By Morris R. Pike
“It’s total humiliation . . . that’s what it is!” Reb shouted at the rafter of Siskiyou County turkeys. The sea of turkey faces however, just looked past Reb as if he was not there.
“Why don’t we do something!” Reb demanded.
All he got from the docile birds was a mild, “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”
Why was Reb so upset? Let me tell you. It’s because of what the bigs (that’s what turkeys call humans) made them do.
Every year, a few days before the 4th of July, bigs come into the forest, round up all the turkeys they can find and make them run races against one another . . . and sometimes they make them race against a cat or even a pig.
“I’ve had enough,” he shouted to Siskiyou’s spineless fowl. He tucked in his feathers and headed north..
His long journey took him through thick forests and across rivers . . . he narrowly escaped the coyotes and mountain lions.
In an open field near Tykeson, Oregon, Reb ended his journey. Now he was free.
“Blooooooble, blooooooble,” Reb shouted into the still forest air and again, “blooooooble, blooooooble.”
He was surprised when all sorts of turkeys came ambling out of the woods from all directions. All those strangers’ eyes staring at him made him uneasy. He didn’t know whether to smile or run.
“Blooooooble, blooooooble,” he uttered in a friendly tone.
The staring heads just wobbled.
‘Maybe I should be flattered,’ he thought. ‘There’s something enjoyable about a crowd’s attention . . . especially the attention from fine looking lady turkeys. The gang back home never showed this much interest in me. I wonder why these turkeys would find me to be such an interesting curiosity.’
“Were not accustomed to having visitors,” Conley said.
Wobbly wanted to know where Reb had come from and why.
“I had my fill of running races,” Reb explained. No one said anything . . . they just looked perplexed . . . so Reb continued. “The bigs forced us to run races . . . you know . . . during their celebration,” Reb said smiling broadly.
“Celebration?” Billard asked perplexed.
“Yeah, celebration . . . you know . . . jumping around and making noise.”
“They let you go?” Astor asked wide-eyed.
“Sure, why not?” Reb quizzed.
“The bigs made you race? That’s all? That’s why you left?” Billard asked.
“Well, this year they added a crazy Powwow Strut, you know . . . see who could walk the fastest.” Reb paused checking their faces to see how he was doing. Blank faces.
“You ever try to walk fast?”
“Yeah, walk fast and run fast . . . too much!”
“Yeah, the Strut was what did it,” Reb chuckled with a cocky toss of his head. “So I packed up and headed north and here I am,” he concluded with smile of growing confidence.
The Tykeson turkeys looked at one another in silence.
Reb grinned at the sea of faces. He wondered what they were going to do.
Finally, Ron Tykeson stepped forward, “You’re welcome here.”
“More than welcome,” Trisha said smoothly.
“Thanks,” Reb said eying the pretty turkey.
During the days that followed, Reb settled into the new rafter’s routine. It was nice to be among friendly fowl and not have to worry about racing. He was glad to be among them.
The next morning Reb noticed signs posted on trees and stumps throughout the community that read, ‘TD Election – Nov. 9.’
“What does TD stand for?” Reb asked Trisha.
Trish matter-of-factly replied, “Elections.”
“Turkeys have elections?”
“Yes, elections . . . governor.”
“Leader, you know . . . someone to take charge . . . you know . . . be our face . . . lead . . .” Trish concluded weakly.
Throughout the fall days Reb thought about the coming election and being leader of a community of turkeys . . . being GOVERNOR.
The turkeys back in Siskiyou County never had a governor . . . a group of elders, but no governor . . .
‘The Siskiyou bunch would never even make me an elder. They’d just laugh at the thought,’ Reb said to himself. ‘I wonder . . .’
Later Reb asked, “Do you think I should run for governor?”
Reb was sorry he’d asked . . . putting her on the spot and fearful of what she might say. “That’d give everyone a great laugh, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh no . . .” Trisha returned quickly. She paused and added, “You could . . .”
Reb’s face lit up. “Wow, I think I will. Who’s my competition? Do you think I have a chance?”
“Reb,” Trisha said and paused before continuing. “There’s . . .” she paused again and then said, “you have as good a chance as anyone.”
“And you’ll vote for me?” Reb said. But by the look on her face, he was sorry he’d asked and with a touch of braggadocio added, “You will . . . you’ll see.”
During the next several days, Reb spread the word that he was a candidate for governor. He was surprised when no one challenged his candidacy. Both Dillard and Ron were charismatic turkeys. Reb wondered why they didn’t enter the contest.
“I guess I scared them all away,” he mused.
It appeared to Reb that he was a shoo-in for governor. Nevertheless, he thrived on the attention his candidacy had gotten him. Back in Siskiyou County, he was little more than a joke to its snobby, uppity citizenry. But here in Tykeson his popularity was something to behold. He loved it.
With each public encounter, he became bolder and his sense of self-esteem grew stronger. Though he didn’t have to, he regularly gave speeches from the giant Douglas fir stump in the middle of the clearing.
