MONDAY MEMOIR: THE BIRDS & THE BEES

TURKEY GANG 2017 BARLEY DARTS

I was sexually harassed by some turkeys; literally.  It happened this past spring.  And the perpetrators were all males.  Most of them were known only as “Tom”.  They were not only persistent, they were downright threatening.  So, instead of ignoring them, I took control of the situation.

It all started when both of our turkey hens passed away.  Our toms were even more devastated than us.  They spent the spring and summer pining for their gals.  It was pitiful.  Even Richard, the Pig Guy felt bad for them or maybe for us.  So, last fall, he brought us a gift.  In the back of his pickup, he had two young turkeys.  As far as he could tell, they were both females.  Various critters just show up at his place.  They are attracted to the corn he feeds to hogs.  This time it was two turkeys.

Apparently, some visiting urbanites in Richard’s area had tried raising turkeys.  Then they left and never returned.  For the next year or two, turkeys began showing up at neighboring houses.  Some had offspring and all were on their own.  These two had been eating Richard’s corn and roosting at his place.  When Richard let them loose, our toms readily greeted them.

As Richard and I stood back to watch, I noticed that our toms didn’t greet them as hens.  In fact, both sets of turkeys seemed quite defensive.  It wasn’t a good sign that these were females; neither were their sparse beards.  Only 2-4 % of female turkeys grow beards.  Compared to post-menopausal women like me, it’s about 40%.  We were all disappointed, especially the toms.  Fortunately, their desire to procreate doesn’t burn during the winter.  It’s a time when hens turn frigid and the pressing needs of toms shrivel up.

After a long winter turned into spring, the toms’ pining was four times as bad.  They fanned and gobbled, all-day-long.  They courted their reflections in the bumpers of our vehicles.  They followed every farmyard critter in confusion.  And they stalked me… gang style.  They were cocky and they strutted, all puffed up.  Their faces were embedded with junk and tattooed in blues and reds.  They heckled me in a slang that I struggled to understand.

While three toms pushed me from behind, one of them circled around to confront me.  It was too close for comfort.  Even when Keith and I were together, they tried to come between the two of us.  They were itching for a rumble.  Then out of nowhere, one of them physically challenged Keith.  That was a mistake.  After all, this was our turf.  Besides, we outranked him in Mother Nature’s gang.

Yes, sometimes it’s a real fight to stay at the top of nature’s hierarchy and the food chain.  The revered turkey leader was quickly abandoned by the three younger thugs.  And Keith quickly taught the Alpha attacker a lesson on the homestead pecking order.  I wish I was making this stuff up, but I’m not.  And it was happening with an increased frequency and urgency.  Something had to be done.

I made a few phone calls and then contacted a gal named, Krista.  Fortunately, she said she could help us.  So, I got directions to her place.  It took a while.  Sometimes it appears that I am direction challenged.  While some of you ladies can relate, some men are shouting, “Stupid women!”.  Just know that I’ve always made it to where I was going…eventually.  And I’ve never been as bad as those dependent on GPS.  Besides, I’m resourceful.  I often rely on “KDG”.  KDG is a more primitive form of GPS.  While, GPS stands for Global Positioning System, KDG stands for Keith D. Grund.  True, I’ve always been jealous of what I’ve called Keith’s “built-in compass”.  However, I also take full advantage of it.

After my call ended with Krista, I made sandwiches to take along for our supper.  In my haste, I’d made turkey sandwiches.  When I’d realized what I’d done, I hesitated.  For a fleeting moment this just seemed… wrong.  Then I smiled.  After all, what could also be more right?  I packed them.  Shortly afterwards, Keith arrived home from work with cash for the deal.

We loaded a crate into the pickup and were on our way.  The trip to get the hens started out pleasant enough.  We had blue skies and almost fifty-degree temperatures.  The roads were ice-free with hardly any traffic.  The drive through the bog was quiet.  It still seemed sleepy from its long winter’s nap, but here and there were signs of awakenings.

About half of our trip was on familiar and decent roads.  The remainder was all new.  Meaning, it was unfamiliar.  The actual roads were far from new.  While, the winding and hilly roads were beautiful in scenery, they were just awful for old and aging bodies; our truck’s and our own.  It made us more grateful for our local roads and road crews.  It also made us plan an alternate route home.

