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  • Last modified 1251 days ago (April 23, 2015)

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I killed a turkey

I have never hunted, but I bagged my first turkey last Wednesday, which was a strange coincidence when I learned afterwards that the day was also the official start to spring turkey season.

I can take the credit because I killed it, but credit should be given where it’s due.

I wasn’t aiming for it.

A bird that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the national symbol ambushed me while I was driving on US-56 just past the Diamond X Ranch west of the creek there.

I was delivering issues of last week’s newspaper to Hillsboro when the accident happened, taking all of three very odd seconds.

One-thousand-one — a bird, my bird, a tom of brilliant plumage and shining feathers appeared out of the tall grass in the ditch on north side of the road.

One-thousand-two — My foot jerks to the brake pedal as the tom takes flight, body blocking my onrushing path, no way to miss it, I’m aware of two other cars, one in the oncoming lane, and the other behind.

One-thousand-three — Impact like a pillow stuffed with lead feathers makes an audible THWACK, as the bird hits spraying glass particles across my hands, chest, and face, windshield visibility becoming spider-web.

Funny thing about memory, there wasn’t time to be scared, just surprised, the whole scene happened by instinct.

Disbelief.

The van decelerates. I maneuver it to the edge of the road. Glass bits everywhere. I was fortunate to be wearing sunglasses.

(Curse words edited out for publication.)

Emergency flashers.

I’m looking in the side mirror at the turkey lying on the old highway. It’s not moving. A sedan pulls over behind me.

I exit the van dusting glass of my chest and lap when the roadway is clear.

The driver gets out of the sedan. She’s a concerned woman asking if I’m OK.

I say yes and somehow remember to thank her for checking on me. Not everyone would do the same. Most motorists just pass by gawking.

She’s a person I’ve interviewed before. Chitchat. Good news. She tells me her daughters’ rabbits are about to have another litter.

When she leaves, I go to the front of the work van. The windshield is horrible. It’s a spiderweb with a solitary feather flipping in the center.

Poor bird.

I realize I should call the office. My finger smears blood on the touch-screen as I pace in the ditch talking to David about the turkey. We decide what to do. He gives me the sheriffs’ phone number to report the accident.

Great, I’m going to be in the Docket section.

Melvin is on his way, too. The van is drivable. The plan is for him to follow me to Hillsboro. We have newspapers to deliver.

Another motorist stops. I swap words about the bird with a former teacher and decline a lift.

More fascinated motorists pass. A truck stops. Two me ask about my turkey. Yep, I killed it. Thanks. Yeah, the windshield sure got smashed. Good observation. They leave. Waiting sucks. I venture closer to my bird.

Still not moving. Still dead. Where’s Melvin? Where’s the deputy?

I find tiny splinters of glass in my hands. I’m still trying to get them all when Melvin arrives. He has a hammer in case we need to knock out the windshield, but we decide not to thinking about insurance.

I take pictures with my phone. The feather in the windshield has blown away.

Melvin moves the tom off the road. We’re standing so close to it I can see its magnificent feathers.

Its wing is twisted, and its fluffy exterior no doubt hides fatal wounds, but the brilliant reds, blues, and magentas on its wrinkly neck, face, and head astound me.

Its eyes are closed. It reminds me of a dinosaur, the kind on the History Channel that look like birds.

I take its picture. It is then that I remember we have a story about the Governor’s Turkey Hunt in the newspaper and I wonder if I’m on some sort of karma payment plan.

We joke about taking the turkey to cook or display as a trophy in the office. Cautious of a fine, we elect not to.

The deputy gets there. As I make the report, another car stops by the turkey; more people standing over the bird. They take pictures too. We finish with the officer.

Back in the van on the way to Hillsboro, I think how much worse it could have been and how lucky I am, while glass flecks crumble onto the dashboard.

Melvin and I deliver the papers, drop off the van for repairs, stop for burgers, and on the way back we notice the turkey missing.

It could have awoken and gobbled off into the distance, but it’s hard to believe someone didn’t take it.

Over the weekend, I learned there such a thing as a salvage tag that would have allowed me to take the turkey home.

It made me want my bird.

Whoever you are, don’t tell me your name, just drop a drumstick off at the office. I’ve eaten plenty of turkey sandwiches, but I’ve never eaten something I killed.

-Oliver Good

Last modified April 23, 2015

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