Everybody knows Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful and peaceful place. No surprises there. What came as a surprise when I arrived is the enormous number of wild turkeys living here. I don’t mean geeky guys in double knit pants. I mean live gangs of large birds strutting around like they own the place. It’s amazing to see.
We had 40 of them in the front yard one morning last fall. It was all I could do not to grab a loaf of bread and feed them like ducks on a pond. They aren’t pretty birds but they command your attention. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to keep the car idling while they passed in front of me. Believe me, they don’t appear to be in a hurry. And they’re loud.
One of the first things that came to mind when I noticed the turkey population for the first time was how all my old neighbors in Upstate New York would react to them. Bows and shotguns would have been grabbed and a fine meal had by all. Not here. On the Island people treat houseflies like invited guests so we don’t mess with the turkeys.
That’s not to say they aren’t a known nuisance though. The local paper even reports on the turkey tribulations from time to time. You can find headlines that read something like “Police called on violent turkey”. Apparently they are so used to the humans here that they have taken over front porches and walkways, getting a little aggressive if you try to get in their way, kind of like a nasty mother-in-law.
I love to watch the turkeys fly. It’s awesome. It gives me hope when I see something so heavy take flight. It’s incredible to see them flying up onto your rooftop and perching there like some kind of live weathervane. It’s even more awesome when they fly up into the treetops for a good night’s sleep.
I think I may be a little envious of the turkeys. They have the run of the Island and they seem to find plenty of food and shelter here without spending a million dollars, unlike everybody else. They’ve got a pretty cushy deal here.
Really though, you can’t help but like them. They’ve got gumption. I see why Benjamin Franklin favored the turkey over the eagle to represent the U.S. Can you imagine an eagle chasing you off your front porch?