When we arrived, we discovered that Krista’s Place was hidden from public view.  It was at the far end of a dead-end, dirt road.  There was only one way in and out.  About half-way in, the road was washing out.  Keith pointed out that the culvert was frozen and water was circumventing it. As we drove over it, another vehicle appeared behind us.  It followed us closely along the road that winded and climbed.

We arrived on top of a modest hill.  It was the perfect location for their impressive look-out station (or rather, deer-stand).  And hidden cameras were probably used on the perimeter, too.  As we exited our vehicle, Krista pulled up alongside us.  She greeted us and then motioned for us to follow her.  She told us that tucked away out back was where she kept her girls.  At one time, such places were called, hen houses.

Four of her girls were naturally handsome.  The other one reminded me of the stereotypical hillbilly, with a missing front tooth.  Her upper beak was chipped.  To be honest, all of them looked a bit bedraggled, due to their circumstances.  Even though they weren’t locked in inside a dark shack, they were kept within a muddy enclosure.

The encampment was also far from secure.  Physically, the girls could’ve escaped at any time, but they didn’t know any better.  Using their wings to fly the coop hadn’t crossed their minds.  Besides, where would they go?  This had been the only way of life they’d ever known.  It was home.  It was where they had food, shelter, and were mounted regularly by toms.  After all, what more could a girl want?

Krista tried rounding up her girls for us.  They were nervous and weren’t very cooperative.  First, they tried hiding in a huddled group.  Then they scattered and ran, seeking out the recesses of their large enclosure.  It took Keith, me, Krista, and her husband to wrangle them.  Effortlessly, the birds and everyone else navigated tree branches, rocks, and puddles.  I, however, immediately tripped and fell.

My fall was more embarrassing than destructive; others were watching.  I’d been walking on top of downed tree branches when my foot got wedged in the rocks.  There was nothing I could do, but fall.  And it wasn’t a graceful fall.  I fell hard onto my right elbow and shoulder.  My face buried into the branches.  My shirt rode up, revealing the backside of my mid-life bulge.  My baseball hat fell off and my glasses were all cock-eyed.

There was only one thing that could’ve been worse.  No, it wasn’t breaking an arm or an ankle.  And it wasn’t being impaled by a pointy stick.  If that had happened, others would’ve seen only bones and blood.  They’d wouldn’t have noticed anything else.  What would’ve been far worse, was if I had fallen onto my back.  Then the front-side of my mid-life bulge would have shown; stretch marks, varicose veins, and all.

Such a scenario would’ve devastated me, thirty-some years ago.  However, I’m at a point in my life where vanity be damned.  Besides, over the years, I’ve had to come to terms with my inherent clumsiness.  I hate it, but I was born this way.  Sadly, it has never improved.  Just ask any of my loved ones; young or old.  It’s been a family joke for as long as I can remember.  Now at fifty, I blame it on mid-life vision.  And with tri-focals, I can see clearly that I’ll never be graceful.

Admittedly, this was not the easiest or best way to catch turkey hens.  That requires luring them with feed into a shed and closing the door.  Preferably, it happens well before buyers come to purchase.  Unfortunately, Krista hadn’t had time to do so.  It had been short notice for her family’s busy schedule.  Besides, the birds weren’t hungry.  They’d eaten all day.  So here we were, outnumbered by birds that can run 25 mph and fly 55 mph.  And Krista carried the only long-handled, fish net available.  The rest of us had to capture them by their legs.

At one point, the turkeys entered a hog pen and Krista’s husband followed.  He hoped the knee-deep muck would slow the turkeys down.  Alas, it only slowed him down.  He slipped and fell forward.  He managed to catch himself on his hands and knees.  However, the slurry covered him from the elbows and knees down.  Splashes of it also dappled his face and hair.  He wasn’t happy, but I was and I tried to stifle a laugh.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t laughing at him.  Truly, I felt sorry for him.  I was just so-very-happy it hadn’t been me.

For a while, it looked like we’d be leaving with only one hen.  It was all that we’d captured so far.  Then things turned around.  The girls tired and we all got lucky.  Five were now in the cage in the back of our truck.  We would keep three and give two to a friend.  As we shut the tailgate, Krista’s son made his appearance.  He talked enthusiastically of mastering his bicycle.

