This I Believe

Cindy - Jacksonville, Illinois
Entered on July 12, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Finding the Hidden Turkeys is worth the Effort

Twice I have seen a large flock of wild turkeys near the road. The first time was near the grounds of a rambling old private club in the foothills of the Adirondacks. The birds were ungainly as they scuttled in the ditch question for breakfast. More recently, I startled a huge flock just south of Jacksonville, Illinois. As I drove by, I marveled that I don’t see them more often. I drive a lot-we all do, these days- and you’d think that such a sizeable bird with such clumsy bodies would be easier to spot. They’re not.

Every once in awhile I have spied turkeys while walking in woods or along a prairie trail. Despite their massive bodies-a male can grow to be twenty five pounds- turkeys are remarkably good hiders. They can easily detect intruders in their territories, especially intruders like me who foray into nature while accompanied by a large snuffling dog. Still, a few times I have heard their unmistakable gobbles and my canine pal, Jackie, has managed to flush them out of tall grass. And once I lucked upon a pair standing just off the prairie trail.

I have come to believe that the best things in life are off the trail, at least a little, and certainly off the well-worn roads.

Like many, I sometimes get into a habit of limiting myself to the road. After all, that’s a tremendous network we’ve etched on our landscape, and there’s nothing like tripping to make a body feel free. But I don’t get to see many turkeys that way, not when flying down an interstate or even touring country roads, not when my view of the world is limited to whatever fits in the rectangles of my car windows. I may as well be watching television.

When I remember the unmistakable sweet taste of wild strawberries on hot summer days, and remember that the best ones are always tucked under the thorniest bush, that’s when I leave aside work and head for Panther Creek a few miles away or to a trail I like by the Illinois River. And once the out-of-doors is no longer just a memory, when I’ve slammed the car door and trekked until I smell damp red oak and hickory leaves, and maybe even hear the gobble of turkeys, that’s when my best ideas seem to come out of hiding too.

It’s not always easy or even advisable to leave the trail, or risk damaging the undergrowth or tripping in a hidden hole, but sometimes I just have to see what’s behind that stand of trees or beyond that hill. I believe that the search is worth the effort no matter what I find-or don’t find. I believe getting out of the office, the house, and certainly the car is the best way to seek the treasure concealed off the road and the way to restore the adventurous soul.