Did you know that wild turkeys live in every state of the United States, except for Alaska? They exist all year round, with their habitats in woodsy areas, in forests with nut trees. Exactly nine years ago today, I came to appreciate this wild bird for more than what I learned it to be as a kid - always associated with the American Thanksgiving meal. Nine years ago, wild turkeys would become one of the contributing inspirations for creating my picture book Gobbles: Troubles with Turkeys.
On June 29, 2006, Urbana, Illinois, I blog this unexpected and surprising event from my morning --"About half way through this morning's run, I saw a woman ahead of me standing at the corner of an elementary school lawn. I wondered why she just stood and stared there with her arms crossed. Then, I realized that she was watching a pair of turkeys...!
As I passed by, the turkeys took notice of me, standing about 50 feet away. And then they started running in my direction. I picked up speed. Soon enough, they were right on my heels... So I stopped running, thinking maybe they'd back off and get scared. But it didn't work... I felt like [we] were playing a game of red light green light. As soon as I stopped they stopped too! But when I turned away to keep running, they followed me!
I even took off my earphones, thinking that the woman on the corner would give me some kind of direction like..."Keep running, they'll stop!" But no, the woman just stared at me... I kept running, and there they were - right behind me...For a whole block! They could have passed as my pets, as if we were all on a nice morning run together. I saw people in cars on Kirby laughing at me-- and what a sight it must have been! And these turkeys aren't any small gobblers- They were long necked and probably almost 3 feet tall.
...This is by far one of the strangest encounters I've ever had."
To learn more about wild turkeys, check out this amazing PBS documentary - My Life as a Turkey - that showcases a local farmer, Joe Hutto, and his experience raising wild turkeys from chicks to adulthood.