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Turkeys disprove theory of evolution

July 21, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

Afforded a little extra time from finishing chores early on Tuesday, I sat with a cup of coffee in what used to be a backyard, but now, thanks to the drought, resembles an abandoned shopping center parking lot. I don't mow anymore so much as I pluck.

I put my feet up on the patio table, watched the cattle munch at the round bale, saw the goats stretching out in the barn for a nap and listened to the gentle hum of the alpacas. Of course, this peaceful postcard of a setting didn't last. It never does anymore. I saw dust rising from the west and heard the watery chirps, trills and chortles that could only mean one thing: The turkeys had arrived.

I don't know whose bright idea it was to free range seven Bourbon Red turkeys -- which are now about the size of buzzards and growing fast -- but next time, I promise they will be imprisoned in a watertight container. Underground. In leg irons.

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They are interesting enough birds to watch, but I swear I don't know how they stay alive. They have no skills of any kind. For no reason, they will take off, sprinting at full speed across the pasture, as if they've just been invited to spend the evening with Eva Mendes and a swimming pool full of Jello.

Then, all at once, all seven of them will stop dead in their tracks, reason unknown. They peer around trying to figure out who they were following and why. But it is a dead errand, for they're all followers, all following, even if they are only following their fellow followers. Or something like that.

I've known lots of dense people in my life who kind of made up for it by being spectacular athletes. But neither is this a turkey strength. The males like to puff out their feathers for the lady folk, which gives them that traditional Thanksgiving look.

One Tom decided he was going to show off to a hen this week while sitting on a paddock fence. But it was poor judgment. He looked deep in the hen's eyes, stuck out his breast and puffed up to full splendor -- then lost his balance and fell off the fence. I picked him up and put him back on his perch. I knew how he felt. I've been in that situation myself.

Walking around the yard, a band of turkeys much resembles the old Monty Python "Twit of the Year" competition. Everything distracts them -- water buckets, weeds, birdbaths. Next to them, a person with ADD looks like Boris Spassky.

So when I was sitting on the veranda with my feet up, it was only a matter of time until my propped-up lower extremities caught the eye of one of the hens. She studied my cargo shorts. She sized up my hamstrings. She gazed at my socks as intently as if she were considering getting a pair just like them at Costco.

Finally, knowing no better, I suppose, she decided that my shins would make as good a perch as any. So up she hopped, teetering back and forth on my legs and sinking her prehistoric talons in to the bone, causing no small degree of discomfort. Still, it wouldn't do to shake her off since this ordinarily flighty creature was putting so much faith in me.

She didn't seem terribly worried. She settled in, clucking, pecking my kneecaps until they bled, picking dead skin off her wing and being quite sociable.

Despite what has to be classified as a rather hideous face, a turkey does have eyes that are soft, inquisitive and almost doelike. You want to think there's a being in there somewhere that has thoughts, feelings and some degree of animal intelligence. But after she's stared at you for a couple of minutes, it becomes apparent that just beyond those eyes, it's solid concrete.

I let her stay as long as she wanted. If she's not scared of me by now, there is no hope for her.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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