by Suzy McCray
This is the fourth morning that there is no "gobble gobble gobble" coming from behind the workshop door, asking to be let out into the sunshine as quickly as possible.
There will be no more long walks in freezing thunderstorms trying to find where Thomas has hidden himself because he was scared of the storm, knowing we MUST find him before a coyote does.
There will be no more happy general store customers posing while Thomas fluffs his tail feathers and tries to act aloof – although secretly enjoying every moment of the attention.
Thomas came to this farm about five years ago with a guinea, a few chickens and a couple of rabbits when a couple’s grandchildren had moved away, and the couple decided they wanted the freedom to travel.
Thomas was raised with the chickens and evidently, just assumed he was one.
Then my son got five turkeys to raise for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners the next year. A large temporary pen was built with a blue tarp over the top, and Thomas moved himself in with the others, suddenly realizing he was not just a large chicken!
Some of you may remember the story of how the other turkeys got respiratory infections and were given antibiotics, so they couldn’t be butchered for the holiday meals. Soon, they’d outgrown their pen. Every morning, we let them out, and they waltzed, waddled and clomped right over to free range with our multitude of chickens every day.
Who knew turkeys could have such personalities?
Soon folks were literally skidding to a stop in the highway, backing up and driving in to photograph the crew! One lady, in the early darkness of dementia, was brought to see her favorite turkey every afternoon around 3 p.m. Her walking stick was colored with butterflies and flowers, and the turkey would literally dance his mating dance around her walking stick every afternoon!
Long after that sweet woman was moved to assisted living, she could scarcely talk of her family, but she REMEMBERED and talked about those turkeys!
But, one by one, each turkey eventually left us ... dying peacefully of old age, likely of heart attacks ... until there was only Beautiful and Thomas left. Beautiful was a male, as well, but named because he delighted in spreading his feathers any time anyone wanted a photo or a hug. Last year, Beautiful began to act droopy.
Thomas stood vigil by his side for three long days and nights. And then Beautiful left us.
Thomas adapted fairly well. He returned to the bunny barn almost each night to be safely shut in from bobcats and coyotes (unless a storm scared him).
Last week, I knew something was wrong.
The first night, Mack found him way around behind the back goat fence. I decided I wouldn’t let him out the next morning because he was acting so poorly.
But when I went to feed and water the animals, he was beside the door, bright and perky, asking to go outside. So I turned him out.
That night after church, we searched for hours and couldn’t find him. I prayed God would have caused him to pass away before something could find him to eat him. (Yes, I PRAYED for a turkey!)
The next day as I was mowing, I saw iridescent feathers just slightly sticking out from a bush right behind the house ... and there was Thomas, who had died peacefully the day before. I know there are probably turkey farmers reading this, who grow hundreds of the big- breasted critters every year for our holiday feasts. Or just other homesteaders, such as my friend, Jenny, out West who raise two turkeys every year for their family, one appropriately named "Thanksgiving" and the other "Christmas."
But I can’t help but identify with Thomas.
We don’t know how old he was because we don’t know how old he was when he came here to live.
But he always seemed a little unsure of himself … never seeming to quite fit in … always looking a little different … always seeming to be a little different from everybody else.
He wasn’t the prettiest of the turkeys. He wasn’t the friendliest. He was pretty shy around most folks till he got to know them (unlike Beautiful who never met a stranger!).
Most folks that REALLY know me will attest to that sounding a lot like me. I can write words read by thousands, but you put me in a roomful of strangers and I want to do like Thomas and hide under the porch!
But like so many other things and animals here on this farm, God has used Thomas to teach me lots of lessons.
While Thomas couldn’t be like any of the other turkeys, who each had their own distinct personalities and traits, there were still things about Thomas that God could still use.
Because Thomas’ death was announced on Facebook, there’s been over 100 folks who wrote little notes explaining how he always made them smile with his goofy turkey gait, or how he always made them wonder what he was thinking as he tilted that red-topped head gazing at them to see if they’d by any chance brought a piece of biscuit or a french fry!
God dressed the lilies in the field. He knows the number of feathers on each bird (including goofy big birds such as Thomas). And He KNOWS what’s in MY heart.
A man at our church testified Sunday morning of how he feels so close to God early in the mornings as he stands in the midst of his acres of bountiful Blount County tomatoes.
I guess the most important thing Thomas showed us during his tenure on the farm is just how thankful we all ought to be. All of us that are privileged to enjoy the country life, to even just have a scrap of land to dig in the soil and watch the seeds break through, who can gaze out through the morning mist and see not one but three different mama hens clucking to small clutches of baby chicks ... who hear the roosters crow ... who hear the goats or cows or sheep or horses making their early morning sounds.
Today, as you go about your chores, jobs, and lives, don’t forget the simple things around your farm or even your small city lot. Look up at those clouds. Listen to the birds in the trees. Smell whatever flower (or weed!) is currently in bloom.
And think about Thomas and all the simple things around us. Folks, we are simply just blessed.Suzy McCray is a freelance writer living on a small homestead in Blount County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her Facebook page