A Turkey Named Ralph
by Michael Az
It seemed to start about two months before Thanksgiving. Ralph would stroll into the shop and walk around looking at everything. I would usually stop what I was doing and watch him. At first I thought he was looking for crickets or some kind of a bug he might think was a delicacy. God only knows what a turkey would think is a delicacy. After a while, I noticed he wasn't looking for bugs at all, he seemed interested in whatever he could find to inspect. This behavior sure had me baffled as I had never seen an animal carry on like this before. I sort of left him alone for a while until he did his business right in the middle of the shop floor. Now, that perturbed me to no end as I try to keep my shop as clean as I can. I threw a shop towel at him that I had in my hand at the moment and that scared him pretty bad and out the door he ran. The next morning I was working on a table that I was welding up for cutting firewood [I've got to find a cord wood saw for the Cub someday] and here comes Ralph again. I stopped what I was doing and pointed a finger at him, and politely explain to him what is going to happen if he poops on my floor again! He nodded his head as though he understood exactly what I had just said, and proceeds to go on with his inspections. I calmly look to the heavens and say, "Why me Lord?"
The relationship with Ralph had been a strange one from the very beginning. It all started when in the middle of the night, something caused me to wake up. I didn't know what it was that woke me, but soon I knew cause I heard a loud noise from out on the patio. When I got to the back door, I turned on the flood light and pulled back the curtain so I could see what was going on. There in the middle of the patio was this turkey with a four foot bull snake attached to his ankle! Good Lord, I must be dreaming, there can't be a turkey and a snake on my patio doing battle! I get out the door and try to grab both of them, easier said than done! This turkey was furious and I think the snake was too. Bull snakes aren't poisonous, but I still didn't want him to bite me. I finally got a hold of them and sat there on the patio and thought I must surely be losing my mind. I'm sitting on my patio at two o'clock in the morning holding a turkey that is trying to bite my ears off and a squirming snake and I'm in my underwear. Lets see, where did I put that phone number for the Suicide Prevention Center hot line? Finally, I got them separated and sent the snake on his way. Now, what to do with this turkey from hell? I don't know any neighbors that have turkeys so I guess I'll just hang on to him until I can find his owner. In the following weeks I ask everybody I could think of who had turkeys. I even called the police department thinking maybe a patrolman had seen turkeys someplace and nobody knew anything. So Ralph adopted me, much to my protesting.
Ralph spent his days in the back yard, running around trying to catch bugs and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself while trying to pull all the sunflowers down. When I get upset enough, I give him a good yell and he will dive into the doghouse to hide. I believe he actually thinks he's a dog, whenever I've seen a cat or a rabbit stray into the backyard, there goes Ralph on another rampage. When I have chores to do, he's right there in the middle of whatever it is I'm trying to do. If I'm cutting firewood, he's carrying sticks around. If I'm turning over the compost pile, there he is scratching through the compost like crazy. I always have a shop towel dangling from my pocket and every chance he gets, he grabs it and away he runs. Never know what he's going to do next. He picked up this weird habit of nodding his head "yes" whenever I talked to him. My friends love it when I say, "Ralph, do you think I am really going to enjoy eating you for Thanksgiving?" Nod, nod, nod. And now he thinks he's privileged enough to start hanging around the shop! I guess after he did all those inspections, he figured out where everything was cause one afternoon I was pulling a starter from a pickup. When I pulled the starter clear, I rolled over to set the starter out from under the truck and there sits Ralph by the front tire looking at me and holding a 1/2" end wrench in his beak! Sometimes you just want to give up. But actually there were times he could get me out of a tough jam. When I was about ready to paint the Cub, I just couldn't decide which primer I wanted to use. So of course Ralph was watching with great interest and I said, "Ralph, I really like this epoxy primer, but I think the metal etch would be better, don't you?" Nod, nod, nod. "Metal etch it is my friend!" Ralph had started to go with me when I would take the Cub for a ride through the neighborhood. One day I thought I would pull the small trailer with me through the neighborhood and I put Ralph in to see what would happen. I had to laugh at him, back there in the trailer barking [at least he thought he was barking] at the dogs that would run out to the street. I think the funniest thing he ever did was while in the shop one morning. [It sure wasn't funny at the moment though!] I was working on my pickup, changing out the fuel injectors. I was about ready for a coffee break, so