Turkey Tracks

Whew! Finally at my accustomed Wednesday seat, albeit late. It’s been one of those days. One thing after another this morning, mostly related to putting a car that’s been sitting idle back on the road. Perfect running order when I pulled the plates. But that was almost two years ago. Try it some time and see what happens. This and that. None of it good. Oh well, see ya, winter financial cushion. What else is new?

But, hey, that’s the bad news. The good? That in my mind, winter’s over. Actually, I’ve felt spring in my lungs for weeks. Now my backyard brook and the larger river it feeds are singing agreement tunes. Yes, sping’s sprung, no matter what happens from here on in. Honestly, it’s nothing new historically. I have always in my adult life identified the fading point of winter to be Presidents Day Weekend, now upon us.

Something else that’s following a familiar pattern is winter’s cabin-fever doldrums that leave a man like me searching for stuff to talk about on a weekly basis. Yeah, sure, I could praise the outdoor shows, chase tippet flags and regurgitate press releases from this and surrounding states. But that stuff is cream of wheat with saccharine at best, extra-strength Sominex to most. So this time of year always gives me a chance to ramble, touch on eclectic subjects not germane to hunting and fishing. Believe it or not, many readers prefer the stuff that wanders, anyway. How do I know? Easy. Feedback says so. I listen. A man trying to entertain strictly a hunting and fishing crowd these days is serving a shrinking audience declining to the brink of endangerment. The old “Sports Afield” and “Outdoor Life” yarns of the 1950s have, sad but true, gone the way of the horse and carriage. But, hey, I guess no one can really pin me down with a column titled “On the Trail,” can they? What trail? That’s my question. And the way I look at it, the hidden trails leading away from hunting and fishing are many, ones I enjoy traipsing. So why not write about that stuff, too? A change of pace, so to speak.

Just Tuesday I discovered something that really got my wheels a spinnin’. A friend told me about an old family portrait that has “surfaced” and, of course, I’ve already started figuring out a way to jump in. That’s about all I’ve got to say about it at this point. But I’m an old horse trader from way back and have usually found a way to throw in my bid when really interested it an item. This one is special on many personal levels important to me. I’m eager to chase it, learn more about it, own it. So don’t count me out just yet.

Enough of that. Something else worth mentioning is a query I received a couple of weeks ago from a frequent Conway e-mailer from whom I once bought an extraordinary black Lab gun dog. He lived in Leverett or North Amherst then, before moving to an idyllic Conway spot overrun with deer, turkeys and you name it. No cougars. Not yet anyway. At least not the four-legged versions. But he’s still looking, camera-ready. His recent concern was turkeys. In an area where it’s not unusual to see hundreds daily, he’s seeing zero and is understandably perplexed. Myself, incapacitated by knee woes (yeah, those aluminum crutches are still with me, leaning against the wall, leg elevated under the desk), well, I haven’t really been out and about much. But I have taken a few rides through turkey country in Leyden, Shelburne and Conway since the query and, like him, have nothing. I surmised when asked that the turkey disappearance may be related to the lack of snow. Winter birds typically seen at silage piles or picking corn kernels from fresh manure spread on fields this time of year had many secluded options this winter. So that’s probably the reason those large winter flocks have vanished.

What’s interesting is that the first turkey sign I crossed caught me quite by surprise recently on one of my daily treks with the dogs. I am able to maneuver a short distance there with crutches along a double-rutted farm road bordering the east side of a brown standing cornfield still being picked by the owner for hog fodder. Well, hogs aren’t the only animals enjoying that corn. My puppy, Chubby-Chub, has ripped off an ear or two a day and eaten the kernels, a sight to behold. He’ll munch some standing, some laying down, leaving naked cob fragments and random kernels scattered about. After watching Chubby go through his foraging routine on a bitter-cold day, I returned during a thaw the next afternoon and, sure enough, a small flock of turkeys had been through, picking up the kernels left behind, likely also foraging the cornfield. The fresh tracks left in the shallow mud along the road told me all I needed to know. I can’t say I was surprised. I’m used to seeing turkeys there but haven’t seen one in months. Then, out of nowhere, fresh turkey tracks. So, indeed, the big birds are still lurking, yet out of sight. Red-oak acorns scattered along the lip overlooking the river probably interest them as well. I think the tracks I encountered were made by a gobbler flock, always much smaller than the segregated, winter hen-and-poult flocks. The gobblers travel in groups of five to eight, occasionally more, while the hens and poults can accumulate to 50 or more in rapid fashion. Had such a large flock been through where I walk, there would have been many more tracks than I saw.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got this week. Actually, there’s more. Much more. But I’ve run out of space. Back to my winter reading list, focused on Revolutionary Boston, a fascinating time and place. I’ve studied characters from both sides of the conflict, Whig and Tory, including ministers, magistrates and governors, soldiers, sailors and militia, merchants, mechanics and artisans, rebels, moderates and loyalists. They all played a role. Given what I have read, let me just say without a glint of hesitation that were we to bring back the rebels who paved our way to independence — people like Samuel Adams, James Otis, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Thomas Young, Patrick Henry and their “radical” brethren — they would embrace our Occupiers and clothe the Wall Street bankers and speculators in tar and feathers. You know, the ones spiking our gas and food prices so they can rake in $59K a day without working. If you don’t believe me, get reading and you’ll laugh in the face of those camouflaged, red, white and blue tea-party phonies wearing tricorns. These modern-day tea partiers created by devious Tom DeLay, Dick Armey and their Texas two-step cronies, have absolutely nothing in common with our sacred Revolutionary heroes.

Quite the contrary, they’re reactionaries

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One Response to Turkey Tracks

  1. Hey Gary – ever read a book called “Heartsblood”? I think you’d like it. A very intelligently written, thought provoking book on “hunting, spirituality (not the church kind..) and wildness in America”. It’s quite radical writing for a hunter, something for your 60’s soul. It’s online at davidpetersenbooks.com. if you’re interested, assuming you haven’t already read it.

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