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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.





In Memoriam



azul azul and baby in fall

fall humps goodbye azul





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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 chicks-1
ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


chicks-2
Zzzzzz…. Ah, corn, cookies, mashed potatoes


chicks-3
Harumph…. Huh? Who’s there? Wait, where am I?


chicks-4
Wha? I was just dreaming…creamed corn


chicks-5
Oh my, what a big eye you have


chicks-6
Are you my mom???




Postscript: Six poults hatch from among the couple of dozen eggs the mama turkey lays on. Turkeys are big and clumsy, and the mama squashes her babies by accident, killing four.

Jim and the girls snap into action. There are only two poults left, one injured, the other tangled in the octagon of a chickenwire fence. Jim cuts out the trapped baby.

Both are just a few days old but already they eat and drink. Like most babies they sleep a lot. An old photography light/heat lamp simulates (as much as possible) the warmth of Mama’s downy feathers.

Jim says we’re nurturing the next generation of turkeys. Every day until all the eggs hatch he’ll be out there watching for the next set of poults.





Turkeys on red Ravine

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turkey love, two heritage tom turkeys in perfect silhouette in the Rio Grande Valley, NM, November 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






♥♥♥♥                                         ♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                               ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                     ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥           ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

For the ones we love and the ones who love us.

For this moment, and hope for the future.

For inspiration, practice, our mentors.

For our health and our work.

For beautiful turkeys.

For one another.

For all of you.

Gracias.





QM and yb





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My mother-in-law made this…



Happy Thanksgiving, handmade card from Celia, Thanksgiving
2009, image © 2008 by Celia. All rights reserved.

 


                                                         …which made me think of this…


       
Hand Turkey, remembering how we used to draw turkeys when we were kids, image © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




…which kind of looks like this…(although not really)…



Gray Tom, one of tom turkeys counting his blessings before Thanksgiving, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




                                            …and which looks nothing like this!



Black Tom, glad to be the clever turkey he is, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






Will you be eating

             one of these handsome guys


                                   (well, not exactly one of them)

                                                                  this Thanksgiving??







*The Bald Eagle is the symbol of the United States, yet one person believed that the Turkey would have been a more respectable bird to represent our nation.

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Oh, look, it’s the humans. They’re watching us.
Let’s give ’em a show, BOYZ!



Exhibitionist Turkeys...Ready...




Strut, aha, strut, aha…
Funky turkey, yeah, funk it up, yeah…
Ready, set…







MOUNT!
Oh, look, they’re running away screaming…
Mission accomplished. Good job, BOYZ.
Duck, get lost. You’re such a peeping tom.




Ready, Set, Mount…, Eagle Eye and her toms mating on the patio,
June 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





Other Things I’ve Learned:




-Related to post WRITING TOPIC – LIGHT AS A FEATHER.

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Happy Turkey Week, Mama Azul on the plum tree, November 2007, photo © by Jana L’Esperance (blueskydesert). All rights reserved.


Last Saturday my friend Jana L’Esperance, who goes by the Flickr moniker blueskydesert, came to the house to shoot the turkeys. “What’s she gonna shoot ’em with,” Jim asked, “…her huntin’ rifle?”

We — Jim and I — had reached the end of our rope as far as the turkeys were concerned. Much as we tried to keep them in the orchards, the turkeys insisted on spending most their time on the back patio, where they could watch us through the sliding glass door or have us watch them perform their amazing tricks. “Check your shoes for turkey poop,” had become our most frequently uttered sentence.

Then one evening a few days ago, we saw a news story about Frank Reese Jr., the turkey farmer responsible for saving heritage turkeys — the breeds raised for Thanksgiving Day since 1850 — from extinction.

Today’s commercial turkey has been genetically modified to get so fat in such a short period of time, the bird can hardly stand on its feet. It’s raised in confined spaces inside buildings, and it tastes nothing like bourbon reds, blacks, or any of the other breeds Reese Jr. raises.

Commercial turkeys produce more white meat than heritage turkeys. According to Reese Jr., most people today don’t know how real turkey tastes. The heritage turkey — that is, the real and original turkey — has darker, juicier meat than the Butterball that usually shows up on Thanksgiving tables. 

Well, the girls won’t have anything to do with our newfound interest in our, yep, heritage turkeys, so we’ve struck a compromise. We’ll keep the two mamas and one tom. That way we can have more turklets next year, now that we know more about what we’re doing.

A friend, Trish, who is the kind of woman you could drop into the wilds anywhere and she’d survive, is going to slaughter two turkeys for her family, and in the process she’ll teach Jim how to do it. He’ll slaughter two for our Christmas dinner. The rest we’re selling, and we’re not being picky about who buys them.

So far, one local guy bought three bourbon red toms. He raises turkeys for pets; actually looked at me askew when I told him I’d heard they were excellent eating. Said he’s had turkeys since he was a boy — he looked to be about 50 — and he told us we could come visit them any time we wanted. We know where he lives; seeing his heritage turkeys is what interested us in getting our own in the first place.

And, we managed, thanks to Jana’s visit, to get our entire flock back into the pen. So, this Thanksgiving Day morning, all is peaceful.

We’re up and getting ready to spend the day with Jim’s family. We’ll be eating a commercial turkey, but until we’ve tasted better, we’ll think it’s the best food we’ve ever had. Our turkeys will spend the day free, so to speak. No, they’re not out picking apples off the ground at their leisure, but they’re alive on a beautiful Thanksgiving Day morning, and I don’t think they could ask for much more than that.

Thank you, Jana, for “shooting” these gorgeous pictures of our birds. No matter what becomes of them, we can look back and admire their beauty.
 


Two bourbon red toms posing (both since sold), November 2007, photo © by Jana L’Esperance (blueskydesert). All rights reserved.

     
      Mama Eagle Eye on the flagstone near the pond, November 2007,
      photo © by Jana L’Esperance (blueskydesert). All rights reserved.


Follow the Leader, baby following Mama Azul, November 2007, photo © by Jana L’Esperance (blueskydesert). All rights reserved.

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Um, hel-loooo… can someone let me in?
They’re lining up to do a drumline.*





Hey, you just let Rafie in. Come on, you guys.
Don’t leave
me out here alone with ’em.




OK. Everyone into formation. Not you, duck.




Quacky idea…stupid turkeys. Hmmph!




Line ’em up, turkeys, straight and narrow!




Watch this…they’re fluffin’ up for the finale…




Woo-hoo, show some tail! Duck, get out!




We’re done…let’s get the flock outta here.
Wait a sec, is there any food?






*Drumline = a name suggested by one of red Ravine’s readers during a lively conversation about what to name our 11 “turklets.”


These turkeys are so advanced that they took it upon themselves to learn amazing turkey tricks, such as “doing the Drumline.”

Perhaps they were scared into action upon hearing some of the other names suggested, namely Butterball, Giblet, Barbie-Q, Stove Top, and Drumstick.

Although we’d like the turkeys to be wild, they haven’t taken well to the idea. Still, we have high hopes that these turkeys will make a mark in this world (and I’m not talking about turkey scat), forever burying the notion that they might be better served on a platter this Thanksgiving.


[Oh, and, the photos? Taken with my cell phone camera. Still waiting…]

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