I wiped my hands off and poured a cup and sit down to relax a little. Ralph was eyeing the Cub and cocking his head back and forth. Now what is he thinking, I wondered? Something sure had his attention and I looked at the Cub and noticed a big preying mantis was sitting on top of the hood, I guess waiting for a bug to come flying by so he could snatch it. I keep the hood covered with a bed sheet to keep the dust off and the mantis sure stood out like a sore thumb. I kinda figured what was going to happen next as I watched Ralph ever so slowly sneak up on the mantis. When he got within striking distance, he pounced. Even startled me! It was kind of like an explosion. Evidently, Ralph grabbed the mantis and sheet at the same time and when he come down to the floor again, the sheet had him covered up. Well, that really shorted out his little brain as he just couldn't figure out what had happened! He exploded again and took off at a dead run, the sheet still covering him up. The first thing he crashed into was my plasma cutter and darned near knocked it over. I had a broom leaning against the cutter and when the handle hit the floor it made a sharp crack and that scared him even more. Darn, I wish that sheet would fall off! The next thing he run into was my tool box. I've got one of those that has drawers all the way to the floor and his feet caught the bottom drawer which of course was open and he went tumbling into a five gallon bucket that I keep a little solvent in for cleaning nasty parts. Solvent went flying everywhere. All this time I'm trying to catch him but I'm about two steps behind. I almost had him, but up and away he went again. At least, thank God, he went out the big door this time. He had made a turn once outside the shop and was hoofing it towards the big cotton field behind my house. I went to the back of the shop to look for him and there he was running full bore through the cotton field. Oh yes, of course they were working in the field that day running cotton pickers. I can't even imagine what they thought at the sight of Ralph. Thankfully, it didn't take long for the cotton plants to snag the sheet and free Ralph. He was really petrified now, wondering how he got in that cotton field with those monster machines. I kept calling him and finally he saw me and came running. I told him, "Ralph, I guess you know your in big trouble now!" Nod, nod, nod.
I knew I was getting pretty fond of Ralph and his crazy personality. It was sure going to be a sad day when Thanksgiving comes around and Ralph will be needed to decorate the dinning table. This is just the way life is in the country. November is finally here and Thanksgiving is getting closer every day. One day my friends had stopped in to visit and my friends wife, Peggy, asked me if I was really going to cook Ralph for Thanksgiving dinner. She then proceeded to tell me if I did she would never speak to me again! Does anybody really understand women? I tried to explain to her that cavemen started doing this millions of years ago, I'm sure, eating their pets, but it made no difference to her. It was always like this growing up on the farm. You just can't help but get attached to calves and pigs and goats when they are growing up, but now that none of us are on the farm anymore, we just can't imagine that the three pounds of hamburger we just got at the supermarket was a short time ago cute and had a personality. We were down to about a week before Thanksgiving and one day I happened to think about the hatchet and got it out and clamped it in the vise and went to sharpening it. Dog gone it, I just couldn't stop thinking about why the guillotine was invented. History tells us the old ax was a dismal instrument for beheading. It seems that often it took several blows to get the job done. Not as easy as it sounds. Why am I thinking about this and what's wrong with me? After a while here come Ralph to see what I was doing and I gave him a treat. He sure was fond of Gummy Bears. That's probably the only reason he liked me was because I had the Gummy Bears and take him for Cub rides. As he calmly ate his Bears, he watched me sharpen the hatchet and I thought his eyes had sort of a glazed look to them, but it must have been my imagination. I probably was projecting my dread to him. Finally, I was satisfied the instrument of death was up to its task, so I lightly oiled it with three and one oil and put it above the workbench.
A couple days before Thanksgiving, I finally admitted to myself that I just couldn't eat my old friend. I sure felt better now the pressure was off and spent some time trying to convince myself how important it was to have Ralph around the place now. The black widow spiders had disappeared and woe to any stray cats and dogs that made the mistake of wandering in. I tried not to think about the times he would knock over a can of paint, or start emptying a garbage can looking for goodies. Yesterday I asked Ralph if he would like me to go to the supermarket and buy a big turkey for our holiday dinner and I thought he was going to nod his little head off! So Ralph is still hanging around acting silly as always, going for rides with the Cub, gathering up wrenches and eating Gummy Bears but he has sworn of praying mantis's and bull snakes.