We first spotted it last fall: the wild turkey that had taken up residence in Minnehaha Falls Park. A stunningly large, long-legged fowl, it was usually walking along on the grass, head down, apparently grazing on the seeds, acorns, and insects scattered under the oak trees. Then, soon after we published Milissa Link’s essay in the winter edition of MOQ, about the coyote she spotted in the area, we stopped seeing it.
I speculated that it had likely become coyote dinner. My husband accused me of being pessimistic. “Not if you see it from the coyote’s point of view,” I had countered.
Despite my coyote sympathies, I was delighted when I spotted it again on a late February afternoon (naturally, I assumed it was the same turkey). It had strolled onto the parkway that runs east of Hiawatha, and there it stood, in the middle of the narrow road, calmly stopping what little traffic there was. It took a few steps to the left, and a northbound car crept past; then it stepped to the right, and a southbound car edged by. It turned and watched these vehicles with a mild and curious gaze.
But as I approached in the northbound lane, I had to bring my rust-speckled ’91 Honda to a complete halt as the turkey planted itself right in the center of the road. It eyed me, then turned to gaze at the southbound car that had also stopped in the opposite lane. It was a standoff. I could see that the other driver was talking on a cell phone and wondered if he was reporting this event to someone.
Convinced that the turkey, possessing all the time in the world, had no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, I slowly eased the Honda onto the sloped curb to my right to edge my way around the recalcitrant critter. As I passed, it turned its magnificent homely head on its long turkey neck to look me in the eye through the driver’s-side window. I felt a certain relief that it was winter and my window was closed. My, that’s a big bird, I thought.
Now we make a point of looking for it whenever we pass through the park, and succeed in spotting it a few times a week. Even though we haven’t gone so far as to give it a name, we do refer to it as “your friend” (“I saw your friend in the park today”). Like a regular at the coffee shop, it has become for us a fixture in this place, its absence as keenly felt as its presence. Long may it wander there.
(From the spring issue of MOQ, which will be available next week.)