Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Close Encounters of the Turkey Kind

Uh, no. Not that kind...*

Yup, that kind.

While on my way to work this morning I found myself momentarily in formation with a somewhat annoyed male turkey. That would be a "tom" (but not a "Tomcat").

There is an intersection on my way to work which is sometimes terrorized by a wild turkey gang which apparently lives in the vicinity. I have seen them on other occasions, strutting around in the road, daring the motorists to go ahead and try to get through.

I mean these birds are really arrogant.

But today there was only one, a young tom who apparently felt that the roadway belonged to him. Which wasn't quite the way I saw it.

Now the road at the point of the turkey encounter is four lanes. Mr Turkey was using the outer of the two southbound lanes, I was using the inner. I decelerated so as to deconflict myself with the turkey in question, him not making his intentions known as of yet. But he seemed content to maintain a course roughly parallel to mine. I continued to decelerate as my calculations indicated that the bird's CPA** would be about two feet. Ample separation I thought, given my rather slow speed at this point.

As I came alongside the turkey, he seemed to notice my vehicle for the first time. And it seemed that Mr Turkey was somewhat displeased at my overtaking him while he was out for his morning constitutional. No, he seemed not happy at all.

For his tail feathers, which had been spread, suddenly swept back and the turkey began to open his throttle to match my speed. He was also, as I sat there, somewhat astonished, gobbling. Yes, gobbling, the noise turkeys make. It was unmistakable.

So there I was, proceeding in a very tight formation with a tom turkey. He had to be within a yard of my port beam, moving quickly and gobbling his fool head off. I'm sure the turkey felt we were hurtling down the road at breakneck speed. But I checked my instruments, we were doing 10 MPH, tops. I guess to a turkey that's moving along pretty sharply, while on foot.

Well, this little tableau lasted less time than it takes to tell the tale. Because suddenly a young loon (wolfing down a donut AND talking on a cell phone) decided that he would waste no more time watching the old dude and the turkey doing their formation-thing.

(Not this kind of loon...)

(This kind...)

This ee-jit blew past us. Almost hitting Mr Turkey, who was no longer mad at me mind you, the loon had drawn his full attention in a major way. I, for my part, was not that surprised. Many young males in this neck of the woods drive like the road is theirs and how dare you impede their donut-munching, cell phone-chatting progress. They're in a hurry!

Whilst I was bemoaning the lack of a surface-to-surface missile system in my car (for to send the young donut-munching, cell phone-chatting heathen spinning in a ball of fire into the nearest ditch...) the aforementioned turkey was now face to face with a car behind me.

The bird's tail feathers were again prominently displayed and he was NOT MOVING. The car which he had selected to take his anger out on was at a dead stop. It was a face off, machine versus bird. Neither seemed willing to yield.

Had there been a place to pull off and watch, I would have. That turkey? Oh yeah man. He was PISSED!

*Pilots called the F-14A the "Turkey" because of its profusion of control surfaces on carrier approach.
** CPA = Closest Point of Approach (Yes, I put it on The Acronym Page.)


  1. They are not the brightest bag of feathers on the planet!

  2. We have lots of wild turkey in this area of OK. Not the kind that comes in a bottle, but the kind that will fly up and take out your windshield doing lots of damage to your car.

    Your story reminded me of something that my daughter saw. As she was driving to school, a young girl several cars in front of her stopped in the middle of the road to let a turtle cross the road. A turtle! The guy in the car behind the girl purposefully ran over the turtle.

    1. I have had a wild turkey burst out of the brush at the side of a country road and do a low pass over my car's hood. An event which will definitely get your attention.

      At a small Army base we would visit in the Netherlands they had a duck pond. With ducks of course. The ducks had the run of this rather small base. People would stop and wait as the ducks crossed the road. One day some jerk decided that he wasn't going to wait and ran over one of the ducks. He was stopped by regular folks and held until the Military Police (MPs) could respond, which was not long. (I was sitting in my car watching all of this. Trying manfully to not shed a tear at this once beautiful duck lying dead in the road.)

      The MPs cited the driver, who was incredulous at this. I could hear him yelling "It's just a damn duck!" I heard later, and this could be apocryphal, that the culprit was denied reenlistment and was sent home to the US in disgrace. I would have had him flogged. Same fate would have awaited the guy who ran over the turtle. I cannot abide people who mistreat or purposely kill animals for such a reason as "delaying traffic". What is wrong with some people?

    2. It's not like a turtle moves very fast. The girl who waited on it should have been able to easily swerve or straddle the turtle. I think that is what made the guy angry and therefore he ran over the turtle.

    3. Still wasn't the turtle's fault. Just sayin'...

  3. We have lots of turkeys on the roads here...
    ...and some of those wild birds, too.

    1. Why yes, I have driven in California. Why do you ask?

      THAT kind of turkey is indeed everywhere. (Though some of them are loons...)

  4. Great story, thanks for the entertainment. I dont recall seeing wild turkeys in Vt or Me, but they have definitely made a comeback. Perhaps as the turkey in your story stared down the car, he was dreaming of the surface-to-surface missile, too!

    1. I have seen turkeys in Vermont since I retired from the AF, never saw any before 1975. Uh, yes, wild turkeys, not that bunch that lives up around Burlington.

      Hhhmm, missile systems, turkeys, uh never mind...

      They couldn't afford my company's prices.

  5. I think yer average NM driver would have run over the turkey; we're a lot like those OK drivers Lou speaks of, in the aggregate: no mercy, no quarter. Well, SOME of us are different.

    1. Do they even have turkeys in NM? When I think of roads in the Great Southwest, well, all that comes to mind is "Meep Meep".

    2. There are LOTS o' turkeys in the grocery stores' freezer cases in these parts. Otherwise? Not so much...


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