Living in a house with no window treatments has afforded me the opportunity to ponder life’s important questions in the early, early morning hours, while watching the sun rise.
True, I don’t often ruminate over solving world hunger, the inequality and injustices of life or the lack of civility in our nation. I spend my time thinking of much more profound things, like: Are turkeys really as dumb as they seem?
My mind wanders down its fuzzy, pre-dawn labyrinth, which inevitably leads to a phone grab and an initial gateway search … Did Benjamin Franklin really want the national bird to be a turkey? No.
What’s a group of turkeys called? Well, any group of birds can be called a flock, but a group of turkeys is referred to as a rafter. One can either believe a) this is because they were often found hiding in the rafters of things being built by early pioneers or b) it can be traced to an Old English word, “raeft,” which refers to any aggregate group of like things.
I did not do my journalism school due diligence to find three credible sources to back up either claim. I was too busy going down the rabbit hole of Benjamin Franklin minutia. My true intellectual theory as to why a group of turkeys is called a rafter is c) somebody for some reason decided to name it this, and for some reason, it caught on.
Whoever this person was, he or she certainly was not as clever as the person who named a group of flamingos a flamboyance, or a charm of hummingbirds, or a party of jays. And no, these “facts” were not triple checked either, it was, like, 5 a.m., people!
Anyway, back to the story I was not as yet telling.
We thoroughly are enjoying our multiple daily walks around our new mountain neighborhood. Things we often see: mule deer, mountain bluebirds, elk, chipmunks, turkey feathers and weird animal tracks that we are not that good at identifying, but do make us look warily around. Things we sometimes see: bald eagles, blue and grey jays, ground squirrels and neighbors. Things we have seen once: A moose; one lone deer leg, nothing else, just the leg, and a very freshly killed turkey carcass.
It is so wondrously, beautifully quiet around our mountain retreat that yesterday we could actually hear the soft ping of snow/sleet (sneet?) landing on our jackets. But one thing always interrupts the peace. It’s the distinct gobble gobble of wild turkeys. We seldom spot them, though, as they seem to wear pretty good camouflage.
While walking down a snowy road (unplowed, not driven upon, it felt like ambling inside a Christmas card), we spotted some tracks that even we could identify. Either there were giant, mutant chickens about, or a herd/pack/flock/group/ton (hadn’t done my morning research as yet) of turkey was close. Faithful dog Lily was quivering with excitement, sniffing the air all around and lifting one paw up in her nod to some vague ancestry of hunting dog.
We looked all around, but couldn’t spot them. We stood for a few minutes, then gave up. A few steps forward, and WOOSH, the trees came alive. Flapping, squawking, scurrying as dozens of turkeys descended from their roosts … in tree branches six to ten feet up. Hunting dog turned into scaredy cat, and cowered behind us during the melee.
The turkeys escaped very quickly, but they did look amusingly frantic and a bit roadrunner-ish as they dashed to safety.
We were surprised, in the way only city folk can be, that turkeys actually roosted/hid in trees. Who knew? Well, probably a lot of people, but not us.
This, of course, lead to a deeply cerebral discussion of the Benjamin Franklin myth about turkeys as a national symbol. Hubs asked, “So if turkeys were the national bird, what do you think we would all eat at Thanksgiving?”
“Bald eagles,” I replied.
Which begs the question, which species is really the dumb one?