I’m not sure when the turkeys first appeared on the side of the road near our home, but they were perhaps the most talked about turkeys on all of social media and created quite a stir. Some neighbors called them Fred and Ethel, others named them Tom and Tina, and others joked that they loved their turkey on bread with mayo, lettuce and tomato.
Our suburb in the far, far, far western suburbs of Chicago is essentially located at the last bit of suburban sprawl right before the farmland and corn fields begin. Personally I prefer the country and wide open spaces, but I do have a love of suburban amenities like spas, nice salons, plenty of shopping and Whole Foods, so I would say that being right smack in the middle is, as Hannah Montana would say, the best of both worlds.
Despite life at the edge of the country, it is quite unusual to see two wild turkeys hanging out along the side of a four lane divided highway on a daily basis. Sure, you catch a glimpse of wildlife here and there and we can hear plenty of coyotes howling each night, but to see the same two turkeys day after day after day started to catch the attention of drivers as they headed to and from work and other destinations.
Although I grew up the daughter of a bird hunter, Dad never hunted turkeys, preferring quail and pheasant. Our turkey friends who hung out in the fields along the highway made me smile each day that I saw them, a little reminder that we were moderately close to the country. In fact I became one of the many people who were on turkey watch, which unfortunately became easier over time because the turkeys ventured out of their distant fields and closer and closer to the road. I say unfortunately because the closer they got to the highway and the less afraid of the cars speeding past, the more at risk the birds would be. In fact, by last autumn the turkeys were frequently spotted right by the side of the road and sometimes in the middle of the actual lane, causing traffic jams.
In our local community Facebook groups the conversation continued over weeks and then months, on and off, as the turkeys came and went about their day-t0-day turkey lives. As the turkeys got closer to the road, the conversation became divided among those who wanted to find help for the wild turkeys through wildlife control groups and others who were increasingly annoyed by the traffic jams caused by the birds as well as the amount of attention that they were receiving.
Last fall one of the turkeys was hit by a car and killed. His companion disappeared over the winter only to return to the same exact place this spring and the turkey conversation began anew. This time people were getting out of their cars to usher the bird to the other side of the street. There were also reports of corn and bird feed being scattered all over the side of the road from people who thought they were being good samaritans but were inadvertently leading the remaining bird to his death.
Recently the second turkey was hit and killed on the same street. Each time I drive past the spot where they hung out I find myself extremely sad to know that they are now both gone, that the turkey spotting is finished. In fact I have confused myself with how sad I really am, like it was an end of an era. Then I felt a little crazy; the end of the turkey watching era? Had I lost my mind, particularly with so many other horrific things happening in our world right now? Was this Tony Soprano and his ducks all over again? In fact even as I started to write this blog, I wondered if anyone really wanted to read about the death of our local wild turkeys.
In my last blog I talked about finding a life coach and how I have been focused on mindfulness, positive thoughts, meditation and other “new age things” and so I decided to search for the symbolism of the turkey. After all, there is the myth that Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the bald eagle floating around in our national mythology. Interestingly enough, I found this paragraph on the Spirit Animals & Animal Totems page,
“The Turkey is a spirit animal closely associated with honoring nature and the Earth. Symbol of abundance, this totem animal encourages us to honor our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance. The Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.”
There were many people who commented negatively that so many people cared so much for “just” a bird hanging out on the side of the road, with the “just” being their sentiment not mine. But the thing about animals is that for those of us who love them, they are an escape from the bad parts of any given day.
Who knows how many people were aggravated and tired after navigating rush hour or a bad day at work and who were soothed by the turkeys strutting along the side of the road. Who knows how many people were stressed out by the daily violence of the news and comforted even slightly by the innocence of a wild bird who just exists without doing evil? I do not know the answer to those things, but I do know that but for just a few minutes each day as we went about our lives, that the wild turkeys made many of us in our little suburb smile and feel a harmonious relationship with the land in which we live, and for that I thank them.