For most of my life I’ve had the certain knowledge that I would die at the talons and teeth of a large cat. Strange to think, I know. And I was successful not to share this with anyone for more than thirty years, but it finally leaked out at some family meeting or another. Of course, our family support for one another is legendary. It took a full fifteen minutes for the laughter to die down.
There was another personal sharing that was similar. I often had at least one night class that required a 10:00 pm night commute back to my home. A full thirty minutes of driving a winding country road next to a lake with nothing but the moon, stars, and my headlights. As I was nearing the end of the country stretch, just before the homes of the next village, something darted from the bushes on my left, disappeared in front of my hood, then reappeared safely while entering the bushes on my right.
When I say something, I don’t mean a squirrel, much larger. Not a fox, still larger, not a deer, a tad smaller. The most curious thing was that it was running on two feet. Also, bent over. due to the speed of movement. Oh, yes, it was also wearing a tuxedo with tails, flapping in the wind.
So you can see my problem. I was certain of what I saw, and certain that I could never, ever, tell anyone about it. I mean given the choice, I either saw a little leprechaun man in a tuxedo, or I was hallucinating due to a bad taco. I chose the taco and kept quiet.
For the rest of the week I kept quiet and kept away from the tacos. Each day I passed the stretch with watchful eyes, and it became apparent that my little man liked the night for his speedy walks. Well, the next Monday brought me to the very same spot at nearly the same hour. Nothing happened, I passed the gully with some relief and began climbing the small hill entering the village. Suddenly, from the left, the little man stuck his head out of the bushes, fled even closer in front of my headlights, and this time I barely caught a glimpse of his tuxedo tails as they disappeared in the bushes on my right.
I hit my brakes this time, sliding to stop. I got out and spent a good ten minutes peering and listening near the bushes. Nothing. Partly through fear and mostly through exhaustion I made it back to my vehicle and drove the next twenty minutes to my house. Going over the reality of my experiences I felt it was time to tell my wife what I saw, no matter how odd it sounded.
“Hmm, something happened tonight, I saw something on the road and, its funny but I saw the same thing last week… It was a little…”
So I went on to explain, and this is where my memory fails me. Either her laughter woke up the kids, or she went door to door bringing them out. Or perhaps she waited until the next family dinner. In any case, the little man in a tuxedo entered the family history book.
The next week the little man failed to show. In fact, for nearly three years the little man had other places to be, other roads to run down. Until one fall, late in the afternoon, but still well lit, there he was. Calmly standing by the side of the road, but in this case he took his own sweet time crossing. A bit arrogantly, looking at my vehicle as if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It must have taken a full minute to go from the left to the right, and honking my horn did not faze him in the least. It was one of the most arrogant Tom turkeys I had ever seen. Then I realized, this is what I saw all those years ago.
Turkeys where not so common back then, in fact, they hadn’t moved west, or north, or wherever they came from. We didn’t have turkeys! And when I saw my first one, late at night, I had no reference point. I barely saw what I saw. Two legs, running fast, black tuxedo with tails. Haha, mystery solved. Three years later I had seen a number of turkeys come into the neighborhood. They flew into my oak tree one morning, the whole family came out to take pictures. I never realized that perhaps I had seen the very first emigrant on that dark road.
I drove back home, excited to be able to explain what I now knew to be the truth. The family was all there and I recounted what I experienced back three years ago and the revelation of my encounter with the turkey on the road. There was a moment of wide eyed silence.
Then there was laughter, they are still laughing.