Eight years ago this week I was the victim of an unprovoked and extremely frightening turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey who had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.
Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.
Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and, one by one, take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like covering a Blind Axe Throwers convention.
The reason I was in this situation was because I’m a journalist committed to getting the story. Even if it means risking my own safety by putting myself in harm’s way on the front lines.
OK, so it was a turkey farm.
And I was under the watchful eye of a highly capable turkey wrangler named Dirk; a man confident in his ability to “throw down” against even the largest bird, including, once, a stray ostrich that had gotten confused and wandered over from a nearby farm. As Dirk explained, he knew something was wrong almost immediately when he noticed, “One of the turkeys looked way too big.”
That’s when he swung into action and, drawing on years of wrangling experience, diffused the situation by calmly approaching the bird, gaining its trust, then suddenly throwing it into a headlock.
“When I woke up, the ostrich was gone,” said Dirk.
Secure in the knowledge that my back was covered by Dirk the Turkey Wrangler, I had entered the large pen of turkeys in hopes of getting firsthand experience, which I could use to enhance my story, or possibly my obituary, depending on how quickly things deteriorated. I should mention that I had been made aware of the potential dangers that arise when turkeys adopt a mob mentality, then signed a waver releasing the farm of any liability should I be: Injured or otherwise decapitated.
“Don’t you mean ‘incapacitated?” I asked.
“Yeah — that, too,” said Dirk.
Standing in the middle of the pen a short time later, the turkeys didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. This prompted me to engage them so I could get a better feel for their personalities. I crouched; bobbed my head; gobbled a little.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Dirk.
At that very instant one turkey extended its head above the others.
“Yirp. Yirp. Yirp.”
As I discovered, this is turkey talk for, “Just because we are two completely different species doesn’t mean we can’t be lovers.”
I suddenly realized I had the attention of every turkey in the pen, particularly five who had been strutting around, chests puffed out, trying to win the affections of “Lucy.”
“Uhhhm, too late,” Dirk said helpfully. “Cover your privates.”
Next thing I knew, I was surrounded, dust and feathers flying.
I obviously survived, thanks in part to Dirk’s quick thinking, which was to yell “Get out of there — but keep your privates covered!” over and over until I could get back to the gate.
Admittedly, the experience left me shaken but it doesn’t keep me from having turkey on Thanksgiving.
Eventually, I hope to do so without wearing an athletic cup.
You can write to Ned Hickson at [email protected], or c/o Siuslaw News, 148 Maple St., Florence, OR 97439