak. Turkey is blessed with wide ranging knowledge, and knows the thoughts of humans. He does not often care to be bothered and, because he is graced with impeccable vision and a crafty nature, Turkey has the ability to appear unexpectedly and disappears without a trace. When a flood moved the Navajo from the previous world, Turkey was the last to enter the escape reed. Thus he was stuck at the end of the line. When the waters rose high enough to wet him, Turkey began to gobble and the people knew danger was near. Often did the waves wash the end of the Turkey's tail, and it is for this reason the tips of his tail feathers are to this day lighter in color than the rest of his plumage.

Making my way to the top of the property, near the crest of a hill I discovered a star-like stump in the midst of an oak brush cluster. I sat with my back against the stump and sent out more calls. Turkey did not answer. Either I was a pitiful purveyor of turkey vocabulary, there were no turkeys about or they were just not interested. Whatever the case, I was feeling rejected. After awhile I gave up and put away the box. From my pack I pulled a coyote call I kept for just such occasions. After a half hour of intermittent screeching with no sign of the chaotic Coyote, I put that one away as well. That day my attempts to reach out to Turkey and Coyote were a bust. While I was lucky enough to interact with the local deer population, I feared they might have a low opinion of me and my activities. I decided it was best to just walk about and enjoy the beauty of the land and day. As it approached 5:00 p.m., my mind turned to dinner. I knew Laurie, Grandma Washburn and sister Stephanie would have been putting together another Thanksgivinesque dinner at the house. The main course would be ham not turkey, which was fine with me since mustard goes better with pork than with fowl and I was craving Grey Poupon. As far as those uncooperative gobblers were concerned, I decided to leave them with an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator-themed statement, so I said out-loud, "I'll be back!"

With warm regards,
Barry and the team; Steve, Priscilla and Danny.

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