Gobble this!

Gobble this!

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

I’m waiting for an NFL team to adopt the turkey for a name—like the Tennessee Turkeys or the Chicago Turkeys. On Thanksgiving Day, the tradition would continue as the Detroit Lions would devour the Tennesee or Chicago Turkeys. The Bears’ name could migrate to Buffalo, and the Bills’ name could go to an expansion team city of the future, such as Clinton, Wis. Wisconsin has enough football fans to support two teams. The Clinton Bills would be the gridiron gurus of Madison’s liberals. The Bills would give new meaning to the term “cheesehead.”

If Ben Franklin had had his way, the wild turkey would be the symbol of America instead of the bald eagle. I see nothing wrong with Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes standing in front of a large, emblematic turkey!

In Ben Franklin’s time, wild turkeys were abundant, but in the 1800s their numbers fell dramatically. Naturalist and wildlife painter John James Audubon recalled wild turkeys being so abundant, they were selling for less than barnyard fowl for meat. Yet in less than 20 years, as their commonality dropped, the price climbed to three pence.

The wild turkey was one of Audubon’s favorite birds. It is the cover emblem of his book, Birds of America, first published in 1827-1838. The farmyard turkey is descended from a Mexican subspecies of the wild turkey. The descendants were taken to Europe for domestication, then brought back to the New World.

By the 20th century, the wild turkey was absent or uncommon in much of its original territory. In the ’50s and ’60s, efforts began to re-establish this proud bird.

There is a story I’ve heard passed down among conservationists. It could be that someone long ago read about it in an article or book. Anyway, this is the version I heard. Back in the ’60s, there were about three breeding pairs of wild turkeys left in the wild in Pennsylvania. One of the breeding pairs was being monitored so that hatchlings from their bountiful nest could be used to re-establish turkeys in other parts of the state.

The nest was in a forest next to a farm house. Two days before the eggs were due to hatch, the mother turkey vanished. The conservationists scrambled. They took the eggs to the nearby farm house to make an incubator. What they ended up doing was improvising. The farm house contained a sick, bedridden farm boy running a high fever. The conservationists put the eggs in the bed with the boy. Two days later, they hatched!

As you may know, the wild turkey is making a tremendous comeback. Happy Turkey Day!

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!