Wild Turkey for the Old Timers!
By Norris Chambers
was well established when Clifton and I were growing up. It was so well
established that history classes told how it originated. Apparently the
friendly Indians introduced the newly arrived colonists to some of the
food sources of the new land. Wild turkeys were at the top of just
about every menu. The wild turkey was so well known as a dinner
preference that Benjamin Franklin wanted to have it chosen as the
national bird. I guess the group that chose the eagle must have taken
the final vote before eating a typical turkey dinner.
During the days before Thanksgiving our teacher
taught us a lot about Thanksgiving. He said the wild turkeys were
native to America and that tame turkeys were only civilized descendants
of the wild ones.
Clifton said that it would be nice to have an old
fashioned Thanksgiving dinner featuring a wild turkey. We had heard
that there was an almost unapproachable valley a few miles up Red Creek
where there were wild turkeys, deer and unclaimed hogs.
Thanksgiving Day was usually celebrated at our house
with several other families and guests. These varied from year to year
but my older brother and sister were always there with their families.
My mother said that two turkeys would be enough. She would make pecan
pies, cakes, jelly rolls and other desserts. Most of the guests would
bring a favorite food. There had never been a shortage of something
good to eat.
Clifton suggested that he and I should go hunting on
the upper end of Red Creek and see if we could get a real wild turkey
or two. Papa didn’t think the hunt was a good idea. “There
might not be any wild turkeys up there and it’s awfully rough
country to travel through. There are places where you have to travel up
the creek bed. The cliffs come so close to the creek you can’t
travel on the bank!” He made it sound like a foolish thing to do,
but we were foolish kids and insisted on making the trip. We were
convinced we could supply the meat for an old time Thanksgiving dinner.
On a nice, sunny November morning we started on the
big trip. We were equipped with double barreled shot guns and we were
confident that we would have wild turkey for the feast. In a couple of
hours we reached a portion of the area where the nice trails along the
banks began to disappear. Thick brush made it difficult to travel and
provided excellent hiding for any game in the area. We were about ready
to admit failure and return without our turkey when we heard a faint
but distinct gobbling sound. It was definitely the sound of a turkey
gobbler and it sounded like it was coming from somewhere further up the
creek. Our confidence returned and we began walking up the bed of the
stream in about a foot of water. The water deepened as the creek bed
became narrower. As we were beginning to have doubts as to the wisdom
of continuing the creek started widening and the water level fell
We heard the gobble again as the creek continued to
widen and the water receded to just a trickle. The sound was coming
from the left bank. The brush barricade had thinned and we decided it
was time to leave the stream and see if we could find the turkey. We
traveled as quietly as possible and were elated when we saw a large
gobbler and two hens pecking at something they had discovered among the
dead leaves. “I’ll get the gobbler and you take the hen
closest to him.” Clifton whispered as he raised his shotgun and
prepared to shoot. The two guns fired almost together and the third
turkey disappeared into the brush. The gobbler and the hen we had shot
lay on the ground kicking feebly. We quickly pulled our pocket knives
and removed the heads to speed the bleeding. It didn’t take much
discussion to convince us that we should grab out prizes and head for
home. I grabbed the hen and Clifton lifted the gobbler by its legs.
“He’s heavy,” he commented. “We’ll have
to take turns carrying him!” he continued. Before I could answer
a big man dressed in overalls and wearing a straw hat climbed from the
“What’s going on” he inquired
after looking at us for awhile. “What are you shooting my turkeys
for?” Clifton tried to tell him that they were wild turkeys and
we were planning on eating them. The man quickly explained that he
lived less than a hundred yards to the west and had been there all his
life. He had raised the turkeys from chicks and he didn’t
appreciate us stealing them. He asked us who we were and if we wanted
him to take us to the sheriff or to our folks. We chose the
embarrassment of the long motor trip home.
My dad paid the man for the turkeys and apologized
for the error. He told the man to take his turkeys back and have a good
Thanksgiving! He told us that we needed another lesson on the
recognition of wild turkeys. I told Clifton that it wasn’t all
bad. We didn’t have to carry the heavy birds home.