“Fellow Turkeys (blooooooble, blooooooble)!” he shouted.
Blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble,” came the enthusiastic return.
“If I’m elected, there will be a crib of corn in every roost.”
“Blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble and so forth” came at every word.
The mood in Tykeson was electric. Enthusiasm of the citizenry grew with each speech. Reb was ecstatic. He’d been a mite in Siskiyou County. Now, the citizens of Tykeson treated him like a hero … no … more like an eagle or a god.
“Trisha, it appears that I will be the governor of Tykeson,” Reb declared under the shade of a large oak tree. “Isn’t that something?”
“You’ve made a splash,” Trisha said matter-of-factly.
Trisha’s coolness stuck in Reb’s craw. ‘Why?’ he thought.
His thoughts were interrupted by Trisha’s soft, even voice. “Reb, dear fellow, do you know what TD really stands for?”
“You said it stood for Turkey Day, didn’t you?”
“Yes, that’s what we call it, but there’s another Turkey Day. It’s not so friendly.”
“Oh?” Reb returned.
“Thanksgiving Day, the bigs call it. It happens every November. I should have told you about it from the first, but you . . . well . . . you seemed to need . . .”
Reb interrupted, “Thanksgiving Day? That sounds good. What’s so bad about it?”
“It’s not our Thanksgiving Day. It’s the bigs Thanksgiving Day . . .” she hesitated.
“So . . . from what I know of them, they ought to be thankful… everyone should.”
“Yes, but you don’t understand . . . they have a big celebration and on that day they stuff us, cook us, put us on the dinner table and eat us.”
Reb was stunned. He studied Trisha’s face for signs of levity.
“Nah … nah, you’re kidding!” he said with a stifled laugh.
“No, really, they do. It started along time ago. It became a tradition with them.”
The full force of reality finally hit. Reb fell silent. He sat down on his haunches to keep from fainting.
“That’s why nobody else is running for governor. When the turkey roundup comes in early November, everyone at Tykeson wants to hide and have the lowest profile possible.”
Reb’s mind was racing. ‘How can this be?’ he thought.
“Governor is a pretty high profile, don’t you think?” Trisha asked rhetorically.
“I’ll withdraw… tell ‘em … I’ll tell ‘em, I don’t want to be governor now!”
Trisha smiled, “Honey, you were governor the day you walked into Tykeson. They won’t let you withdraw now,” she paused monitoring Reb’s shock. “I’m sorry, but you had to know sooner or later.”
Walking away she turned and said, “Between now and hunting days, try to blend in.” She moved away toward edge of the woods.
Reb’s spirits sank. After nearly being the ‘god’ of Tykeson, he now felt dejected.
“Better you than me!” Billard said when Reb tried to get him to take his place. Everyone turned a deaf ear to his pleading.
One day about noon, while Reb was sitting on a big pine stump near Cattail Pond, his friend, Rusty Eagle settled on a nearby stump.
He cocked an eye at Reb and said, “Boy, you look like you swallowed a Russian thistle. What’s eating you?”
“Funny!” Reb retorted sarcastically.
“Nah . . . you couldn’t know. ‘Eating me’ is what’s sticking in my craw.”
“Okay, let’s have it!” Rusty demanded.
“TD is coming. Thanksgiving Day for bigs . . . that’s good. Thanksgiving Day for us . . . not good. Bigs round up turkeys, cook them and eat them at a giant celebration in November.”
“That IS bad,” Rusty commiserated.
“Yeah, bad for me. I’m governor of Tykeson and that makes me easy to spot. I’m wondering, do they serve eagle too?”
Rusty chuckled, “Nah, they won’t be eating eagle. It’s against their laws even to own an eagle’s feather. How about that?”
“It must be nice!” Reb said sarcastically . . . and then an idea hit him. “Say, what if I wore an eagle feather . . . they wouldn’t . . . well, couldn’t serve me, right?”
“Loan me one of your feathers. I’ll attach it to my tail . . . that way it will be against the law to own me, right?”
“Of course, why didn’t I think of that! A turkey wearing an eagle feather,” Rusty said, falling on the ground in laughter.
“It’s worth a try,” Reb said weakly.
Rusty recovered. “You know . . . You may have something . . . they can’t own an eagle feather so they just might leave you alone. Dog gone it . . . Here take this one!” Rusty said plucking a large wing feather from his right wing and handing it to Reb.
“Would it be asking too much to get one for Trisha?”
“And who’s Trisha?”
“She’s my I-want-her-to-be, lady friend.”
“I get it . . . . lady friend . . . good . . . sure . . . I’ll not miss two feathers. What about the other turkeys in your rafter? Won’t they want them too, when they see you with your feathers?”
“Got a feeling they will laugh at the idea like you did,” Reb returned.
“You might be surprised . . . looking a little foolish to save your gizzard is a small price to pay . . . Look, I’ll see to it that you have all the eagle feathers you need for every member of your rafter. If they want them good, if not . . . use them for . . . use them for . . . well, use them for something.”
