No no no! Not Obama. A dead president.
Thomas Jefferson believed the wild turkey, because of its grace and beauty, would be the perfect national bird for the U.S. Fortunately, not everyone shared his vision. A joyous “Thanksgiving bald eagle dinner” doesn’t have the same ring, does it?
There is a flock of wild turkeys at the barn. A big flock. Last time I saw them all together and counted (pre-Thanksgiving) there were 32. Most of the horses are simply annoyed by turkeys. Scared? Not on your life. They want to chase them for sport.
Hudson and I cooled out on the access road after a nice loose workout. Covered arena and parked horse trailers on the right, pipe corral paddocks on the left.
We rounded the same corner that hissed at him unexpectedly awhile back, causing the good spook.
What is UP with this corner? Is it the Bermuda Triangle of Surprise!!!?
A mass of writhing, flapping, pecking, squawking turkeys on the left. (There’s another menace ahead, but we’ll go with one at a time.)
A brilliant idea occurred to one independent thinking turkey: I’ll perch on the pipe rail.
Clearly, turkey moms everywhere missed classic mom-lecture 101: “Would you jump off a bridge because the other fledglings do it?”
There were 7 turkeys in various states of balance on top of the rail. They were generously flapping their wings trying to stay perched, and pecking at neighbors if they felt they didn’t have enough wing room. That left, maybe, 20 turkeys milling around directly beneath their “made it” brethren. Jostling and trying to get up there too. There are three problems with this.
- Turkeys are not ergonomically designed to perch on pipe rails.
- Turkeys can’t lift off like a helicopter. They need a little runway room.
- They didn’t seem to know either of these things.
A few stragglers run and flap at the same time, amazingly making it to the rail, where they promptly, like everyone else, lose their balance, and tumble to the ground: usually taking out their neighbors and thunking on the birds below who are still trying to ascend straight up. It’s quite a mêlée. Complete with the turkey equivalent of fist fights, angry screaming, and finger-pointing. It’s very noisy. Big wings and huge feathers catch the air with a whump whump whump sound. It all goes something like this:
Whump whump whump, squawk, peck, whump, tink tink tink (claws on metal) whoooosh, tink, peck, shove, tink, THUD, (crazed) tink tink tink tink TINK…tink (from the birds who manage to stay up), and thud thud thwack (they didn’t make it). Followed, on the ground, by angry, retaliatory, squawking, flapping, and pecking by those insulted souls smashed and thwarted by their brothers.
It’s an angry mess.
Hudson snorts and freezes, but only one eye is on the turkeys. The other focuses on the gigantic, wavering, cackling black hole in the road ahead.
I have time for two thoughts: “boy am I glad I left the girth tight” and “please end well.”
He doesn’t spook much. Therefore, he’s not very good at it. This does not make it easier, because you really don’t know what the possibilities are.
I can physically feel him running through the alternatives in the muscles underneath me. He sinks and leans back, with his head high in the air. I feel him lighten slightly on the left shoulder.
I’ll spin to the left! Wait! No! That takes me into the turkeys!
He lightens on the right shoulder.
I’ll spin to the right! WAIT. NO! Then I can’t SEE the turkeys!
He evens out in the shoulders, and lightens behind.
I’ll back up, I can see everything that way! No! WAIT! I can’t see behind me!! What if something is back THERE??
I’d better help him out: maybe he’ll trust my judgement. I make my seat relax, loosen the reins slightly (No biggie, Hudson, see? Not hanging on.) I ask him to turn around and walk away.
It doesn’t go exactly as planned. He compromises: he listens to himself and to me. I feel the compromise coming, and take a shorter hold on the reins. We whirl around halfway (he can see the tarp, turkeys AND what was behind him, since he’s now sideways) and do an Olympic level half-pass in the Piaffe, away from the Bermuda Triangle of Scary Things.
Impressive! Major suspension and power! He’s round and through, using his butt. Huh. A piaffing half-pass going sideways and uphill. Horse has talent.
Hmmmm. Can one sneak a herd of wild turkeys and a tarp into a lesson?
It took some time, but we worked through it, eventually riding past the tarp and turkey jumble 4 or five times, both directions, at a walk. After I untacked, I stuffed my pocket with cookies, grabbed his lead, and he “helped” me pick up the tarp, dragging, bunching and crumpling it while eating a few cookies. By the end, he was ready to pick it up himself and carry it to the trash if we could just STOP now. Truthfully, the tarp alone may have caused a momentary hesitation, but this horse has seen everything, and probably would have been fine. The combination though, was a bit much!