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...at least I saw a lot of stuff

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

tree with stobs as sharp as a mother-in-law's tongue.

I loft a call into the simmering dawn: "I am here for you my love," I intone on the mouth call. The call wafts into the gentle light, and it begats an immediate response from a nearby gobbler.

"I have waited all my short and eventful life for such as you." He gobbles. "A moment, my love, and I will be with you!"

Two seconds later there is a shot and I hear him no more, though I do hear human voices, indistinct except for the phrase, "Got him." I sigh and move up the hill through the golden morning light. It's good to be alive, unless you're the gobbler I'm calling.

Fourth day: A friend, who knows how to hunt turkeys, says you have to listen for the little noises turkeys make-putts and perts and purrs and stuff like that-so they don't sneak up on you. "But don't ever puck," he says. "Puck is bad. Putt is good." I can't tell the difference, but apparently turkeys can. I have heard "Puck!" many times, mostly when I moved after two hours of immobility and a trophy gobbler, standing five yards behind me, gave the alarm call and vanished.

I am sitting in the woods, bathed in sunlight, about two ticks from falling asleep (ticks on the clock, not on me), when I hear muted sounds that must be perts and putts and purrs. I tense, ready to leap into action.

I listen for a while, then realize my stomach is making those sounds. An orange at 5 a.m. isn't enough.

A turkey expresses mild interest in my calling about 9 a.m. It is a long distance call, station-to-station, but at least it is a conversation. He gobbles, I yelp, get all scrootched around, finger on the safety ready to shoot.

An hour later he goes away, perhaps to the turkey tavern to tell the boys how he made fool out of another hunter.

A pair of Canada geese rumbles past, like two jetliners coming in for a landing. They are noisier than a convention of hog callers and I hear them splash into a nearby pond, still yelling. Canada geese talk more than our kids did when they were supposed to be going to sleep.

A Cooper's hawk flickers through the trees like a skittery ghost and the little woodland birds become quiet. Then the birdsong renews. A cardinal putters in the leaves near me and a red-bellied woodpecker hammers a nearby tree.

I struggle to my feet, another day in the turkey woods winding down. No turkeys, nothing even close, but as I flounder toward the truck I realize that I have seen just about every creature in the Missouri woods except a turkey.

Memories make for thin soup, but a rich life. And they sell turkey at the supermarket but they don't sell memories.

So, maybe I've come away with the better prize after all. I have those rich memories, even if I don't have turkey soup.

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