“No, Rusty, I couldn’t ask that . . . You’d be a bald eagle, for sure?”
Rusty laughed, “Listen, on my way home I’ll drop by the Grove convocation of eagles and hit them up for a pack of feathers for you. When you are ready, just let them know.”
”You’re my pal,” Reb said examining the beautiful feathers. “The bigs will fall for it, I know they will. I owe you.”
“Didn’t cost me anything . . . I’ll grow some more.
“Thanks Rusty. Like I say, you’re my bird.”
Rusty stretched his enormous wings, lifted himself into the air and called, “See you next time.”
“Yeah, see you. Thanks again,” Reb said gratefully.
Rusty was gone.
Reb clutched his new feathers to his chest and began to waddle toward Tykeson commons.
“Reb, you really look stupid wearing that l eagle feather!” Ron Tykeson said derisively when Reb showed up with an eagle feather among his tail feathers.
Billard joined in, “Yeah . . . pretending to be an eagle! What a hoot.”
“Of all birds you might have decided to imitate . . . an eagle?” Millie added with a penetrating laugh. “How about an ostrich?”
“Or an owl,” Penny added.
“A dodo bird is more like it!” Derrick chimed.
“An eagle? You’ve got to be kidding!” Butch roared.
Reb wanted to crawl into a patch of nearby stinging nettles. He hoped that at least Trisha might have a kind word to say to him.
“I’m sorry to say it,” Trisha said when he approached her. “They’re right . . . you do look foolish. But you know, it might just work. Do you think you could get me an eagle feather?”
Reb was pleased that Trish not only didn’t laugh at him, she was willing to look foolish, too. Handing her the feather, he smiled and said, “I already thought of that. Here is yours.”
When the Tykeson Turkeys saw Trisha and Reb sporting eagle feathers they went into fits of laughter. They taunted the pair with laughter and turkey calls.
The sound of turkeys laughing filled the wood and echoed from the hills, “Blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble … Blooooooble, blooooooble, blooooooble.”
The Tykeson turkeys continued to mock Reb and Trisha, but Thanksgiving Day was rapidly approaching and the Tykeson turkeys were getting the jitters. Only Trisha and Reb seemed to be unbothered by the coming bigs’ TD. Any day now, bigs from nearby villages would come into the forest looking for turkeys and, when they caught them, they would… no Tykeson turkey wanted to finish the thought.
“How much do you want for your feather?” Conley sheepishly asked Reb one afternoon. Other turkeys stood nearby wanting to see how Reb would respond.
“Probably more than you’ve got,” Reb said unable to resist a dig, and knowing he had feathers for each Tykeson turkey.
“I’ll give you two month’s worth of scratching for it,” Conley persisted following Trisha and Reb to their roosting places.
It wasn’t long before everyone in the community of Tykeson was pleading with Reb to try to get eagle feathers for them before it was too late.
“I guess we should quit teasing them,” Reb said to Trisha. “After all, I am the governor. It’s my duty.”
“I’m proud of you,” Trisha said admiringly.
“They have teased us mercilessly and were even cruel to us, but they are family to you and the only friends I know.”
It was hard, but he saw himself in them and their actions . . . ‘I have done the same things and worse,’ he murmured. The thought of his new community of friends being served on TD tables was beyond his ability to tolerate. He went to the Grove eagles and got feathers for everyone.
As TD hunt day approached, the Tykeson rafter turkeys automatically began huddling together in dark corners of the woods in hopes that hunters would pass them by.
“What’s the matter with all of you?” shouted Reb as he strutted into the center of Tykeson commons and onto the big stump where he had made his campaign speeches for governor. Trisha was at his side. From the stump he shouted, “You want to look like a gang of turkeys? No! You’re eagles … act like it!”
“Bloooble, Bloooble,” Billard and the others called as they emerged from the shadows.
“Stop it!” Reb shouted. “Sound like eagles!” he demanded and let out a chilling eagle screech Rusty eagle had taught him. Before long the woods were full of the sound of eagles.
On T Day everyone wondered if the bigs had accidentally bypassed their patch of woods or if they had taken the clever birds for eagles and turned away.
The truth of it became known when Penny Tykeson reported that she saw several bigs come to the Tykeson woods, eye the community of eagles strutting about and move on.
Thanksgiving Day came and went. A census of the Tykeson population was taken and every citizen was declared present and accounted for. A week later the Tykeson turkeys conducted their own TD celebration.
Of course, Reb was the hero of the day.
Conley spoke from the lectern stump, “Governor Reb!”
Everyone shouted, “Governor Reb!”
Reb took Trisha’s wing and shouted, “I don’t want to be governor. I just want to live among you, with …” he lifted Trisha’s wing into the air.
“But you are the governor!” Billard shouted.
“Blooooble, Bloooble, Blooooble,” they shouted and followed it with three eagle screeches.