The Turkey Who Lived, the story of Azul as told by the girl who loved her most,
© 2004-2009 by Dee. All rights reserved.
She was a blue so light she was almost gray. Jim got her at Miller Feed Shop in Albuquerque’s north valley after first buying and then losing a white baby turkey to a hawk. That turkey, we were later told, would have eventually grown so big that its weight would have broken its legs.
But Azul was a lean heritage turkey. She was made to roam fields. And roam she did. She had an easy relationship with our dogs, who seemed to know that she was as much a part of the family as they were. And she was docile with the girls, which put me at ease. A man I once worked with told me that you should never have turkeys around small children, as the turkeys would see the kids’ shiny eyes and peck them out.
Azul became famous ’round these parts. We lived within walking distance to the elementary school, and my daughters’ teachers regularly took their classes on field trips to our house. Twenty or so excited kids would stand at the fence around the bird pen to see Azul and the other turkeys, along with our chickens and Roosevelt the duck. We even had two bunnies, Diamond-in-the-Rough and Snowball, which if we could catch (they burrowed tunnels from the pen out to the yard) we’d let the students pet.
But Azul’s fame derived mostly because she survived an attack so severe that her innards were exposed. She had flown into the neighbors’ yard, not knowing that their dogs were unfriendly. Immediately a Bassett Hound and German Shepherd cornered and jumped her. The daughter was inside alone but had the wherewithal to call the police. She then went outside and chased the dogs away from Azul until Animal Control arrived and took the wounded turkey to the village offices.
Normally, with injuries that grave, Azul would have been put to sleep. But when the mayor of the village saw our daughter, who with Jim had pulled in seconds behind Animal Control, crying her eyes out when she saw how gory Azul looked, the mayor ordered Frosty, the head dog catcher, to rush the turkey to a local veterinarian. This mayor, who was also a sometimes-actor in Western films, then told Jim that the village would pick up the cost.
Lo and behold, Azul pulled through. She went on to live a relatively long life, giving birth to and raising three or four poults, a combined 20 to 30 turkeys.
Just a couple of weeks ago, however, Azul went missing. We looked high and low for her. She was always the leader of her flock, until this past year. We were down to four turkeys, one being Azul. The two males had plucked out large patches of her feathers. We let her stay outside the pen, being as how she roosted high in the trees to sleep.
One night we heard a commotion and chased off whatever it was that had come around. The next day Azul was gone. There were no feathers, no sign that she’d been taken or hurt. We searched for her for several days, thinking she might have laid eggs underneath brush and was hidden, safe and sound.
We still like to think she just flew high up into the trees where we can’t see her. But she was old for a turkey, and in our hearts we know that she’s gone for good.
Here is the story that Dee wrote about Azul back in 2004, just a few weeks after Azul was attacked by the dogs. Dee was 8 years old, and Azul was just over a year. I’ve corrected typos for ease of reading.
The Turkey Who Lived
One fall day, my dad, M., and me were shopping at K-Mart. We got a lot of stuff. Finally we were headed for home. When we turned on Mockingbird Lane, we saw the Animal Control leaving the road. My dad had a feeling something was wrong!
When we pulled up at our green gate, my dad saw a note left from the Animal Control which read “Your turkey has been attacked by some dogs next door. Sincerely, Frosty.”
My dad told us and I cried, but then I said, “I’ll kill those dogs!”
We met up with them [Animal Control] just in time. Before my dad got out of the car, he said Azul might be dead or dying. While my dad talked I could not tell if Azul was dead or alive, so I got out of the van and went to my turkey and cried when I saw her.
“We will put her to sleep,” the man said. “No!” the mayor said, “you will take her to the vet.”
So they did. The vet stitched her up. We had to put red medicine on her for a week. Now she is better, as if it never happened.
Azul and her flock on red Ravine
Postscript: Even though she’s no longer with our flock, we are grateful this Thanksgiving holiday for having had Azul in our lives. She taught us that turkeys were not just some dumb bird you eat once a year. They’re regal and sociable. They’re funny, and most of all, they’re tough.
We’re also thankful today for our family (including the furry, feathered, and scaly), friends, our readers, for nature, writing, art, and all that inspires us.
Happy Thanksgiving, QM and Liz, and both your families!
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