Naw, this bird is just sizing you up.
In my early days as a reporter at Siuslaw News, I was once given the assignment of visiting a local turkey farm to write up a special Thanksgiving piece. As it turned out, “special” wasn’t really the right word after becoming the victim of an unprovoked turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey named Lucy who had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.
Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.
Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and — one by one — take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like maybe a Blind Axe Throwers convention.
The reason I was in this situation was because I was a journalist committed to getting the story, even if it meant risking my own safety by putting myself in harm’s way on the front lines just like those reporters in Ukraine, South Africa or Black Friday shopping at Walmart.
OK, fine. So it was a turkey farm.
And yes, I was under the watchful eye of a highly capable turkey wrangler named Dirk: a man confident in his ability to “throw down” against even the largest bird, including, once, a stray ostrich that had gotten confused and wandered over from a nearby farm. As Dirk explained, he knew something was wrong almost immediately when he noticed, “One of the turkeys looked way too big.”
That’s when he swung into action and, drawing on years of wrangling experience, diffused the situation by calmly approaching the bird… gaining its trust… and then suddenly throwing it into a headlock.
“And when I woke up, the ostrich was gone,” said Dirk.
Secure in the knowledge that my back was covered by Dirk the Turkey Wrangler, I had entered the large pen of turkeys in hopes of getting firsthand experience, which I could use to enhance my story (or possibly my obituary, depending on how quickly things deteriorated.) I should mention that I had been made aware of the potential dangers that arise when turkeys adopt a mob mentality, then signed a waver releasing the farm of any liability should I be: Injured or otherwise decapitated.
“Don’t you mean ‘incapacitated?’” I asked.
“Yeah — that too,” said Dirk.
Standing in the middle of the pen a short time later, the turkeys didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. This prompted me to engage them so I could get a better feel for their personalities. I crouched; bobbed my head; gobbled a little.
“Ummmm, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Dirk.
At that very instant one turkey, Lucy, extended her head above the others.
“Yirp. Yirp. Yirp.”
As I discovered, this is turkey talk for, “Just because we are two completely different species doesn’t mean we can’t be lovers.”
I suddenly realized I had the attention of every turkey in the pen, particularly five who had been strutting around, chests puffed out, trying to win the affections of “Lucy.”
“Too late,” Dirk said helpfully. “Cover your privates!”
Next thing I knew, I was surrounded, dust and feathers flying while trying to avoid five aggressive peckers going after my, well…
I’m happy to say I survived, thanks in part to Dirk’s quick thinking, which was to yell “Get out of there — but keep your privates covered!” over and over until I could get back to the gate.
Admittedly, the experience left me shaken. But it hasn’t keep me from having turkey on Thanksgiving.
Although I’m still wearing an athletic cup…
This story was originally published in Siuslaw News in 2015. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Although I should’ve changed mine too, just in case those turkeys are still looking for me…
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