As God as My Witness …

Every year, I rewatch the famous “Turkey’s Away” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. I know that I am one of many who has joined the cult following, and I am thrilled that social media has brought us together. In fact, it is an unspoken competition to see whether my friend Monica (in Texas) will beat me to the FB reference (she won this year!).  And I am also thankful for those members of the public who, when Hulu is not streaming WKRP, provide me with a fix via Daily Motion or YouTube.

SPOILER ALERT. The next sentence tells you what happens.

Live turkeys are dropped from a helicopter.  The station owner’s bumbling son thought, “As God as my witness” that turkeys could fly.  It’s a pretty terrible thought, and as a bird lover, the idea of turkeys plummeting to the ground is sad, very very sad, bordering on horrifying.  And Les Nessman is as horrified as I would be. But I still laugh. And I watch it every November.

So here we are, a few days before Thanksgiving, and I want to post some wild turkeys that I photographed a couple of weeks ago.  Unlike their domesticated cousins, these birds can fly.  They do so in short fast bursts of up to 55 miles per hour to make a quick exit (or simply to roost in the trees). But mostly they run. Again, fast. Up to 25 miles an hour fast.

While I would like to think that the two rafts of turkeys (yep, that’s the name for a group of them) had come to bless the crushing of the grapes, it’s highly unlikely. It is fall: the nuts are dropping and the berries are ripe. In the morning, the turkeys appeared in rafts of 18-20 each at the top of the ridge.  They made their way down through the trees and slipped into the shadows on the far side of the pasture.  About two hours later, they returned.

Each raft had a definite leader at the front and lieutenants farther back who did not join in the foraging but kept watch as the raft moved back up the hill. Six youngsters broke off to sun themselves along the path.  When they stretched their wings, the dinosauresque birds took on a regal beauty.  I am always amazed by the unique patterns of their wings and the sheen of the blacks and browns.

I had parked my car far from the house and used it as a photo blind.  Lying across the back seat, I was nearly undetectable to the birds until one particularly pink-necked lieutenant heard my shutter.  His staring gaze bore right through my lens as he made a quick call to the sunbathers and ushered the others up and out of sight.

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