A couple of days ago I heard one of the wild turkeys that typically roam my neighborhood. Gobble, gobble, gobble. Such an onomatopoeic word. The call was wrong somehow, a repeated gobbling from the same spot. It was monotonous instead of rhythmic—not echoing from various places in a familiar and comforting way. I don’t live in a rural place, but my neighborhood is almost rural, a hill-enclosed edge of the town where deer and turkeys are just part of the scenery, along with gray squirrels and hawks above.
I went out to investigate because I couldn’t see any turkeys out my window. I usually see them ambling and pecking across my yard. At the bottom of the cul de sac I live on here in Roseburg, I saw the caller. A single male, repeating his three-beat call at intervals, spreading his tail feathers from time to time.
He was very alone. I walked down my neighbors’ long driveway, trying to see if his flock was down the slope by the creek or in another neighbor’s yard. A few people have patches of lawn up here—not me—but mostly there are thickets or stretches of ground. He retreated toward the house at the end of driveway. I walked back to my house, worried.
He seemed anxious to me, as if trying without success to summon his flock, his wives and kids. I immediately imagined that someone has culled the flock. Just weeks ago, as best I recall in this indeterminate time we inhabit now, I saw almost a dozen of them jerkily walking down the street, circling the block, crossing behind my house, entertaining me and my cat. I hear gunfire from time to time up here: less than I used to hear in Oakland actually, and I haven’t heard enough lately that could cut down a dozen turkeys, but people do have guns up here.
This morning I heard him again and found he had ventured onto the road in front of my house, having left the apparent safety of my neighbor’s long flat driveway. I watched and worried as I saw him beckoning his ghost flock. His call sounded lost and anxious.
Then I caught a glimpse of a small turkey—a female or a juvenile, a single turkey walking up the hill of the cross street. He must have been calling to her, but she didn’t respond—just kept walking by herself. So then I had another thought. He’s a bully. His gang got away from him, exiled him. They are hanging out up the hill somewhere, safe, feeding on the rich supply of bugs in between the thickets.
I hope I’m right and he’s been sent to chill in the turkey-doghouse for a while. I would feel a little less sorry for him—this mirror image of me in my isolation, this focus for my anxiety about when I might return to normal life.