We raised our first turkey this year and it was heart breaking. The baby turkey came to us under suspicious circumstances, tucked under a drunk man's jacket. Let's just leave it at that.
We put the turkey in with our spring chickens- the ones destined to be butchered in 9 weeks as fryers. He grew at about the same rate and then began to tower over his flock-mates. As he did, he became extremely protective of the flock. And then the 9 weeks were up and Flock 1 went to where all good chickens go... Ashby Minnesota. Ashby has the nearest USDA inspected poultry processing for small farmers like us. (Note: we make the 120 mile round trip twice- to drop off and then pick up our birds).
When the Flock 1 was sent to Ashby, the turkey was at a complete loss. We put him in with our laying hens, but he would run back the quarter mile to where the flock had been pastured. He wandered around gobbling and searching our back yard for his lost flock. He was inconsolable for about a week. The windows were open to let in the summer breezes and he would walk back and forth beneath the dining room window mourning for his lost flock.
So we put him in with Flock 2- which he mightily towered over. And he became their guard and protector. Standing between the flock and any dog or human who came near. Not threatening or mean-- just using his body as a barrier. When the hawk perched nearby to eye the chickens, the turkey jumped on top of a waterer and spread his big wings over the birds.
We really came to enjoy that turkey. He'd make his way around the farmyard checking things out. Including us. I've never raised a turkey before, but this was an interesting creature who was protective and cared for his fellow birds.
And then this week the temperature dropped to zero and the winds howled and snow blew horizontally across the prairie. The Ashby guys had delayed processing our birds by a week (they're doing big business there these days) and so we found ourselves in a chicken crisis -- having to move our birds from their fall pasture into the barn. Mike and I carried- 6 at a time- nearly 100 bird to the barn. The turkey watched over the last few birds huddled under him. We carried him into the barn last.
He was a beautiful bird. That picture doesn't do him justice. In his final days his lovely white feathers fanned out and he was majestic and calm.
May we all be grateful this Thanksgiving for the many gifts that come to us in such an array of splendor and humble beginnings and endings.
For all thy gifts of every kind
We offer praise with quiet mind
Be with us Lord and guide our ways
Around the circle of our days
`Reeves Lindbergh` full text under extended entry - click below