At four-years old, Krista’s son was learning to ride his new motorized dirt bike.  And he proudly announced that he didn’t “fall anymore”.  His parents disagreed and he argued back.  After all, his pride was at stake.  I just smiled.  I knew a lot about boys and falls, but not much about dirt bikes.  Falls were the reason my dad gave me when only my kid brother got a dirt bike.  Some folks would say my dad was sexist.  Only, my kid sister got to ride it, too.

As soon as the conversation about dirt bikes ended, Keith paid Krista.  He handed her a Texas penny, a couple of Jacksons, and a sawbuck.  He then asked her husband about alternate routes back to our home.  There weren’t many options, but anything else seemed better than the way we’d arrived.  We thanked her and her husband.  Then we wished her son fun on his dirt bike and said goodbye.

When the sun set, we viewed it passing by a lake at 60 mph.  The vibrant colors and reflections were beautiful.  An hour later, we arrived home in darkness.  We got out of the truck, but the hens remained in the cage for the night.  After we completed chores, we headed to bed.

The next morning, Keith opened the tailgate and the door to crate.  The hens were hesitant to exit.  And the four toms were still straddling a fence.  They roost on top of the chain-link chicken enclosure.  However, we knew it wouldn’t take long before they’d find each other.  Their sex lives didn’t need any more of our help.

 

TURKEY FOLLOW THE LEADER 2017 BARLEY DARTS

 

By late morning, Keith had called to check up on the turkeys.  I told him that one hen had introduced herself to the toms.  And I had watched as each of the them put their best foot forward.  There was stiff competition to be sure.  By noon, all the hens were proudly escorted around the farmyard.  Afterwards, the toms wasted no time taking the hens out to dinner and back to their pad.  Unlike Bald Eagles that mate for life, both male and female turkeys are naturally promiscuous.

As evening fell on the hens’ first day here, I hadn’t seen any toms “kiss” a hen.  By the way, turkey kisses aren’t as innocent as they sound.  In fact, kissing isn’t an act of foreplay for turkeys.  It’s how turkeys have sex.  Seriously.  A “cloacal kiss” is how most birds “do it”.  And one kiss can keep a female turkey pregnant, oops– I mean fertile for 10-15 weeks.[1]

Turkeys have no penises or vaginas.  And a turkey hen has sperm storage tubules.   Also, kissing for turkeys doesn’t involve their beaks.  Turkeys have an opening on their rears called a “cloaca”.  When a male’s and female’s cloaca touch together in a momentary “kiss”, the male transfers sperm to the female.  Funny, huh?  Well, not as funny as when teenage girls tell their parents they got pregnant by kissing.

And while we’re on the subject of kissing, ladies think twice before complaining when your man only pecks you with a kiss.  In the turkey world, you just got screwed.  So, grab your cigarette.  Even though it was a “quickie”, our lesson on the cloaca continues.

The cloaca opening is also used for pooping and passing eggs, too.   I see some of you cringing.  You swear you’ll never eat another egg.  Some of you are also moaning, “Gross!”  I had a similar reaction when a young adult explained something they called, rimming.  Just call me naïve.

The Urban Dictionary defines rimming as, “The act of using one’s tongue on the anal rim of another person to gain and/or give sexual pleasure”.  You can also call me a prude. I’d rather suck a freshly laid egg.  Eggs seldom contact poop.  A hen’s uterus turns inside out and pushes an egg out beyond the cloaca.

The rimming definition continued, “Insertion of the tongue is not necessary.  Circular motions in the clockwise directions are supposedly better in the Northern hemisphere, and anti-clockwise ones in the Southern.”  Sadly, some Rimmers are wishing they’d paid more attention in Geography class.  Ha!  I may be naïve, but I’m not the one asking Google if I’m in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.  I know I am in the one with counterclockwise storms and a high-noon sun in the south.  I’m not in the one with clockwise storms and a high-noon sun in the north.  So, there!

As evening arrived on the hens’ first day here, the sun set in the west; both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.  Then Keith and I watched the toms go to bed.  They roosted in their usual spot.  But, the hens didn’t follow.  Instead, they chose a different route.  They weren’t lost.  The hens were just navigating their own way.  Perhaps they’d choose the fence another day.  Or maybe, they’d stand their ground in a different spot that offered a different perspective.  After all, so much of life is dependent on location, directions, and everyday choices.

[1] (Sasanami, 2013)

TURKEYS MATING 2017 BARLEY DARTS

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