A Turkey Arrives, But Not for Dinner

'There's a wild turkey in the backyard!" my wife yells at the top of her lungs. I am in our finished attic, deep in peaceful meditation.

"Thanks!" I shout back through the floors and doors, jarred from my quiet time.

"There's a wild turkey in the backyard!" she yells again. My reply was not loud enough, evidently.

"Thank you!" I shout again, louder this time, annoyance flaring around the edges of my words.

But I rush to a downstairs window and see the tail end (literally) of the bird waddling down a wood-chip path. It leads from our lawn through 20 yards of woods to a circle of rocks.

My wife and I creep quietly out of the house, across the yard, and down the path. My wife spies the magnificent bird through the trees and brush. We watch together, bodies touching.

"Sorry I disturbed you," my wife whispers, "but I thought you'd like to see it."

"Don't worry," I say, "I'm sorry I shouted angrily."

Amends made, we get back to turkey watching. My wife volunteers to go inside and get our birding binoculars. I think back to another wild-turkey encounter I had. I was walking in the thigh-high hay fields on my brother's farm when a turkey - as surprised as I - burst out of the grass and into the air with a flash of wings. I almost became airborne myself as my arms flailed in fright.

Through binoculars, we spy on the gawky fellow. Then, not wanting to disturb this wild wonder, we retreat to the house to make lunch.

"I can't believe it, we have a wild turkey in our backyard!" my wife exults. I list the other creatures we've seen: snakes, skunks, rabbits, birds of all kinds. "Didn't we see a coyote one time?" I ask.

We take pride in our efforts to make our suburban half-acre wildlife-friendly, planting native trees and plants, and nurturing a wildflower meadow. Today we feel our efforts have paid off in a big way.

"There it is again!" my wife exclaims. The long-necked, wide-bodied beauty is calmly turkeying across the yard, stripping seeds off tall crab grass, munching to its heart's content, and helping with our weeding.

I decide to take a picture. I sneak out the front door and peek around the side of the house. Click. Click. Do not disturb.

Back inside, we watch the turkey waddle down the path again.

"Maybe he'll nest in our yard," my wife speculates hopefully.

Later in the day, while we're weeding our front flower beds, a neighbor, fresh from a walk, stops to chat.

We talk turkey.

"Oh, we've seen it. It walks down Braydll and goes into everybody's yard. We were down on the Cape, and one of my sons called and told my husband, 'You won't believe it! I'm sitting on the porch and I'm looking at a turkey!' "

At this point, imagining the phone conversation and knowing the family, I interject: "Don't talk about your brother that way!"

She laughs. "That's exactly what my husband said!"

Later, after hearing that other neighbors have also seen the bird, my wife and I wonder, "How wild is this turkey?" Given the turkey's blessing of the whole neighborhood, we concede that in this case our efforts at establishing a wildlife-friendly yard might not have drawn the critter's visit.

Undaunted, we will continue with our native-plant planting program.

And as for me, I will again head up to my attic sanctuary in search of quiet, at peace knowing that although my wife shouted "turkey!" she wasn't crying wolf.

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